The rise and rise of the Amsterdam fashion sector

Amsterdam has famously proven to be a breeding ground for local fashion brands that go on to conquer the world, with examples including Viktor & Rolf, G-Star Raw, Scotch & Soda and Suitsupply, to name just a few. At the same time, more and more international fashion brands are coming to realise the innumerable benefits that come with setting up shop in the Amsterdam Area. In recent years, global labels such as Under Armour, Asics and Toms have chosen the Amsterdam Area as the site of their (European) headquarters, and that movement shows no signs of slowing down.

Canadian arrivals

A recent case in point is the September 2017 arrival of Canadian retailer Hudson’s Bay, which chose Amsterdam to launch its first store outside of Canada. That’s quite an accolade, considering that Hudson’s Bay, the oldest company in North America, has existed since 1670; it was trading fur pelts back when Amsterdam was just getting started building its grand canal houses. And Hudson’s Bay is not aiming small: their new store, which is spread across four historic buildings on the stately Rokin, occupies a mammoth 17,000 square metres. Its striking design and careful selection of brands firmly position Hudson’s Bay as a premium department store: international labels such as Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Armani AX, Polo Ralph Lauren, Ugg, MAC and DKNY occupy the shelves alongside Dutch counterparts like Scotch & Soda, G-Star and Denham.

A unique feature of the store is its direct access to the Noord/Zuidlijn (North/South metro line), which opened in 2018. Hudson’s Bay Company has since opened 11 other stores throughout the Netherlands, including two Saks Off 5th branches. Along those same lines, another new Canadian arrival in Amsterdam is the shoe brand John Fluevog, which opened its first store outside North America here in March 2018. The company’s new shop is located on the trendy Heiligeweg in central Amsterdam, where it shares the street with other brands such as Scotch & Soda, Puma and Diesel.

Designer headquarters

An equally important milestone that boosted Amsterdam’s reputation as an international fashion hub was the opening of the new headquarters of PVH Europe, the company that owns Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger (and which also has license agreements with brands such as Kenneth Cole, Michael Kors, DKNY and John Varvatos). The building, which is the first part of an eventual three-building campus, is located in Amsterdam’s rapidly evolving Houthavens neighbourhood, a former timber port that is being redeveloped for homes, offices and leisure; fellow fashion brands Diesel, Hugo Boss and Desigual also have offices nearby. At a height of 50 metres, the gleaming tower resembles a ship jutting forward into the River IJ, at once recalling Amsterdam’s proud maritime history and its pioneering spirit. It contains 13,000 square metres of office space, a parking garage and showrooms, as well as a publicly accessible café and restaurant that will help to build bridges with the surrounding neighbourhood.

Japanese investment

In the near future, the Amsterdam Area can look forward to even more top-level fashion investment. The Japanese global apparel retailer Uniqlo will be opening its first store in the Netherlands in autumn 2018. The 2,000 square metre space is located in the heart of the city centre on the Kalverstraat, which is Amsterdam’s busiest shopping street; it will also have an additional entrance on the Rokin. This new location will be Uniqlo’s biggest store in the Benelux region, and one of its largest in Europe. Uniqlo Europe’s CEO Taku Morikawa says he’s looking forward to introducing the brand to Amsterdam, “a city well known for its relaxed and casual lifestyle”. Uniqlo is part of Fast Retailing Co. Ltd., a Japanese retail holding company that also owns brands such as Helmut Lang and Theory.

Expansion to Lelystad

Another global megabrand that is investing big in the Amsterdam Area is Zara, or more specifically its owner, the Spanish clothing group Inditex. Although Zara is the company’s best-known brand, Inditex also owns Pull&Bear, Bershka, Oysho and many other leading labels. Inditex is opening a large distribution centre in Lelystad, at Lelystad Airport Business Park, which is set to be fully operational in 2020. The new facility represents an investment of €100 million, and will create between 400 and 800 jobs, depending on market developments. “Lelystad has the ideal combination of high-quality physical and digital infrastructure,” the company says.