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AIFW 2009 Favourites Selection

We say farewell to Amsterdam International Fashion Week for another season. Look back at the highlights with our favourites selection and we chat with outgoing AIFW director James Veenhoff about his personal highlights from the last ten editions.

By Editor / 16-02-2009

The year's first edition (A/W 2009-10) of Amsterdam International Fashion Week (AIFW) has closed its catwalks until the summer. To read all our coverage, see our new favourites selection: Amsterdam International Fashion Week 2009.

Before we say goodbye for another season, we catch up with James Veenhoff who is stepping down from the director's seat after ten editions of AIFW.

Tell us some of your highlights from AIFW 2009...
For me the highlights were Claes Iversen, Blue Blood and the atmosphere ‘backstage’.

Claes started out his career at AIFW, first in the Lancome awards, then the Frans Molenaar – he won nothing so a couple of industry insiders clubbed together and paid for his first show at AIFW on museumplein. Now he’s the hottest ticket – I like to think we helped him grow. His show was awesome and he stands to be very successful. All he needs now is a backer/partner.

Blue Blood because it’s my home team, and our longest showing partner, their 10th show! They really push the bar on all elements; hair, makeup, styling, models, music, choreography, goodiebag, celebs, pr, presspacks, afterparty…and I’m very glad to see them back in the saddle after all the problems they’ve seen recently.

Most importantly perhaps was the general ‘lightness’ of the production. Everyone backstage knew what to do and was having fun – you know, when hard work just ‘works’, it’s fun. I love it: all the desks were run by former interns, most of the hair & makeup crews have been there for a few seasons, the catering guys know what to do, our production, rigging, light and technical crews have become friends almost. The models are getting better each season, the choreography, even the dressers. I have enormous respect for our production team, headed by Steven, Pieter and Merle – they do a wicked job.

What were some of the AIFW highlights and most memorable moments from your last 10 editions?
The most memorable moments… wow. There’s so many. In terms of shows, I remember the First Avelon show, with DJ Wix on the runway, the early Jan Taminiau, Percy and Daryl shows – Daryl always had the best music and backdrops, Percy was the biggest glamourfest, Jan had this amazing wedding dress that I’ll never forget. In terms of parties; there’s two that stand out for ever: the Vive La Fete performance and crowd frenzy at the NOKIA event at Stadsschouwburg and this year’s BlueBlood aftershow soiree…still recovering. In terms of organization, my debates with the city of Amsterdam and the interesting people I’ve met, and things like dealing with a team of cops who come to close everything down due to a gas leak… that was an interesting challenge too.

How has Dutch fashion changed over the last 10 years?
It’s an even bigger change than people imagine. Ten years ago, the first ‘young talent’ platforms started to gain momentum. This was the time of Robijn Fashion Awards and Barclay Catwalk event. DFF started to claim airtime for Dutch designers. In 2003, we launched the AIFW concept – at the time everyone thought we were crazy, especially due to our explicit combination of the creative and commercial sides of the coin. We had to lead the way on a number of fields: sponsorship of fashion events, showing every season, showing to make sales rather than as an afterthought, show hair, show make-up, show production, balancing fashion and sponsorship, etc.

The most important change is that there’s a local perspective now, you don’t HAVE to move to Paris. We’ll see Dutch labels stand up, stay up, grow up and make money within the next few season. As well, of course, as the big brands that are far more visible nowadays, like G-Star, Blueblood, etc.

What will you do now after stepping down from being director of AIFW?
I have my own ‘real job’ – I’m partner at a Marketing Strategy company called Fronteer Strategy. We help brands like Nokia, Heineken, Bugaboo and Achmea with complicated marketing challenges. Great fun! I will also be involved with AIFW behind the scenes though.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of Dutch fashion and the industry?
Weak points are that only few young labels have made it and the absence of a tradition of buying, selling and wearing Dutch fashion. The strong points are a great optimism and distinct character.

What advice do you have for emerging Dutch fashion designers?
Look at it like a company, not like art. Make things that people will want to wear (too). If you make a mini line of say 20 garments, show it, find 25 shops that will sell it…you’re half way. Because a signed order means the bank will say OK, then sell-through will make the retailers love you. And then presto you’re there.

Images: Claes Iversen show
Photography: Rachel Perry

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