AIFW – Elsien Gringhuis

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Sarah Klose reports on the Amsterdam International Fashion Week. Today: Elsien Gringhuis.

Slightly melancholic electronic sounds, spectacular lighting and a black helmet covered in bits of broken mirror: the opening to the AW10 show of Elsien Gringhuis. In an interview, I talked to her about her first steps in this business, about the details of her work process and about the meaning of the mirror helmet…

About the collection

As in previous collections, Elsien Gringhuis did not apply any prints. For her, good design is simple, and less is more. This is why in her work, she always tries to go to the core of a design. In addition, black, white, grey and mint created a plain range of colors. The focus has been set on clearly cut lines, geometrical shapes and a futuristic look, created in a modern, yet timeless manner. The models’ tightly braided hair and modest make-up added expression and femineity to the show.

What were your first steps in this business, and why did you choose to be a designer?
I started sewing my own clothes when I was 10 years old, and I have been creating my own fashion ever since. But it was not until 20 that I decided to really start something in this direction. So I studied for 8 years. First at a technical school, followed by the “Academy of Fine Arts” in Arnhem. A perfect combination for me! And right after graduation, I won 3 (inter-)national awards and was soon nominated for 2 Dutch awards… So it was only natural that I started my own business.

Have you always been interested in fashion?
Well, not exactly fashion, but I was always very interested in shapes, music, architecture, landscapes, graphic design etc. I believe, my interest in fashion came a little later. However, I have always been fascinated by the way people dressed and looked.

What was your inspiration for the mirror helmet?
Basically, my inspiration for this collection was our constant hurrying and the fact that we never have the time to just sit down in silence and think about what direction we are moving at the moment. The helmet with bits of broken mirror is a symbol of the shattered image of ourselves – a self-reflection. We are constantly busy meeting our deadlines, which is like a claustrophobic feeling that does not seem to ever end. It seems like anyone without an extremely busy schedule would fail in this society. A lot of us keep longing for more and more, but I prefer quality – and quality takes time!

The collection appears to be a combination of a lot of different fabrics. Which ones did you use and why?
Basically, I use eco-cotton, silk and leather. For this collection I have used neoprene and synthetic high gloss fabrics. All of this overlapping, along with accessories like gloves and the helmet, intensify the claustrophobic theme of the collection. I prefer compact, clean fabrics. They give shape to the clothes and add to the image of futuristic, yet elegant shapes. Of course, before I start working with high grade materials, I use natural white fabric for my designs.

Geometric shapes are always an important part of your collections. What is the thought behind contiuously repeating these shapes?
My way of working is very technical. I try to create an order through shapes and patterns. I am always looking for clean, functional shapes and innovative architectural constructions. The geometric shapes manage to create an order and structures and symbolize control and protection. The overall image with its powerful, box-shaped outlines stays feminine and precise, elegant and wearable. It is minimalist and simple!

When do you mostly have ideas and how exactly do you start; what are the steps of implementing of your ideas?
I always have too many ideas. Before I start with a new colleciton, which is really exciting to me every time, I set up a strict plan and take my time for doing nothing else but drawing sketches, focussing and pushing myself. No phone calls, no emails etc.
As soon as I finish drawing, I start looking for adequate fabrics and begin the toughest part, the design of patterns and clothes. The drawings just serve as guidelines and I change them throughout the whole process. The best ideas come when I make a moulage, when I finish the patterns and see the results on a real body. I move from one piece to the next… During that time, the ideas just keep coming, and so the collection grows. At the beginning, I try a lot of things, but towards the end, it is all about making the right decisions and modifications to create a strong image of the clothes.

After finishing your sketches, do you start right away or do you first talk about them with anybody?
Most of the time, I start right away. When I start desiging the clothes, the real process begins, and I talk about the collection with friends, colleagues and others, because it is good to hear different opinions. But the bottom line is, that I do everything the way that I personally like best.

What is the best part and the hardest part of working as a designer? Do you ever feel lonely?
I cannot imagine doing anything else! The best part about my job is that I have the feeling of growing with my work. I like to challenge myself. Designing just makes me happy! On the other hand it is hard to be creative and think as a business woman at the same time. This combination can be tough! It is definetely neccessary to work with the right people in order to be successful.

What are your interests besides fashion and designing?
My dogs, my friends and my boyfriend, music, books, sleeping and so much more. Just life!

What can we expect from you in the future?
A mixture of hand crafted couture pieces and more wearable high fashion pieces. Timeless, modern design…

What advice do you have for those who just start into the business or are planning to start?
Always just be yourself, honest and dedicated! Follow your heart and go for it…

Find more info on Elsien Gringhuis on her official website

elsien gringhuis
elsien gringhuis
elsien gringhuis
elsien gringhuis