The Genteel
April 22, 2021


Left to right, designs from Alla Kuzmyk, Winde Rienstra, Spijkers en Spijkers SIS, iNDiViDUALS and Armand Michiels at Amsterdam Fashion Week 2013. Source: and

Alla Kuzmyk at AFW 2013.

From July 6 to 16, the 19th edition of Amsterdam Fashion Week (AFW) rolled out a diverse offering of the nation's most innovative designers, all looking to support Holland's place in today's international fashion stakes.

In recent years, Amsterdam has attempted to establish itself as a fashion capital, drawing in a number of high profile fashion designers in the process. Tommy Hilfiger's head office and fashion house Viktor & Rolf are both based in Amsterdam, while Chanel's current creative director and fashion royalty Karl Lagerfeld chose the capital to house his second self-named boutique in April of this year.

While labels continue to be drawn to Amsterdam's growing market and design creativity, the city's fashion history is still in its infancy compared to the likes of London, New York and Paris. The lack of traditionally "Dutch" fashion has one wondering what it really is.

In response to the graduate designs at this year's AFW, writer Alexander Fury of The Independent described it as "loud, eccentric, occasionally edging towards the insane." One look at the fashion week line-up would probably have you nodding in agreement.

There was no clear aesthetic or direction for the designs that appeared during AFW, but no boundaries either. Rather than reflecting negatively on the nation's lack of fashion heritage, AFW's programme director Carlo Wijnands claims that the lack of tradition is what allows for the diversity in Dutch fashion: "Amsterdam doesn't have a large fashion history as in Paris or Milan, which generates a sense of freedom for designers. They can be more experimental, because we aren't restricted to a certain format at AFW."

The lack of traditionally "Dutch" fashion has one wondering what it really is.

Dutch label Spijkers en Spijkers kicked off the week with their younger line, SIS. Established in 2001, the label is the brainchild of twin sister duo Truus and Riet Spijker, whose individual talents and concepts interplay to create clothing that accentuates and highlights the female form. The SIS catwalk channelled stripes, checks and florals in fresh summer colours in '60s inspired shapes. 

But Spijkers en Spijkers' SIS collection was at the significantly tamer end of the Dutch design spectrum. iNDiViDUALS (the collaborative initiative of the Amsterdam Fashion Institute and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences for young creatives) presented a predominantly white collection of women's wear which was splattered and often doused in red paint - and looking like something out of a horror film. iNDiViDUALS claims that, "In the collection every individual of this generation is accentuated trough [sic] special dyeing and painting techniques. We are breaking new ground."

Other designers of note included Armand Michiels, who showcased his extravagantly detailed corsets on china doll-like models with masses of hair piled on top of their heads, and Alla Kuzmyk, who played with voluminous and structured fabrics, manipulating materials into different shapes in beautifully intricate patterns.

Winde Rienstra AFW 2013.

Winde Rienstra's catwalk demonstrated the intricacies and craftsmanship behind the concept of her "slow fashion." The models took their time robotically walking down the catwalk in skyscraper heels - all accompanied by rather conventionally suited men. The almost creepily slow pace meant the audience was able to fully absorb the collection's uniquely handcrafted and timeless designs.

AFW prides itself on showcasing lesser-known labels; this year the opportunity reached further afield through the launch of Fashion LAB, a "laboratory" to provide smaller labels with the amenities and platform to present themselves to the international fashion world. As well as a chance for international exposure, the on-going program intends to provide workshops and coaching to prepare future designers for the fashion industry.

There are three values that form the foundations of Amsterdam Fashion Week: Connect, Grow and Celebrate. The aim is to "Connect" the worlds of creativity and commerce, "Grow" with Dutch designers to put the Netherlands on the map for fashion, and "Celebrate" the diverse range of home-grown design talent. From the designs of Spijkers en Spijkers' SIS to the unique hand-craftsmanship of Winde Rienstra, Amsterdam has shown that Dutch fashion has few boundaries. With the help of the international exposure fashion week brings, the Dutch are ready to take on the world.



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