Maarten van der Horst vaulted out of Saint Martins straight into Fashion East last September. Two collections down for Lulu Kennedy's catwalk umbrella and the Dutch-born designer's twisted Hawaiian tropic has laid roots around the heart of many a fashion fan. Now he's blooming into Topshops left, right and centre as van der Horst releases his first capsule collection for the high-street powerhouse. In a special story for Dazed Digital, the designer dresses his friends – writers, editors, stylists and fellow designers – in his more accessible collection. And talks subversion and the power of metal typography.
Dazed Digital: What does the Hawaiian shirt mean to you?
Maarten van der Horst: On one side I love it because it's such a simple garment to make, and to graduate from such an infamous MA as Central Saint Martins with a garment that humble totally reflects my sense of humour and my perspective about what fashion could and should be. Fun. Also, I love the fact that Hawaiian shirts are often associated with big, fat sex tourists in Bangkok. Just adds to the fun…
DD: Growing up in Holland, did you have a fascination with the exotic?
Maarten van der Horst: Yes! I always had a fascination with the exotic! My grandmother is Indonesian and her house was always filled with crazy, beautiful things she took with her when she and her family moved to Holland. Beautiful wooden furniture with dragons carved in them and strange books and crazy stories about Goona-goona (an Indonesian form of Voodoo)! I was obsessed with her and totally inherited her desire to collect everything exotic. And in the end it's all about escapism.
DD: There's subversion underneath those bold, upbeat florals – integrating second-hand nylon petticoats into your catwalk collection is a reference to John Waters' Dreamlanders too. Is the knife-edge of duality important to your aesthetic?
Maarten van der Horst: I play with this idea when it comes to designing, like this nonchalance about throwing elements together. At the same time, everybody knows I only work with ingredients that I am very interested in and care deeply about. That's essential. Because I do feel like only I could come up with it.
Not to sound arrogant, because trust me, I have always been the underdog! Anyone could throw a petticoat over a Hawaiian shirt, but I guess the point is they didn’t. With that, comes this idea of DIY, that even with the smallest budget you can come up with something that makes a strong, personal statement. Which is totally inspired by John Waters, Divine and the rest of the Dreamlanders. Their movies have always been a great inspiration, how subversive a good sense of humour can be.
DD: Can you tell us about who you've shot your Topshop collection on for us – are they your gang?
Maarten van der Horst: London is an incredibly difficult and gritty city to live in. For me, living here has always been about survival. As a student I was often homeless and crashed on people’s sofas. Everything is expensive and as a young designer you're often drowning in invoices. So much keeps you worrying at night. The support and love you get from people means so much – that’s why I wanted to photograph them! Cause in the end, its all about love. Whether you're an intern, a stylist, a writer or a designer, we all love what we do. It's the reason for waking up every day!
We photographed a selection of people that have supported me from the start and it’s so great that I got to shoot them in their bedrooms, kitchen or living room! For me there’s no big divide between my work and personal life, my goal has always been to dress my friends. So it makes a lot of sense to put them in my first capsule collection for Topshop. They too have been there since the start.
DD: Iron Maiden and Metallica flashes up in your typography...
Maarten van der Horst: The typography used for my logos, website and press releases is similar to the logos used by several bands: Metallica, The Cramps, Van Halen. It’s a visual language that’s as gutsy as the woman wearing Hawaiian shirts with frilly boobs!
DD: Have you seen Slayer's wine yet?
Maarten van der Horst: I have! And Reign In Blood should def be the name of my next collection.
DD: What else would you like to tell us?
Maarten van der Horst: Here's a surprise: in June we’re launching our webshop. Which will include more fun stuff. I say our, but that’s me and my fake assistant.
Photography: Meinke Klein at UNIT c.m.a.
Hair/Make-up: Gemma Tyler using MAC and Bumble and bumble
Models: Alexander Fury, editor; Anna Trevelyan, stylist; Madeleine Østlie, stylist; Serafina Sama, fashion designer and full-time mum; Simone Rocha, fashion designer; Susanna Lau, writer
Photography assistant: Sanja Marusic
Production: Maarten van der Horst