There is something on my mind I feel I need to share..
Since I personally spent some time in some facebook groups, I can’t help noticing many people quite easily think some repro brands (ladies and men’s) are ‘expensive’. There is a lot I can say about that. Perhaps a better description would be ‘a lot of money’. Smaller more exclusive brands work very differently from the bigger faster brands. The price of an item is built on many factors: fabric, complexity of the design, detailing, fabric (a very big factor!) where it is made, and how many pieces are made, transport, are just a few.
For me as a designer I made a clear choice. Instead of overproducing and trying to compete price wise, I try to make quality products with real quality fabrics. Instead of producing a lot and later try to sell the excess stock for bottom prices, I try to make an honest estimate before I place the order at the factory. The factory I work with is in Romania. The women working there are payed a decent wage. If possible I use eco fabrics. Sadly not every fabric is made in a sustainable way. The very best after the eco label is made in the EU where there are stricter rules about manufacturing than in many other parts of the world.
And then there is my personal choice. I really enjoy to make something and know my clients are happy when they receive it. Even though I now make more stock products and have less time for custom orders, I feel there is a piece of me in every shirt or trousers I ship. I made the design, the sample, the pattern, I chose the fabrics the buttons the trimmings. It all went through my hands before it got to be a piece of clothing.
The point I am trying to make is this:
Before labeling something as ‘expensive’ perhaps giving it some thought would give another idea.
Buy less. And enjoy wearing your clothes as long as possible.
buying fabric for a new collection
Yesterday evening I sat in my pyama's with curlers on the couch watching TV. It was late and by coincidence I saw a Dutch program (KRO Kruispunt, de maat is vol)about body positivity, the diet culture and how many women 30% (!) saw themselves as 'ugly' or even 'disgusting', 80% of the women think they need to loose weight or don't like how they look in general. The numbers scared me. As it turns out, we imperfect people have to get used to our imperfect body's. As Daniëlle Heemskerk (psychologist and expert in body image and eating disorders explained in the program, we need to see more normal people to consider that as normal and consequently ourselves as normal.
Not long ago I read an article about the same subject in regard to men. I thought it was interesting because it is always thought of as a typical female subject. Now i don't remember the numbers, but an astonishing amount of men have the same feelings. And it isn't really a surprise is it? Men are bombarded with the same perfect images as women, and guess what? In real life men don't look that way either.
After spending more and more time in the vintage/retro community in real life and on social media, the way I started to think about normal has changed. It is a very body positive community. For ladies wear there are models in all shapes and sizes, many brands make the larger sizes, and curvy women wear it with pride. I have changed how I view myself. I have been battling with my weight my whole life. When I was a teenager cycling 7 miles to school and 7 miles back couldn't even get me to be thin. And looking back I can only see a fine looking young woman, a bit more curvy than others perhaps, not much when I see the pictures now. But I never felt good about myself. It took me 44 years to accept me for me. And the vintage community helped me with it. A lot. Yes I am still over weight, but dieting only helps for a few months, is useless. I have exercised a lot, going to the gym 3 or 4 times a week, swimming like I was in a competition, and still i have the same size now as I had 10 years ago. So that's it. This is me. period.
What's more, what we now see as perfect has changed over the years. in the 50's a more curvy woman was the ideal. And that goes for men as well. If we look at Sean Connery as James Bond, he certainly didn't look as muscular as is the ideal for men now. That too has changed. You only need that perfect body if you want to fit in those super skinny jeans. Fashion today is designed for supermodels. To look good on the dummy's in the window. Not to make people look good. We have to stop and try to adapt ourselves to whatever fashion thinks we should look like in order to fit in their clothes. Or the little pieces of fabric they call clothes. Turn it around please. Dress the body you are given. And for that you need style, not a diet!
What better way is there to feel good about yourself when you dress your best every day? It gave me confidence and I see what it does for other women. Some start out very cautious with a dress, than a second dress, and the big victory: a pencil skirt! They find their own style, take care of themselves everyday. Spend time putting together an outfit, do their hair and make-up. All in their own way, and they are all beautiful. Not because they want to copy a perfect image, but because they have embraced themselves. To be able to dress with confidence, also means know your do's and don't s. Not because there is a list somebody made up, but because you look at yourself. get to know yourself and embrace all your perfections and imperfections.
I hope this will continue, and I am sure it works the same way for men. Men are standing more straight when wearing a suit. By making yourself seen, you have to stop hiding. The two don't go together. There is no such thing as over dressed. It might feel awkward in the beginning. Many men wear their vintage style or true vintage only for days out or festivals. Luckily many more dare to dress with confidence every day. Experiment, find your way that suits you. Combine old with new, be eccentric, be a bit strange, be yourself, at least you are somebody!
