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1-on-1: Dom Amsterdam

 In Fashion

For this installment of our 1-on-1 series we spoke with Dom Amsterdam, the latest addition to Holland’s push against ‘fast fashion’… 

Hi Dom Amsterdam, who exactly is behind the project and how did you meet?

We are Diede Gardenier & Zheng Ou van den Berg, we met about two years ago when Diede moved to Amsterdam and became Zheng’s neighbor. From then on we shared a lot of time together and instantly became good friends.

Dom is one of the many upcoming brands thinking and working against ‘fast fashion’ and its negative effects. Why did you adopt this strategy?

Because we think it is time for a change in the fashion industry. It’s no secret that the current way of producing fashion, better known as the ‘fast fashion’ industry, is destructive. The industry contributes to climate change and is also guilty of underpayment, exploitation and child labor.

The average lifespan of a piece of clothing goes down and that is very problematic. More and more clothes are being produced but individually the garments are being worn less and less. Customers are not aware of this trend, or they pretend to be unaware because most of the negative effects of the industry are not directly perceptible in our daily surroundings in the West. We are going to make people more aware of what exactly they’re buying by offering them a transparent and fair production process.

As we can see clearly in the food industry, the mindset of the consumer is changing. An increasing amount of people are turning vegetarian or at least trying to eat less meat. Customers are becoming more aware of what they eat. We are going to make customers more aware of what they wear.

Your sustainability credentials stems from two aspects of your work. Let’s start with the materials you use, can you tell us a little more about them?

When we were discussing what materials to use we started to look around for sustainable options. Quickly we realized that there is a whole lot of textile out there already, and a big part of it not being used. We think that the most sustainable way to make a new product is to re-use old materials and give them a new purpose. With this idea we started to contact our friends and family to see if we could have their old clothes, curtains, tablecloths, etc.

After a while we also came into contact with a company that sells curtains. They donated all their old curtains and scraps from the rest of the cutting process. More companies followed and we are still trying to collect as much ‘waste’ as we can with the motto: ‘Waste isn’t waste until we waste it.’  We gathered a lot of different material which gave us the opportunity to be very creative in our designs. All the fabrics we can’t use for our fannypacks we donate to charity.

Dom Amsterdam also works as a language school and work opportunity for refugees that are permanently situated in Amsterdam. How did you initiate this project and how is it going so far?

In our quest to find a sustainable producer for our fannypacks we found Makers Unite. Makers Unite is a foundation which offers refugees a way to find the next step in their lives. If you do not speak the dominant local language and do not know the culture, it can be very difficult to participate in the Dutch society.

While working on sustainable projects, the refugees are helped by professionals to bridge the language and culture barriers in order to be prepared for the job market. Sustainability is of utmost important at Makers Unite and in their workshop they work exclusively on sustainable projects. We can proudly say that our fannypacks are also being produced there. Our project is creating work for refugees and via Makers Unite they get to learn the Dutch language and culture.

What inspires your designs, and what’s your design process?

We both admire fashion and we are inspired everyday by our surroundings. We like to retouch our own style frequently. It’s hard to pinpoint something specific that inspires our designs. It’s more a combination of factors.

We live in a building together with about 460 others [ACTA], mostly students. A lot of them are very creative, which they also express in their fashion style. We’re surrounded by a creative bunch of people who give us new daily inspiration. Amsterdam is home to a mix of all sorts of people with their own appearances. Amsterdam is a city where people can truly express themselves. This creates a variety of styles which makes the city a good source of inspiration.

Of course we also follow fashion trends. Via social media and our network of friends we get to know the latest trends

We’ve gathered a lot of fabrics for our fannypacks. We make the combinations of the fabrics (which ones goes on the inside of the bag and which one on the outside) by just simply laying them all out on a very big table. We see which ones match the best, cut them, and bring them to the producers.

There is no denying that we all interpret fashion in our own unique way. With our designs we want to inspire our customers.

How do you think sustainable and ethical fashion could become the norm?

Fashion is about trends. Customers will always follow the trends. We give customers the opportunity to buy into these trends, but a sustainable way. We believe that there a lot of customers that do care about the environment but do not have enough opportunities to express this mindset via their fashion choices.

This idea originated from our own experience. We wanted to buy sustainable fashion but we couldn’t really find anything that suited us.

Back to the food industry comparison, in the supermarket you can find a bio/organic alternative to almost anything you can think of. People that want to eat bio food can easily do so. The fashion industry is lagging behind the food industry in this respect.

Looking to the future, what are your aims for Dom Amsterdam?

We aim to inspire people to buy sustainable fashion. We will always try to improve our production process to become as sustainable as possible with all the possibilities we have. We are going to expand our assortment to offer customers more sustainable alternatives. We are going to make customers aware of what they wear.

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