The summer edition of Mercedes-Benz FashionWeek Amsterdam is just a month away. In this interview, Creative Director Iris Ruisch looks ahead to the jubilee edition. "This event is all about young Dutch talent. They recognise the need for a different system and a more open industry."
This 25th edition of Mercedes-Benz FashionWeek Amsterdam is all about young talent. How is that reflected in the programme?
"Opening night is completely centred around 10 Years of Lichting; it's one anniversary after another! Lichting is the fashion industry prize that’s given each year to the most promising Dutch fashion graduate. It's a simple concept: the two biggest talents from the top seven Dutch fashion academies get the run of the main catwalk, to present themselves and their designs to the critical eye of the fashion press and industry. Ahead of that major show, we'll kick off with Karim Adduchi, the crowd favourite from Lichting 2015. In the meantime, 10 Years of Lichting in Pictures, will be open to the public. In that expo, we'll show the favourite look from past winning collections, as well as the most high-profile collections, all in one space. The rest of the week, too, I've carved out space for young talent alongside more well-established names, in the Lab shows as well as the Gashouder."
Why is young talent so important to you?
The Netherlands is unique among its European neighbours in the amount of prestigious fashion academies we have! The export demand for our talent is gigantic, and we haven't truly realised that yet. In nearly every European label and fashion house, there's a Dutchman on the top creative team. So our focus on young talent is an obvious choice. That's where everything begins. And on top of that, youth are the future. It sounds cliché, but it's also true. Young people are enormously creative when it comes to the future of fashion. They believe in teamwork, in connection. They recognise the need for another system and a more open industry. They're equally passionate about political statements, the strength of the craft, and the simple fun of making clothes. The catwalk isn't their ultimate goal, reaching people is. And that's exactly what I'm fighting for with heart and soul."
How do you feel when you discover new talent?
"I'm trying to provide a springboard for young talent. They don’t have to pay an entry fee, unlike a number of other fashion weeks. I prefer something more along the lines of a gentleman's agreement, where they learn to be 'consistently visible' in the first few years, and I try build the foundation for a prospective future label across the fashion industry. Beyond that, it's the energy, the will, the hope and the belief in a bright future that so appeals to me in young talent. There's so much that can be said about fashion. That it's an industry with fewer and fewer jobs and challenges to offer, for one thing. But I don’t see young people sitting on the sidelines. I see them proudly and eagerly looking forward."
"I'm trying to provide a springboard for young talent!"
Who are your favourite young designers right now?
"It's so difficult to name names. I believe absolutely in all the young talent from our January edition, as well as those in the upcoming edition. I see great potential there."
Which established designers have earned your respect?
Another hard question. I don’t want to sell anyone short, so for the last edition I put together an ode to all the incredible Dutch designers – 60 years of Dutch fashion on the catwalk together! The landscape of Dutch designers is unbelievably rich and varied. From the powerhouses of yesteryear, like Fong Leng, Max Heymans and Frans Molenaar, to brands that have been institutions for years now, like Laundry Industry, Mac & Maggie and G-Star! And don’t forget the current contingent of Dutch designers who have amassed giant international followings, like Iris van Herpen, Viktor and Rolf and Ronald van der Kemp! All fantastic designers!"
What makes a designer interesting for you?
"It can be a lot of things. It can be in the craftsmanship, in the innovation, the sustainability and technology or a combination of all those things. I'm always searching for the story, as well. The concept and process that leads to a collection is very important for me. The relevance of the collection or the final product also matters. There has to be a necessity for a product, it needs a reason to exist. I'm not easily wooed just by 'pretty clothes'. The story behind them is really what grabs me. Or doesn't, of course."
"I'm not easily wooed just by pretty clothes."
On one hand, designers are getting back to the basics and finding inspiration in pure craftsmanship. On the other hand, we're seeing modern techniques playing a huge role. What is your vision for the future?
"The strength of the craftsmanship is going to speak to people on a personal level. And that creates space for smaller collectives and designers to find clients and build a fan base. That is so valuable. For the major industry players, virtual design is going to play a huge role and effect significant change, in more than just 3D printing and laser techniques. And it’s absolutely necessary. The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world! We'll be talking about that issue and the technological solutions at our Future Generation closing day."
What does fashion mean to you personally? And how does that manifest itself in your role with Mercedes-Benz FashionWeek Amsterdam?
"I have a tremendous drive and belief in the future of fashion, in the future of Dutch fashion in an international context and in the connections we can make to raise the profile of that context. That's where I'm making my contribution. And believe me, I'm just getting started."
"Believe me, I'm just getting started!"
You’ve chosen to close the 25th edition of Mercedes-Benz FashionWeek Amsterdam with Future Generation. Tell us more!
"The idea behind it is that technology can offer a sustainable solution for a dreadfully polluting industry. What these solutions might look like is the core of this edition of Future Generation, entitled 'The Next Day'. Virtual design, holograms, realtime rendering, motion suits – it sounds like science fiction, but they're going to play a huge role in the future of the fashion industry."
What did you think was the most outstanding moment from the last Mercedes-Benz FashionWeek Amsterdam?
"Opening night with the 'oeuvre shows', 60 years of Dutch fashion on the catwalk was an important moment for me, as was Future Generation, the closer, where the visions of our future fashion thinkers and makers were brought to life with 'Hotel Brave Monday.' A special moment for me personally was the show from Duran Lantink and Jan Hoek, an emotional, engaging show about being transgender in Africa. I was blown away by what they came with. And I wasn’t the only one. Everyone I spoke to after that show was deeply impressed."
Who is Iris Ruisch?
Iris Ruisch studied fashion at ArtEZ, and subsequently designed for labels such as Alexander van Slobbe, Laundry Industry and Turnover. Her next step was into recruitment consultant design and creative management at HTNK, where she matched up talented designers with high-end brands. Eight years in that role prepared her for the transition to Mercedes-Benz FashionWeek Amsterdam in September 2015.