Inside view of Kingpins
Inside view of Kingpins
 

13 May. 2014

Report: Amsterdam Denim Days

Besides the Denim Days which took place in Amsterdam from May 7 through 10, there were plenty of other supplementary events around the city. Amsterdam Marketing and Modefabriek jointly organized a special Amsterdam Denim Tour. Starting with Kingpins at the Westergasfabriek where specially selected denim manufacturers presented their fabrics to visitors (read more here). Simon Giuliani, Candiani Denim stated: “The first day was so crowded, it felt like standing in a supermarket full of shoppers, and the venue is great!” Indeed the location of Kingpins was very unique. The round building with no windows was illuminated from the inside and looked like a futuristic spaceship. Nieke Mulder of Modefabriek: “This is where normally Amsterdam Fashion Week takes place, we really want this location for Modefabriek but it is just too small.”

After Kingpins the tour went on to the G-Star headquarter located beside the A10 motorway in Amsterdam’s Zuidoost Business Park. But instead of driving up to the company’s new home with an ordinary car, the G-Star Raw boat was waiting at the canal to take passengers there. The new headquarters were designed by star architect Rem Koolhaas’s OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture). Offering 24,000 square meters of space, it was inspired by the structure of a hangar. The key architectural elements: Two gigantic front glass windows are placed on tracks so that they can be moved from one side to the other to create additional “indoor” space for special internal or fashion events.

All G-Star employees just moved into the new main office in January – finance, retailing, marketing, design, graphic design, photo shooting and video editing –  now everything is all under one roof. The archive that is home to a huge number of vintage pieces, special G-Star creations and other articles of clothing is on the ground floor. The whole building was constructed as an open space with four levels and was built in only 18 months. The architecture and the interior design of the complex is created in the typical G-Star design: a mixture of clean, spare industrial chic incorporating authentic materials such as wood and steel. And even though 650 people are working in a totally open space, it was surprisingly calm throughout the whole complex. “Thanks to the material and construction of the building there is no echo here,” says Jolanda Smit, Global PR Manager of G-Star Raw.

More impressions from Amsterdam Denim Days
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More impressions from Amsterdam Denim Days
The careful eye for details in the G-Star concept can also be seen at the cafeteria. All of the service staff in the cafeteria wear Raw Utility –Kitchen, a new collection emphasizing utilitarian work wear articles based on popular G-Star designs such as the Type-C. The specialist industry garments are made using selected fabrics. The collection will contain six variations in different colors and fabrics to suit a broad range of restaurant functions. The uniform is designed especially for those who work with food and can be modified for those in food preparation, cooks and service staff. Not many people have seen the G-Star temple yet, but there are many request for tours, says Smit.

A totally different kind of company headquarters awaited visitors at the next stop on the tour. The Scotch & Soda headquarter is located in a former church in the very center of Amsterdam at Keizersgracht 22. The head office is also home of the Scotch & Soda denim line Amsterdams Blauw. Alex Jaspers, Global Brand Manager Scotch & Soda Denim: “We couldn’t have asked for a better workplace. The fusion of old and new comes together here and creates the best work atmosphere.” One new development Jaspers and his team revealed for this year was the launch of a special denim jacket line called The Alchemy of Blue. Artists from around the globe where asked to create their own design for a denim jacket. The new product line will be sold in select stores around the world starting in August this year.

A few minutes away from Scotch & Soda headquarters, Jason Denham himself welcomed everybody to his Denham the Jeanmaker menswear store in the Nine Street Neighborhood where the brand’s head office and design studio is also located. For Jason Denham only Holland was the right place to get into the denim business and open up stores, especially the development of Amsterdam as the denim city of Europe over the past decade has shown that he was right. The newest Denham store opened last September on 40 square meters of store space at the corner of Prinsengracht and Runstraat, a minute’s walk away from the menswear store. 

The second day started with a visit to the Jean School situated in the ROC Center close to Amsterdam’s RAI station. In September 2012, House of Denim and ROC van Amsterdam launched the Jean School with the objective of offering a professional training program for denim specialists. The course covers the entire industry process from plant to pants; all with an emphasis on craft and sustainability. HTNK is the main content partner of the Jean School, co-developing the curriculum with its industry network. There are currently 25 students enrolled. Mike van der Zanden, student: “All of us here are denim lovers and really passionate about this topic. The good thing to study here is that you get in contact at a very early stage in the course with people in industry. My dream came true when I met the designer team from Nudie. By the time you graduate you are fully prepared for the business.”

The last stop on the Amsterdam Denim Tour was Blueprint, which is also located at the Westergasfabriek across from Kingpins. At Blueprint denim brands and smaller labels showcased their products directly to consumers, retailers, producers, stylists, students, designers and other denim professionals. But the Blueprint program also included seminars, exhibitions, workshops, documentaries, laser printing demos, live music, the HTNK’s Story Store, a vintage market, a denim archive, as well as food and drinks.

The seminar ‘Towards a Brighter Blue’ was moderated by James Veenhoff, founder of Amsterdam Fashion Week and House of Denim and Andrew Olah, founder of Kingpins. During the seminar industry insiders discussed sustainable cotton. The discussion began with Patrick Laine, CEO Better Cotton Initiative and Liesl Truscott, Director Europe & Farm Engagement Textile Exchange. Olah said that there are too many signs, symbols and logos for organic cotton and that the use of so very many signs leads to general confusion and opacity when it comes to the topic of organic clothing. Truscott also emphasized the need for more transparency when it comes to the whole procurement process for organic cotton and Laine stated that organic cotton should be the gold standard for industry. “It is possible for organic cotton to go mainstream, unfortunately at the moment it is only the standard for premium denim,” explained Laine. The most important challenge for Laine: “We have to reach the farmers and explain to them why less water, less fertilizer and less pesticides are the better and the more sustainable option and also the much more cost-effectiveness one in the long run.”

In a one-on-one interview James Veenhoff asked Adriano Goldschmied, “where do we stand?” Goldschmied responded by saying, “in the last ten years there were more changes than in the last 150 years” and that the industry is “under pressure.” The needs of the consumer have changed rapidly. Goldschmied: “Cotton is a great fiber, but the only way to solve ecological problems is to have less cotton and find solutions with modal fibers, rayons and other fibers. We don’t have time to wait any longer.”

The Amsterdam Denim Days were a success. The announcement of Andrew Olah that there will be a follow-up edition of Kingpins is only one example demonstrating that Amsterdam is on the right track on its way to becoming the European capital of denim. The Amsterdam Denim Days Tour made it very clear how passionate brands and industry insiders are about denim.
Juliette Nguyen

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