Not a very difficult task. Anyone with a bit of sewing skills and a hot iron could do this. I thought it might be helpfull to show how to do this with the trousers in my collection. I shortened a pair today and made some pictures of the process.
Step 1. Put on the trousers and ask somebody to help. Easiest is if you can stand on a chair or little step. Fold the trousers upward and pin to what length you want them to be.
Another option is compare a well fitting pair of trousers (not jeans) and measure the inseam.
The next steps I will explain with pictures.
Scrolling through some websites today to shop for my almost adult son it hit me again: The menswear in the regular stores looks sad, badly made, ill fitted, not stylish, and no fun. What choices have you when looking for a good shirt? Wide spread collar, ultra wide spread, floppy collar, frumpy collar in the colours white, blue, light blue and maybe a little stripe or understated print. For trousers you can find chino's that are not too bad, personally i very much dislike slim fit jeans, or god forbid skinny fit. The latter is also the fashion for suits, men all look like they will burst out of their jackets any time (the incredible Hulk springs to mind)way too short trousers (with no socks) which is fine when you are an Italian, they somehow get away with it, but please not for too white hairy ankles. It's not flattering. The legs look shorter, the torso looks heavier.
Something has gone wrong here. Don't we all (men and women and transgenders alike) want to look taller and slimmer? Enhance what we like, or what is typical needs style. Not fashion.
A already tall and slim person has two options: try to look shorter and bigger or enhance what you have got. I would go for the last option. What does help is make the shoulders look wider and a good dress shirt already does that for you, especially when combined with a good waistcoat (well fitted, that means snug) and jacket shoulders look wider, waist looks slimmer thus creating the V shape that makes men look like men instead of little boys. Embrace your length, add a nice pin stripe to even enhance it more. try various collar types to find what suits you best. Look at the lapels of the jacket, very narrow, wide, peaked they all look different. single breasted or double breasted makes a world of a difference in image. Watch the button placement: too high or too low will make it look out of balance.
For a bigger person, enhancing the length is always a good idea. Pleated front high waist trousers with inward pleats create a smooth line when seen from the side when matched with a waistcoat in the same fabric. Horizontal lines will cut the silhouette and leads the eye to areas where you don't want the attention to.
All this styling needs choice. I haven't even touched the topic colour (for the next blog) Menswear should be a joy to try and experiment with. For women there is quite a lot of choice. For men, except a few designer brands, it is dull, not inspiring, and mostly comfort. The Netherlands has a particular sad culture when it comes to style and clothing. "Be normal, that is strange enough" is much heard saying. Please don't be normal. Be strange! Be colourful, inspiring, joyful, stylish, stand out, get noticed!
I hope my designs will bring back a bit of style, fun and possess. And for all the ideas that float around in my head and in my sketchbook I feel the need to make them. I do hope what I have made so far is the beginning and I will get the chance to execute more of what is screaming for being made, worn and loved.
It has been a few weeks before I could sit down and write another post. A few very busy weeks. If I ever thought I knew what working was, well, that was nothing. After the success at LondonEdge I needed to make sure I could deliver all the pieces and refill my stock. Some pieces were sold out so quickly! That is good news, but it does mean buying new fabric and backorder quite a few peices. I went to Germany to buy new fabric, get buttons, zippers, to Tilburg for more fabrics, pack the fabrics, make sure to count all the buttons twice, deliver it in Amsterdam and collect my order from Romania in the same go. Meanwhile praying my order would arrive on Friday because on the way back we had to build up our stand at British cars and Lifestyle and I needed stock to fill the stand!
It all arrived as it should.. big sigh of relief..
We build our stand, and decided we needed more light, so on the way back a quick stop at the blue and yellow furniture paradize was needed. I can tell you i was completely exhausted after that day..
Saturday morning, early rise. Be at the fair two hours before opening. Still have to put the price tags on, screw together two clothing rails, assemble lamps, steam all the clothes on the hangers, get my new ATM machine to work properly, and look bright and breezy before the first visitors arrive. I went in didn't know what to expect. I had paper bags printed, would i even need them? It is all a bit of a gamble when you do a show for the first time.
