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Amsterdam International Fashion Week Fails to Tickle

Fashion insiders lay it out raw and ugly regarding the problem with AIFW and why it may never really make a mark on the international scene.  A different format - one that better taps into the Dutch mentality might be what's needed.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 11-02-2010

Despite some good shows, Amsterdam International Fashion Week is failing to attract the serious bigwigs of European and world fashion.  Neither buyers nor editors are taking it seriously and even local professionals who stand to benefit most say the format is just all wrong. One week after the 2010 A/W Collections event, we hear from two insiders about what's going on.

“Nothing really extraordinary happened so why would a big time editor bother coming?” says NRC Handelsblad’s fashion correspondent Aynouk Tan.  “They can get it better in Paris … nothing I see there surprises or tickles me.”

Stylist and fashion media personality Bastiaan van Schaik says the event this season was very sober.  “I liked it and there were some strong designs,” he says,  “but it felt like everyone was playing it safe, going back to their roots, rethinking the basics and avoiding the frivolous.”

Van Schaik thinks this trend to move back to core design and basic principles is indicative of the times and was reflected in the overall atmosphere of the event.  “Of course there were parties," he says, "but it lacked that fabulous fashion feeling … maybe it was the cold weather, but it just lacked something.”

Stand-outs, Van Schaik says, were Individuals which he says “is always great”, Jan Taminiau and Claes Iversen.  “Iversen’s work is always impressive and beautifully executed,” he says.  “It isn’t fashion forward, but it is wearable with a twist and possesses his own signature.”

But the problem even at the top is that Dutch fashion designers are not household names.  “This year there are plans for various designers to collaborate with department stores,” Van Schaik says. “That should help, but they are not really making any sort of genuine impact.”

Tan has attended all eleven Amsterdam International Fashion Weeks.  She agrees with Van Schaik that the event is a great platform for Dutch fashion designers because it keeps the media and the public focussed on what the industry is creating.  But she complains that there has been little development in terms of innovation or quality.

The problems, she thinks,  can be traced back to the event's beginnings. “It was started by Steve te Pas, the founder and boss of Blue Blood, which was always the final collection to be shown,” she says.  “It was a part of their business so really lacked objectivity.”

And Tan doesn't think it matters that none of the collections - bar for maybe Iversen’s - are anywhere near strong enough to be shown in Paris. Amsterdam is a different city with a different aesthetic and an almost diametrically opposed relationship with fashion.  Catwalk shows don’t resonate with the Dutch.  “What I see is a business model, but one that is just copied from Paris,” she says. “It is just not a model that is ever going to work here.”

An alternative approach can be seen at the Arnhem Fashion Biennale, which manages to give more of an identity to the type of fashion being created in Holland.  “I think it is really important to think about our heritage, how we live and how Dutch fashion can make a difference,” Tan says.  “By copying Paris we end up with no real identity.”

None of this means, of course, that what was shown at AIFW was bad. There is no denying that Holland has the talent.  What it does mean is that the content has to be fine-tuned so as to make a mark. 

Young exhibitors that did something a bit different like Painted AMUSE, Hyun Yeu and And Beyond were refreshing.  “And I liked it how Jan Taminiau did live broadcasts over the Internet,” Tan says.  “They are going to do that during the next London Fashion Week … But I can’t write about new young designers in NRC Handelsblad because nobody cares.  You can't buy the clothes anywhere.  These events need to think much more about what Dutch people want.”


Images: top page and small from top Aynouk Tan, Bas van Schaik and looks by Claes Iversen, Jan Taminiau and Individuals.

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