Making fashion relevant: lessons that Paris, New York, Milan & London could learn from Amsterdam fashion week

Amsterdam is a beautiful city famous for its canals, museums and infamous for its “coffee shops” & “red light district”. What Amsterdam isn’t famous for is fashion. While dutch painters & modern design are renowned worldwide, dutch fashion, not so much. However, if one were to look closely at the ongoing Amsterdam fashion week and also the ones before, one would find that Amsterdam and by correlation The Netherlands was and remains at the forefront of addressing several current issues upfront.

Political catwalk, which I witnessed first hand is a great example of trying to change the fashion conversation. In its second year, political catwalk is a platform for today’s youth to have their say on politics via fashion. The initiative allows 20 young people to create designs for 10 politicians, culminating in a competitive showcase, where the politicians are also their models. The sheer diversity of talent on display at this years show was phenomenal. Designers addressed issues such as diversity, acceptance, empowerment in, at times heart wrenching moments. Moments such as the catwalk filled with people of diverse shapes, colours and ethnicity. A white dress with a long veil with diversity, peace scribbled on it. Moments, when all one could think of is that all anyone wants at their core is acceptance and sense of belonging.

Picture credit: fashionweek.nl

Narjiss Bakali won this year with a hot pink dress shaped like the symbol of femininity.

Picture credit: fashionweek.nl

The concept is a unique & impactful way of encouraging young talent. An idea more popular fashion weeks could use to great effect.

On the more commercial front with still younger designers, Jenneskens, who had her first real show, put on a very well executed and coherent presentation. The collection is called Episode 04; volume 1: Water Retention. The idea being that each look is linked to the other and like water molecules form a whole when they are close to each other. A bright, athleisure infused collection for both men & women. I could see a lot of these pieces in The Netherlands as well as fashion capitals like New York. The collection reinforced the idea of creating something beautiful together.

Picture credit: fashionweek.nl

Picture credit: fashionweek.nl

Going back to her roots was Maaike van den Abbeele. Her collection was inspired by the dutch golden age and her own childhood. Influences of dutch masters such as Rembrandt & Van Eyck were interwoven with symbols of power such as the lion motif. The combination of a powerful motif with the delicate tulle and sheer gold stockings was sending out a message that elegant doesn’t necessarily mean powerless. The designer paid homage to her dual nationalities by incorporating colours from both the Dutch & Belgian flags into her collection.

Picture credit: fashionweek.nl

Picture credit: fashionweek.nl

While smaller fashion weeks like that in Amsterdam do not garner as much press, their larger counterparts have much to gain from them. They are brimming with new ideas and ways of ensuring fashion remains current & relevant in this increasingly politicised world