It turned out better than I hoped. Lot's of visitors who go to Goodwood revival and happy to find the right outfit for it. Besides all that, it was fun to have a little stroll around and enjoy all the beautiful automobiles. Gorgeous Jaguars, very old ones and also two E-types, Bentley's, MG's, (one of them had a label on the dashboard saying "All the parts that may fall off this car are of the finest British handmade quality" ) So all in all it was worth it. I hope to be there next year. With even more suits for people to choose from. For now I will spend the rest of the day in Pajamas on the couch. Watching Boardwalk Empire (beautiful menswear!!! Go and watch it if you haven't already!)
I have survived LondonEdge! And it was a huge success! I never anticipated that many reactions and actual orders! I drove home dizzy with excitement (and of lack of sleep) We won 'Best menswear' award on top of it all. It was my third time at Edge and it is true what they say. It takes three times. We, I say, I had great help of Willem-Jan and Elsje. Willem-Jan as brand ambassador dressed in his tweed suit I made for him last summer turned a lot of heads. Now back home I have used my time to follow up orders and interest. I made calls with Arnhem Fashion Factory who helps me to set up my brand, with the factory because it looks like I need more stock and soon! Tomorrow emails will be sent out to all the addresses I have gathered. And perhaps I have time to unpack? So much to do now: new samples and patterns to be send out to the factory, source new fabrics, ship the closed orders and get ready for the next show in Rosmalen. This has really given me a boost, and faith in what I am doing.
The last couple of days were quite tough. Only three more days to go before Leaving for the LondonEdge trade show. And because things don't always go as planned a lot comes down to the last minute. Including receiving my sales samples.. Besides the delay we had because the transport of the fabrics (note to self: this will not happen again) we had delay because of the care labels. How much I am pro EU, the 20 pages rules and regulations for care labels appears to be a bit much. It didn't stop me to go over them and compose my labels as they should: In three European languages, with all the fabrics in the official terms, and of course the laundry symbols. And my personal add, a written explanation. Who reads an knows the care labels right?? As it turned out, and don't ask why, the text caused another delay of a few days, meaning my samples were ready for shipping Tuesday at 11. And that leaves me one or two days to get them here from Romania, one day to inspect, photograph, put them on my website and a lot of praying nothing goes wrong with the transport.. (note to self no2: send care label instructions sooner)
As it turned out the package will be delivered today. So I can start breathing again. Well, a bit. There is still a bit of uncertainty of how it all turned out. Despite all the communications.
The process in short: I send my sample I made as an example of what it should look like. I send a detailed description per item with everything in it regarding pattern matching, button placement, seam allowance every detail you can think of. Then they make for me the first samples. They were send to me, I look over them and we communicate adjustments. Modern communications such as Skype make it quite easy to make quick decisions with pictures or video calls.
Today is about having faith. With everything you do for the first time in your life, it is normal to encounter difficulties. It's important not to be afraid of the hurdles, and just simply start taking them.
It has been a long time since I posted something. Because I have been busy. So busy in fact that the last year I noticed I had to let possible orders go because I was making trousers. And more trousers. And then some more.. So after making my 50th pair I was sure some things had to change. Besides I was working for next to nothing giving the hours that go into one pair (yes, I am picky on the details) So for months I have been walking around with the idea of heaving them made for me. The next couple of posts will be about my journey towards running a lable instead of a single sewing machine. It will give you insight about what happens before a garment is in a shop. I will write when it is successful and when it’s not. Sometimes it will take courage to share the failures. And now at this moment I can’t really tell which way this will go.. I have hope, and a dream, and my goal is to achieve these.
Where to start? Obviously I had to find somebody to help me with starting. Somebody who knows the industry and can help me with the how to’s. I found that person soon and the next obvious step is making business models, lots of counting and numbers and other stuff I never wanted to know about. So I got myself through that. Had a small fund to start, mostly saved from the 50 trousers I had made so far. My coach found me a small factory in Romania that would be suitable for my products and is willing to produce small amounts. So gar so good.. But this is just the start.. I made all the patterns, sent them my samples and things got rolling.
It got ‘exciting ‘ when life got in the way. Because that is what life does. Since September last year I had more and more trouble walking. I always had some pain for the last 15/20 years, sometimes bad, sometimes none. No doctor really could find what was wrong for years. Now it got so bad something had to be done, and in December I had hip replacement surgery. Not something you’d expect at 44. Apparently something had been wrong with that hip since I was a child, so that explains.
