It started about a year ago with a kind of restlessness. My son left home to study at the University, so it became very quiet. Even for me. I was busy enough, that was not the problem. I live in a nice place, more or less in a forest so I can always go outside with my dog Toto. That was not the problem either. Then what was? I realised after a few years of being locked up that the world was not going to come to me. A few years ago (because that's how fast time goes) I went out into the world myself. With my stuff to LondonEdge, to fairs and markets. When my mother fell ill, that became a lot harder. Pretty soon after she passed away, I became ill myself. Very ill. Within a few months, I went from 'very tired, it must be mourning' to 'You have a tumor and we don't know until after surgery '. A serious operation and slow recovery kept me busy for at least a year.
And then I wanted to pick up where I left off, go back to work, see people again, but I hadn't even thought about it or the universe decided otherwise. And suddenly three years have passed. Or four? No idea really. Time is a wonderful thing...
So when we finally all started to wake up and get out of our vacuum, I knew I had to do something. Move? Well, that's not so easy... And suddenly, Section C appeared on my path. More or less by chance. I had often considered renting a studio, but there was always something wrong. Too small, only a shop, too expensive, the combination of working and selling was what I was looking for. Quite often, people ask if they can come and try on some clothes. That is really not possible in my house. First you stumble over a Golden Retriever, then stuff, because a business in your living room means a lot of stuff, then two cats and dishes in the kitchen sink, that's not really a good business card... (Don't worry, my stock was kept safe in a room with the door closed) And then suddenly there was this opportunity. A large hall at Section C was converted into studios. Yes please! But then it starts... Good thing I had no idea what I was getting into.
Now I have moved the stock, next up is moving the sewing machines and I can finally do some work, haha. I am quite proud of what I have managed to do with a little help from others. I have come a long way from an old sewing machine of my mother's and a few pieces of cloth to where I am now. It didn't happen by itself, I often lay awake, and still do, because it's not the easiest path. It is easier not to leave your village and to rent something in Belgium. But as a Dutchwoman, it remains difficult to find and be found. I am home again, in 'Eindje', even if it is only my studio. The coming year will show whether it has been worth it. It would also be nice to have some luck, that would help for a change.
From 14 July you are welcome at Tweed revolution. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday between 12.00 and 17.00 to start with. Follow me on social media to stay informed of opening hours and other news
I thought it was a rather bizarre question. I was asked it out of interest by our family doctor, whom I have been visiting for years and who has also known me and my family for years. At that moment, all I could do was say 'uh.... Yes? How come?' uttered. How could I not see myself in that way? I grew up in an artist's family, went to art school (bachelors and masters) and then you are an artist. With a stamp. Approved as an artist. But what actually is an artist? It remains a vague concept of course. When we started our studies, it was instilled in us that it would not happen by itself. That we had to be prepared to make the ultimate commitment, a way of life, "almost like entering a monastery" (literally). In other words, if you have doubts, you can still go back now! That didn't scare me. I didn't know anything else. My parents had worked hard all their lives as artists, my grandfather was an artist, was there any other life?
Being an artist is not only a way of life (preferably full of misfortune and loneliness, art is suffering after all), it is a way of being. You are born with the congenital defect of being sensitive. Sensitive not in the sense of emotional, but in the sense of being aware of everything. Every mood, every detail, the big picture, the little things. The smell, the material, the feeling that goes with it, nothing escapes you. I call it a deviation because it deviates from the average. That is not a value judgment but an observation. You try to find a way with those specific characteristics. You have to do something with it. Because otherwise the world is overwhelming. As a child at the Montessori kindergarten, for example, I always sat under the tables to escape the bustle and chaos. In my own world in my own head it was already busy enough.
You soon notice that you are different. With craft tasks, I always did things slightly differently. Because I liked it better, or wanted to discover how it would turn out. Of course, the result was disapproval from the teacher. After all, a butterfly flutters, but I thought zwiffel-zwaffelen was a better word. The teacher had probably never taken a good look at a butterfly before.
