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Els van der Plas States Her Vision

Premsela welcomes a new head for a new era.  At a New Year's gathering this week, links with industry, more opportunities for fashion designers and a renewed focus on emerging markets were the hot topics.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 27-01-2011

This week at De Duif, an old church on one of Amsterdam’s famed canals, Els van der Plas, the new direcetor at Premsela - Dutch Platform for Design and Fashion, addressed a packed crowd. Internationalization and improving ties with industry are both areas she wants to focus on.

Internationalization is not just about trying to have an impact in places like Milan or New York. “We also need to look at emerging markets and interesting developments that could be meaningful for the Dutch design world,” Van der Plas said.  “So in a way we have to internationalize internationalization. After all, it’s not just about economic interests, but also intercultural exchange, mutual inspiration and the transmission of expertise.”

Forging closer ties between young design talent and industry means that companies can benefit from what Van der Plas called an “inspiring and stimulating triangle of technique, design and industry.” Traditionally, companies like furniture makers Pastoe and Gispen, and ceramics specialists Tichelaar Makkum have worked with top designers.  This approach must be strengthened.   

During the panel discussion following Van der Plas’ speech, Dick Hendriks, a director at Ten Cate Advanced Textiles, told the crowd how about 20 billion euros is lost every year by the European textile industry due to over production.  The result is a massive waste of resources. Mass production might be the most efficient way to produce massive amounts, but massive amounts are not always needed.  The alarming example offered perspective on the realities of industry and how so much needs to change.

“We’re at the beginning of an explosion of technological developments,” Hendriks told the crowd. The digitalization of textile production has the potential to end a lot of waste over the coming decade by enabling smaller production runs based on demand.  This could help the European textile industry to regain its competitive edge and win back markets that have migrated to the cheaper manufacturing hubs of India and China.  

For young fashion designers, this means exciting possibilities and something they should be watching closely.

Suzanne Oxenaar, one of the founders of the famous Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam, is also utilizing young fashion designers in interesting and entrepreneurial ways.   She is cooperating with the city to enliven – some might say “clean up” – a part of the city centre mostly known for prostitutes and fast food joints.

On the Damrak, the road leading from central station into the city, Oxenaar is setting up a new hotel, The Exchange. “Damrak is like a catwalk,” she said, “with people from all corners of the world and all walks of life parading into the city.”  The Exchange will be all about fashion. Oxenaar is collaborating with Amfi, the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, and has selected several of its students to “dress up” the 63 rooms as if they were bodies needing garments. The hotel will also feature a design shop.

Designer Jurgen Bey agrees that cooperation with industry is a core issue for designers.  Bey, who was recently appointed head of the Sandberg Institute, the Master’s course of the Rietveld Academy, also stressed that for that to work intermediaries like Premsela are essential.  “They have the best overview,” he said after the presentation.  “They know what is needed where.”

Or, as Van der Plas put it: “Premsela has to continue to show interesting design, stimulate public debate with new ideas, inspire people and stimulate new relationships because design and fashion touch all facets of man and society.”

Images: large from top Van der Plas addresses the crowd, moderator Paul van Liempt, Suzanne Oxenaar, Jurgen Bey and Dick Hendriks.  All by Lizzy Kalisvaart.

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