First published in Holland Herald 

You can usually spot the city’s creatives cycling across the picturesque canal belt and more than 30 leafy parks, often wearing their favourite pair of jeans. “The Dutch dress more casually than other nations,” explains Willa Stoutenbeek, founder of sustainable communication and branding agency W.Green. “The German and French go to work more dressed up. In this country, we don’t object to jeans.” Which is a bit of an understatement for the average Amsterdammer, who owns at least 6 pairs of denim and wears them for 4-5 days per week.

Homegrown denim

With the highest concentration of denim brands around the world– and locals willing to dig deeper into their pockets for eco-friendly denim – Amsterdam is bursting at the seams with sustainable jeans. Spearheading this movement are bold home-grown brands such as MUD Jeans, the first circular jeans label on the planet, which leases denim instead of selling it. Or take House of Denim, a platform promoting craftsmanship, innovation and sustainability in the denim industry. Among the platform’s initiatives are annual festival Amsterdam Denim Days, and the world’s first and only Jean School, training students to become cutting-edge denim developers in three years.

Perfect fit

“Amsterdam is a vibrant, energetic city full of creative minds. And yet it’s so small that you never feel lost”, says James Veenhoff, co-founder of House of Denim. British-born designer Jason Denham echoes this sentiment. “Amsterdam is the personification of everything denim represents. Slightly rebellious, adventurous, opinionated, never afraid to make a statement, and always uniquely individual.” A description that fits Denham like a glove; after working for Pepe Jeans in Amsterdam, he first struck out on his own by co-creating Kuyichi, the first ever label for organic jeans, and followed up with his eponymous DENHAM the Jeanmaker luxury brand.

"The best and most creative designers want to live and work in Amsterdam"

International top brands

“Brands that are considering a move to Amsterdam will have an incredible talent pool at their disposal. From design and development to merchandise and social media: all the know-how is already here”, Veenhoff adds. And such brands would be joining the ranks of Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Amsterdam’s denim pioneer, G-Star RAW, who started selling raw, untreated jeans back in 1996, and now uses organic and recycled cotton along with recycled water bottles for part of its denim production. Amsterdam’s reputation as a launch pad for denim trailblazers also appealed to Diesel and Levi’s, who decided to relocate their design studios to Amsterdam. “The best and most creative designers want to live and work here”, Denham believes. But the city’s prime appeal is its commitment to make the jeans industry more sustainable and circular. One example is Kings of Indigo, the brainchild of Tony Tonnaer, former director at organic label Kuyichi. Ranked as the most sustainable European denim brand, Kings of Indigo mainly uses fabrics such as organic cotton and recycled wool, and has reduced the industry’s average water consumption rates by 50%, thanks to innovative denim wash techniques such as laser and ozone.

"Brands like Calvin Klein, G-Star RAW and Tommy Hilfiger have offices here"

Amsterdam Denim Days

“We hope that the Amsterdam Denim Days will mobilise people to do cool things together,” says House of Denim co-founder Veenhoff. “And make them realise that denim nowadays means quality and value, rather than cheap and nasty”. It seems his wish is coming true, as denim professionals and aficionados alike have embraced the Amsterdam Denim Days. The fourth edition of this annual fair takes place from 17-23 April 2017, and is full of denimthemed seminars, expos, and vintage treasure hunting, as well as music, food and drinks. And if you’re travelling to the Big Apple, pop by the first New York City Denim Days, from 30 September to 1 October 2017, brought to you by the same Amsterdam-based team.


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