Double Dutch

Sjaak Hullekes and his business partner Sebastiaan Kramer present Hullekes new Dutch Fashion Award-winning collection, "Oscar".

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Fashion designer Sjaak Hullekes won the Mercedes-Benz Dutch Fashion Award 2009 with his collection of wearable, yet adventurous menswear featuring tassled jackets and soft linen shirts. The international jury chose Sjaak Hullekes out of five nominated designers to receive a financial reward of 25,000 euros to aid him in taking further steps in the fashion industry.

Dazed Digital: Where are you from? Where are you based now?
Sjaak Hullekes: I was born in Zierikzee, next to the sea in the Netherlands. My company is based in Arnhem, also The Netherlands, in which I also had my education to become a fashion designer at the ArtEZ institute for Arts and Design. The same academy as where people like Viktor & Rolf and Lucas Ossendrijver graduated.

DD: When and why did you start designing?
Sjaak Hullekes: As a child I was busy creating things already; it wasn't really fashion design, but more things like making my parents' garden and house more beautiful. I think I was like 16-years-old when I decided to become a fashion designer. I like(d) fashion because it is a very direct way of making people beautiful, self-confident and happy, which I like very much.

DD: Tell us about your collection that won the Dutch Fashion Awards?
Sjaak Hullekes: At the Mercedes-Benz Dutch Fashion Awards I showed my latest Spring / Summer collection called "Oscar", which shows my opinion of a modern dandy. A lot of details, like the collars, cuffs and bindings are stitched by hand to give each item its own identity, and so the wearer can feel the passion that went into making it. The collection includes a lot of transparency and some bright reds for the confident dresser. There is sensitivity expressed in the detailing, such as the insides of the garments and in my use of fabrics like silk, cottons and linens (always a soft touch). I like playing with details which only the wearer will be aware of. Like all of my collections, this Spring / Summer 2010 collection is mainly based on who I am, what I like and the things in life that interests me; in a way I am my own muse I guess...

DD: What was it like winning? What do you expect to come from the experience?
Sjaak Hullekes: It was great, I don't think I have many other ways of expressing myself for that... At the same time it is kind of strange, I was only known by a very niche market and when I got the award there were so many people that wanted to know what my label is about. I do not know yet what to expect from this award, for now I have a lot of interviews and Facebook-friend requests and a lot of emails. I also liked very much meeting the international jury at the awards; they were very positive about our opinions on menswear and our market-strategies, and I hope to learn from their advice to make the Sjaak Hullekes label a bigger independent brand in the near future.

DD: Where do you seek for inspiration? Do you think Dutch fashion has influenced your designs?
Sjaak Hullekes: My inspiration comes from my nostalgic interests in antiques, old movies, design from the early 20th century and so on. I seek it everywhere I go, in bookshops, museums, the internet, flea markets, but sometimes I do not look for something in particular and the inspiration comes by itself.
Dutch fashion is world-wide known from designers as like Viktor & Rolf, they really exaggerate their ideas which is for sure something Dutch but is more rebelling against the 'old-fashioned' way of thinking of the Dutch. I am a different kind of designer, Dutch as well, but think more from the practical side. The Dutch are very much like that, when you look for example how our houses and roads are designed you'll see how clear we want to express ourselves; the Dutch don't like to see to much of any 'unnecessary' decorations and like to make everything abstract. When I design I think like that too, I don't want seven buttons on a cuff, just because it is not practical and so it is unnecessary for me to put them on, two buttons are enough...

DD: What makes you happy?
Sjaak Hullekes: I have a strange kind of obsession with paperclips I find on the streets. I've collected them already for more than ten years now and I have boxes full of paperclips, from New York, London, Antwerp, Paris, Tokyo, Amsterdam and everywhere I go. When I find one on the street I am always very happy, and I always make a wish. I know it might sound strange but those paperclips are really making me happy.

DD: Who is your favourite designer and why?
Sjaak Hullekes: My favourite designers are Dries van Noten and Yves Saint Laurent. I like them both because of their business strategics and their stable way of designing. You always know more or less what to expect for next season.

DD: What do you see in your future?
Sjaak Hullekes: We want to expand our selling-points, focus even more on the quality of our designs and open our own shops. For next summer we are planning to start having a bi-annual presentation in Paris. Since the Spring / Summer of 2009, we have presented in Milan at White Homme and in Paris in our private showroom at rue Chapon, so we planned to start next summer with showing our collection to a wider public.

DD: Where can we buy your clothes?
Sjaak Hullekes: Starting from January 2010 the Spring / Summer 2010 collection will be sold at the Croon-a-Song shops all over Japan, and the label is sold in the Netherlands in Rotterdam at MgH20.
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