Not convenient when you are in the middle of an adventure! Somehow I managed to get things started in Romania with the first sample pieces before my surgery. Have been sourcing materials, so I was ready for it! What I didn’t expect is I was how weak and dizzy I was afterwards. For weeks! Living in a mist, not being able to think was probably the worst. (Though some people received two or three Christmas cards last year 😂)
Finaly in January I could decide to book a stand on LondonEdge in February. The one and only lifestyle trade show in Europe. So the deadline was set. I needed my sales samples in time for the show. We made a time table with the factory and decided when and how to ship the fabrics.
So there we were. In Amsterdam at a small shipping company that drives to Romania twice a week. With thousends of Euro’s worth of fabric, packed and wrapped in separate packages. The guy responsible for taking in the packages mumbled something.. “problem.. zwanzich.. twenty.. mumble.. problem..”
As it turned out when his English speaking wife came down, the individual packages couldn’t weigh more twenty kilograms for the shipping on Saturday they were supposed to be on.. OK.. now what. “Can I get them back and repack them?” I could go to a DIY shop, get plastic and make smaller packages. “No, problem.. “
He had already made the shipping lables for transport on Thursday so he couldn’t give them back. I tried everything. Standing on my head, do a dance, sing a song, nothing helped. The fabrics would arrive at the factory a week later than planned, which meant they couldn’t start production in time!!
Nothing I could do could change the situation. Only except it and hope for the best. Light an extra candle, hope and try not to think about all the things that can go wrong is the best strategy in that situation..
So fingers crossed.. The stand is booked, money has been spent, no turning back. Just hope.
(And take calming drops to be able to sleep)
Vintage style menswear, it can be so much fun! I am full of ideas and thoughts and with every piece I make, I create a new idea in the same time. So this keeps me going. When I started this I never thought that creating menswear can be as much fun as ladies wear. Today is a quiet day after our photo shoot yesterday. I have to clean my studio which is rather messy after working on the fall/winter collection and preparing for the shoot. So it gives me time to stop and think about what I have been making, look back and contemplate. The first pair of trousers I have made were kind of conservative. I was searching for the original 1930's shape, and looking for typical vintage features and re-create them. Now I like to go for more daring fabrics, and be bolder in combining colors and fabrics.
Along the way I noticed that there are men who have fun with their vintage style wardrobe, who dare to combine. Maybe the whole barbershop trend is helping that as well. Men grooming their beard, conscious of their appearance, taking care of their wardrobe and finding their own personal style is rather a new thing maybe, but for me has is highly associated with 19th century England. With the Victorian Gentleman who was well dressed and eloquent, elegant in clothes and manner. Oscar Wilde could have been called a dandy, and George Brummel (1778-1840) must have been the King of dandies. In the essay "Du dandyisme et de G. Brummell" french writer Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly (1808-1889) looks at Dandyism as a cultural-historical phenomenon. The dandy is self-assured, confident, completely independent, and revolting against mediocrity and uniformity. I think I rather like that kind of fellow! A common mistake is that a Dandy is confused with a snob, however a very distinctive characteristic is his way to relativize himself.
There were female Dandy's as well. I believe Marlene Dietrich could be called a female Dandy. To synthesize: a Dandy has his own style and is not bothered with conformation.
I can only proclaim that we all find the Dandy within. Please don't think about what fashion magazines dictate. In the vintage world of dancing and clothes, some people tend to go over the top I think. Not in what they themselves choose to wear, but in judging others. Should you really care if your hair is or isn't exactly 1940's or 1950's? Should you be bothered where you find your ideas? Internet, fashion mags, the haut couture or the street? Find your own style and be yourself! Why not mix old and new, punk and vintage, rockabilly and steampunk? Lets all start thinking outside the box, and please do not color between the lines. This is what makes people interesting!
In the beginning of the 17th century, lots of goods from the new world was imported in Europe: spices, coffee, tobacco and silks. It became very fashionable to be depicted in a 'robe du chambre' or banian. It is from these garments the smoking jacket evolved. In the second half of the 19th century smoking became very popular in England, and a gentleman would retreit after dinner to the smoking room and the smoking jacket intended to absorb the smell of smoke and protect the gentleman's clothes from falling ashes. A smoking cap might have been worn with it. The smoking jacket kept its popularity well into the 20th century. Gary Grant, Fred Astaire and Dean Martin being enthusiastic wearers of this type of jacket. Sherlock Holmes must be the most famous of the smoking jacket fanatics. Probably the pipe has something to do with it.
All this makes me think of a time in history... I was young, the days were endless, we all would live forever and we smoked..
Sunny van Zijst
I am maker of vintage inspired couture. I was trained as a designer for theater costumes. Now I enjoy making vintage inspired clothing for men and women.