In short: the world did not understand me, and I did not understand the world. This went on throughout secondary school. Fortunately, I was able to join a group of people who thought differently. In those days, we had a cheerful mix of hippies, punks, new wave, hard rockers and everything that was different from the standard. Things are different now. When my son was still in secondary school, I marvelled at the uniformity. Every girl who cycled by when school ended was, to me, perfectly interchangeable with the next one. Same hair, same clothes, same bike. I survived mentally by dyeing my hair in wild colours, working on my jeans, repairing my father's torn jeans with safety pins, different pieces of fabric visibly crossed over with a zig zag, large stitches in a contrasting colour (what's new sashiko and boro... Been there, done that). Once on the academy in Tilburg, there was no need for all that. How delightful that you could be who you were there, with all your peculiarities.
There, we learned to look, above all. We all see, but to look consciously and to observe and discover. Not to let your own prejudices get in the way, but to look for what you did not know. Doing research, the process is more important than the outcome. Throw away your first obvious nice result if it gets in the way of something better (kill your darlings) and look again. Look through the eyes of another person, with questions and (self) criticism: "Is this really the best result? Does it tell the right story? You have done this at the front, but what happens at the back? If my work was not judged by the teachers at the academy, then it was judged at home by my mother (a textile teacher). You are an artist. You look consciously, experience everything, ask questions about everything and if they are interesting enough, you investigate them. You have learned to work hard, to be tough on yourself when necessary. Along the way in life, you accumulate baggage. Your way of life is not standard. Because it is not interesting. It is not a choice, it is who you are. No, I don't like cheese and sausage birthdays and small talk. You do learn how to adapt, but it only goes so far. I still remember the face of my Bompa André van der Burght on the couch of my other grandpa and grandma while grandma was cooking beans and wanted to start a cosy conversation. Couldn't those beans have been put on the fire a bit quicker? At least then the conversation would be over.
You gather valuable people around you, people who also have their own view on things. With them you can have a conversation that goes somewhere. To something you had not yet considered.
Being an artist is not about whether you make bronze sculptures or paintings. It is a way of life. You can make bronze sculptures without being an artist. There are plenty of them. But an artist does things differently. Shows you things that you did not know before. Amazes, raises questions, slaps you in the face, shakes you awake or leaves you with an itching question in the back of your head for weeks.
I make clothes. Does that make me an artist? Yes, I think so. I do not just make clothes. Each piece is born out of necessity. A necessity because I want to explore, a necessity against the established fashion order. I don't make fashion, please don't. It is applied, you can wear it, and many people do. It tells a story, a history. It is about the drama of just the wrong button. It has to rub, not literally of course, but visually. Only then does it create tension. Searching for a balance between beauty and ugliness, sitting on the edge, because that is where it happens!
So mister doctor: Yes. I am an artist
Oh and not because of gaining weight.. Despite the fact that the cotton fabrics I use are of high quality and are tested for shrinkage before being processed, it can happen that cotton clothes shrink over time. You can largely prevent this by not washing the clothes too hot, adding a fabric softener also helps, but even then a garment may shrink over time. This is mainly due to the fact that cotton is a natural fibre, and if this fibre dries out it becomes shorter. This happened quite clearly with the curtains in my living room. Before I made them to length, I washed them at 90 degrees in order to pre-shrink them. I had already washed them a number of times without any problems. But the last time it didn't go well and now I have curtains that are 10 cm too short. Perhaps I accidentally washed them on a warmer programme? Did I use a different soap than usual? It could just be.
For my curtains it is not a disaster, I will look in another direction, but for clothes it is annoying. Fortunately, you can still try a few things to get them back in shape. Use baby shampoo or even better, a conditioner. Yes, the one you put in your hair.
*Fill a wash tub with lukewarm water, but not too hot because it will shrink even more, and not too cold because that will harden the fibres. And you want to make them softer.
*Add half a cup of conditioner, stir to distribute it. Immerse the garment completely. If necessary, put something heavy on it to keep it under water and leave it like that for at least half an hour.
*After about half an hour, squeeze the excess water out of your jumper or other garment. Make sure that you do not wring. No need to rinse yet.
*Lay the garment on the towel and roll it up completely. This way you can get the remaining moisture out without wringing or squeezing.
*Now lay the second, dry towel down and place the garment on it. This is the moment to stretch it back to its original shape. Do it gently, take your time and stretch piece by piece. The part you have stretched should be secured with a heavy object. When you are finished, the garment lies on the towel and is held in shape by the heavy books or something else.
*Leave the garment to dry, but check every now and then whether it has shrunk a little and whether you need to stretch it again.
Are you satisfied? Then hang the garment out to dry on a clothes hanger, for example. You do not have to rinse out the shampoo or conditioner.
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.
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.