In the Netherlands, Mada van Gaans is highly respected as a designer, and again she presented her latest collection during this year’s Fashion Week in Amsterdam. She gains the biggest part of her strength and motivation through travelling to ancient and contempotrary cultural sites. Personally, I found her collection to be one of the highlights of the AIFW, and it definetely has the potential to increase her international popularity.
In this interview, I found out a bit about her success story so far, her collection and herself…
How would you describe the collection you just introduced here in Amsterdam? What was your inspiration?
The collection is called The Serpent Goddess and shows chic, sophisticated and powerful femininity, expressing several stages of life. Showing all stages of femininity, the collection transforms from the innocent white of Les Prophètes surrounging the oracle of Delphi, towards the fertility rites of the wine god Dionysos while warm brown earth tones softly bring us down to the most mysterious color of all: Black.
The collection is inspired by the Serpent Goddess, she was discovered in the underground repository of the Second Palace of Knossos (1600 BC) and was worshipped in Crete as early as 6000 BC. She depicts the benevolence and sacred power of the life force.
Do you ever look for inspiration and ideas in the collections of other designers, or would that rather distract you?
My collections are inspired by myths and nature. When I do get my inspiration from others, I tend to look more at fashion from the history or traditional clothing from other cultures. Or I look at craftsmanship from the 20s, like from Paul Poiret.
You have shown your collections in Paris and New York. How, in your opinion, is Amsterdam different and what was your best experience?
Amsterdam International Fashion Week is very big, with so many visitors. It’s so huge. Besides that, the public knows me. When I presented my collections in New York, it was so exciting to see how my collection was received by press like ELLE, NY Times, Fashion Wire and WWD (Womens Wear Daily).
My best experience was when I presented my collection in New York, in the exhibition “Dutch at the Edge of Design” at The Museum at FIT. The response was really good. It gave my career an incredible boost.
How does it feel to start working on a new collection? And how do you approach the work on sketches? Do you first develop ideas and then start, or do things happen rather spontaneously?
The feeling I get when I start to work on a collection is excitement. It rushes through my body. It depends on how I get my ideas, sometimes there is an idea in my head, but it won’t come out.
The sketches come out in moments of peace and silence and when I take the time for it. That may be on a train or in the evening at home. Or when I really take the time for it at the studio.
What were the highlights of your career so far?
After graduating from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute and Fashion Institute Arnhem, I was selected for the Robijn Fashion Award in 2001. I premiered my collection at the Amsterdam International Fashion Week in 2005. That same year, I went to New York City to show my collection during New York Fashion Week, and took part in the exhibition “Dutch at the Edge of Design” at The Museum at FIT. In 2007 I was nominated for the Dutch Fashion Awards and was selected for the IAF Awards in Taipei, Taiwan for which I placed second. In 2008 I was nominated for the Dutch Fashion Awards for the second time.
In 2008 I travelled to India to work with students from the Academy Nift in Delhi. In this year I also worked with the commercial label Just B. on a series of dresses “Just B. by Mada van Gaans” for summer 2009 and winter 2009/2010. In September that year I presented my collection together with 5 Dutch designers at the Business of design week in Hong Kong.
In 2009 I worked together with photographer Danielle Kwaaitaal on the exhibition “Whispering Waters”, a series of underwater images with dresses of my label – they were exposed at the Groningen museum.
Has there ever been a time when you thought you might not make it in this business, or that you might not be good enough? If so, what helped you to continue and not give up?
it’s quite hard to make it in this business, I didn’t have enough manpower and budget, which gave me the feeling I wasn’t going to make it. Things that help me to keep going are positive response from international press, pr agencies and people who I think are important. It also helps to look at your work in another way and to reorganize everything. To go and to look for the right business partners to work with. The key is not just to be creative, but also build up a good team around you.
Any advice for people who are just at the beginning of their career?
If you want to start your own label, try to get at least two years of experience at a distinguished label or designer.
Is there a person in this business who you find fascinating?
Sonia Rykiel. It fascinates me how she kept sticking to her own vision and got so big. I also really like to see how Sonia’s daughter is taking over this same strategy.
How do you see yourself?
I am a real go-getter. I am also very down to earth, although I also like to think big. Furthermore, I am open-minded, social, creative and legitimate.
For you, what color stands for calmness and relaxation?
Blue with a little ray of lavender in it calms me. Colors can do so much.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m working on a collaboration with a very special brand – topsecret – to get my label more known internationally. I believe in the power of the mind, if you really want it, you will achieve your goals.