The Iconoclasts

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Sjaak Hullekes fall/winter 2007 collection
"Over here they have a saying: Just be normal, then you're already weird enough," says Sebastiaan Kramer, one half of the design duo Arnheim Fashion, on the prevailing Dutch mentality to embrace conformity. Based in the city of Arnhem, Kramer and his collaborator Sjaak Hullekes challenge the establishment by infusing their menswear line with subtle statements and a tongue-in-cheek sensibility.
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Both in their mid-twenties, Hullekes and Kramer met as students at the renowned ArtEZ University of Art and Design in Arnhem, Netherlands—a city that cradles the arts and design and has cultivated the disparate likes of Audrey Hepburn and Viktor & Rolf.
While Dutch design is said to be more conceptual than commercial, Hullekes and Kramer formed Arnheim Fashion in 2006 to combine high fashion with marketability. "We both like the fact that [fashion] has the most direct contact with humans. We both design a full wardrobe, based on the must-haves and basic items in menswear. For us, it's important that people can actually buy and wear the clothes," says Kramer.
The Arnheim Fashion brand combines the designers' individual labels Sebastic and Sjaak, incorporating their fondness for precise cuts and practicality but also utilizing their singular design perspective.
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Sebastic fall/winter 2007 collection
The Sjaak line is more melancholic and mature, playing the older brother to the amusing, carefree Sebastic man. For the Sjaak fall/winter 2007 collection, Hullekes updates traditional cardigans with white piping and cropped hems and modernizes jackets with vibrant hues of blue, orange, and yellow, which are then reined in by modest silhouettes. "A Sjaak Hullekes garment will never dominate the wearer," says the designer.
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This sense of restraint can be traced back to the designer's childhood in Zeeland, a small, bucolic town near the North Sea. "I've always felt isolated, that is what inspires me when designing a collection. The Calvinistic origins of the Netherlands inspire me too," says Hullekes.
His design process begins with an imaginary muse, "a boy who lives on his own island by himself, he has an obsession with comics, old cars, and antiques inherited from his family."
The Sebastic muse, on the other hand, is young and insouciant, trying to "find his own way of expressing himself in a big metropolis and making himself noticeable by wearing certain clothes." The Sebastic line strives to "disassociate itself from the Netherlands" by using a humorous point of view. For fall/winter 2007, there are "shrugs" made of gray jersey material, gravity defying shorts in muted pastels, and fluid black-and-white striped tanks that echo b-boys in 1980s New York.
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Sjaak Hullekes fall/winter 2007 collection
Where the Sjaak and Sebastic lines differ in inspiration, they converge in execution. Both stress the importance of fabric and cut. For his Sebastic line, Kramer prefers, "supple and soft fabrics, mainly jerseys, that symbolize the carefree, comfortable life that the wearer of my label represents." Hullekes likes to play with duality, "I always try to create a feeling of suspension in the use of fabrics with my collection; a set can consist of a latex trench coat with a silk top and wool trousers underneath. Matte versus glossy, soft versus harsh, but comfort remains the key word."
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This theme of duality is consistent in the Arnheim Fashion label. The tension between conformity and individuality and tradition and modernity creates a cohesive collection that is never mundane but still always surprisingly grounded. In the end, the individual is what we see.
For more information about Arnheim Fashion (and availability), go to www.arnheimfashion.com.
Dutch design duo Arnheim Fashion gives menswear a jolt.
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