Designer Tess van Zalinge on sustainable fashion

It takes an iron will to refrain from buying a single new garment when you’re immersed in the fast-paced fashion industry, but Tess van Zalinge takes it in stride. “For the past three years, I’ve set myself the guideline to not buy anything new, just second-hand or make it myself”, says the Utrecht-born, Amsterdam-based fashion designer, and she’s followed it rigorously. While there’s plenty of chatter about mass consumption in the textile industry, designers such as Tess seem among the few taking practical steps to combat it. And yes, she let us in on a few of her favourite vintage stores.

Her aesthetic travels deep into the archives of Dutch history, infusing her collections with a classical beauty. Whether featuring portraiture from Golden Age Masters, hand-painted prints reminiscent of Delft blue pottery, or repurposed vintage wedding gowns, each piece is expertly finished with the easy-going nonchalance that Amsterdam women want from their wardrobes. And perhaps this is why her style feels so fresh. It’s tailored, yet undone. Billowing white cotton set amongst crinolines and corsetry; slouchy sleeves met with ruffs and bodices of Elizabethan proportions.

And when she gets a precious moment of downtime outside of her atelier, here's how she spends it. 

How do you describe Amsterdam’s fashion scene?
With Amsterdam being one of the epicentres of design, the level of inspiration you can get from this city is pretty high. It drives a lot of young designers to start up their own label. We are well connected and it’s more than common to collaborate.

What is your favourite street for shopping?
It’s not a street, but a market. I really like Noordermarkt, because it has everything you need. There are mostly second-hand products and if you look closely, you find beautiful treasures.  

Best stores for homeware or gifts?
One of my favourite sites to look for cool presents or just something for my home is, a company based in the Netherlands. They have all the inspiring second-hand items you can think of, nicely sorted by style.

The city is famous for jeans – do you have any favourite labels?
I don’t own a pair of jeans from him yet, but I really admire Mick Keus for his design and aesthetic. 

Which Dutch designer or artist do you think more people should know about?
I get a lot of my inspiration from Dutch painters, such as Johannes Vermeer. He is really the master of light. I made a dress with a print of one of his most known paintings: Girl with a Pearl Earring

Which other cities do you find most inspiring?
Stockholm is an inspiring city. I once did an internship there, while I was still studying fashion. The minimalistic look and feel of the city really got me and is still present in my style as a designer.

Where do you go for inspiration?
I like to walk to Oosterpark with my dog, Teun. It is close to my atelier. I like to clear my head outside and go back to my atelier to have a fresh start! 

Favourite bar or café in Amsterdam?
In the east of Amsterdam there is a bar called Bar Botanique. The east of Amsterdam is still not really discovered by tourists yet. This bar is a nice place to relax after work or have a nice lunch in the weekends. 

Favourite spot for dinner?
A small restaurant at the Amstel which is called Eetcafé Ibis. It has the best Ethiopian food and you can drink beer out of a coconut.

What’s Amsterdam’s best-kept secret?
It’s not a secret, but it is not well known by a lot of people. I get all my inspiration from the Dutch Costume Museum. I think more people should learn about craftmanship and clothing, which are deeply rooted in Dutch history and culture. 

View Tess van Zalinge's collections and collaborations

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