For quiet some time now we are in love with the Dutch Label Studio Elsien Gringhuis. The timeless and minimalistic pieces of Elsien Gringhuis make our hearts beating faster since they are of high quality and it feels so good wearing them. Apart from the quality and great cuts there are more features to the label worth knowing. In contrast to fast fashion where you have up to 50 collections or more a year Studio Elsien Gringhuis has quiet a different approach. We talked to Elsien Gringhius about her approach, her way of producing and of course about the the new collection.
glore: Dear Elsien, tell us more about you and your fashion label. Who is Elsien Gringhuis?
Elsien: Directly after my graduation in 2008 (ArtEZ, Arnhem) I founded the label. I was very naive, didn’t have a plan but I was very eager and I wanted to make high end fashion in a sustainable way. Since my childhood I was interested in clothes. At the age of four I was already sewing with my mother. At the age of ten I made my first garment on her sewing machine. I was very aware how clothes make you feel – better or worse – and how this makes other people look at you. I love to play with that. I also love the craftsmanship. I remember when I was with my grandparents during summer holidays and couldn’t wait to get up very early, around six o’clock to work on my embroidery. I could do that all day long, even at the age of seven or eight when other children came to ask if I wanted to play outside I hided behind the couch because I’d rather finished my work. I don’t know where this drive came from but it was there already at a very young age. I love it when people wear clothes that suit them, I love it when people use clothes to express themselves and I love that it is very practical at the same time. We need clothes to protect our body against sun, wind, rain etc. it’s very handy when you can bike with it – at least in Holland!
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glore: How would you describe the signature style of Elsien Gringhuis?
Elsien: Studio Elsien Gringhuis is a high-end, sustainable label with a focus on the essence of clothing. Minimalistic, clean, chic but outspoken design, innovative details, very wearable, timeless and no nonsense. I think my style is very direct. And it has the ability to easily adapt to many styles and fit all kinds of ages. I have clients from 25 up to 88!
glore: This is really quite a spectrum of age. So where do you get your inspiration from? And how do you translate these ideas into your design?
Elsien: Landscapes, nature, architecture. And I like to work with the moulage technique (draping) to develop new shapes. I compare this with making music: sometimes you „just“ have an idea but it’s only in your mind. By actually doing „something“ things happen. And one thing leads to another. I’m a very practical person and as soon as an idea comes up I want to put it into practice. I’m thinking by doing.
glore: You use organic fabrics and produce the clothes „just-in-time“ in the Netherlands. Why and when did you choose to produce sustainable fashion?
Elsien: During my study at ArtEZ fashion design I got really frustrated about the fashion industry. I saw documentaries about terrible worker-conditions and the extreme environmental damage. For me this was horrible. I could not believe this was reality. This is such a contradiction to what fashion should be, at least in my opinion. I started to hate fashion in a way because of this stupidity: the fast trends, the emptiness, the poorly made clothes all over the world, everywhere the same. It made me feel desperate. Taking this into consideration I made the decision that I only want to work in fashion if I can do it with respect for all living creatures and nature. So I decided to make high quality clothes in a honest way.
glore: What are important criteria that you take into account when choosing your materials?
Elsien: The look/feeling, the quality and how it is produced. We aim for 80% certified fabrics. The other 20% aren’t because of different reasons. For example some fabrics are produced by GOTS guidelines but do not have a certification because it will make the fabric too expensive. Further the question is what is best? For example: a fabric that isn’t produced in a sustainable way but lasts for decades or an organic cotton of poor quality that is gone after five times of washing? We always make conscious decisions and work with as much certified fabrics as possible.
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glore: The fabrics you use are all wonderful in their own way. What is your favourite material and why?
Elsien: I’m a fan of the 3D material I used for the bomber jackets in chapter 3. I love the bold look. I actually love it when fabrics have a certain texture.
glore: Could you give us some insight on what your production process looks like?
Elsien: All items are produced in our own studio in The Netherlands by me and with help of skilled tailors who I trained myself. And we also work with an atelier around the corner. This way we support local craftsmanship, that in many ways is about to be forgotten and stimulate economic growth of the local community. All tailors get payed fairly for their work. The working relationship with the co-workers is close, transparent and open. I know all of them personally. Besides this we also lower our carbon footprint.
Producing by request and all year round also gives us more flexibility towards our clients as they can enjoy our items for very long time periods since they are never „out of stock“!
glore: You no longer create new collections every season but a basic collection which you call „Books“. These books are complemented regularly by a number of styles, so-called „Chapters“. Why did you choose to produce in „Chapters“ instead of seasonal collections? In the long term does that mean your collection will grow continuously?
Elsien: When I started I produced two completely new collections every season. Quite soon this was killing me. After two shows I already had a burnout! And besides this I thought it was such a stupid thing to do. Why putting so much energy, time and money in something which only last for six months? We do not need this. Hence, the idea to do it differently. A writer also does not need to write a book every six months, a musician also does not have to record two albums or even four, every year. This is not even possible unless you want to produce rubbish. We chose to develop styles that are timeless and stay in the collection for as long the fabrics are available. The collection grows organically.
© Tse Kao
glore: Of course we are always excited what the next Book is about. What is the topic of the „Book“ for Spring/Summer 2017?
Elsien: Nothing is as black and white as it seems – the duality in todays society is the theme of the new Book. We judge each other so harshly especially on social media. We point to each other, but I want to show we are all connected. We need black to be able to see the white. And vice versa. The designs of Book 02 show these contrasts by combining black and white, hard and soft tones like shades of dark blue and beige, sky blue and nude. We show unity in duality with modest, intelligent and detailed items.
glore: Thank you Elsien for the interview. We are really looking forward to Spring/Summer 2017!