For an event kicking off late last month, multidisciplinary artist Elsemarijn Bruys wrapped Amsterdam's Van Eesteren Museum in an apple-green inflatable installation inspired by the 1997 sci-fi film The Fifth Element. DJ Pandora’s Jukebox, a regular at Berlin’s legendary nightclub Berghain, played a deep techno set, while dancers dressed like aliens with light-up eyeliner moved to the music on concrete platforms. This wasn’t just any rave — it was a fashion party celebrating the fifth anniversary of Wandler during Amsterdam Fashion Week.
While unusual for a fashion show setting, the leather-goods brand’s fête may be one of the best examples of how a certain form of unadulterated self-expression is taking over Amsterdam. It’s marked by mismatched accessories, clashing textures, bold prints, bright colours, and strong silhouettes. On social media, it goes by the name of "Weird Girl Aesthetic."
Coined by the creator @kaiageber on Twitter earlier this summer, the aesthetic’s roots stem from Harajuku (a neighbourhood in Tokyo that’s become known worldwide for its style), Japanese style subculture, and ‘90s street style magazines like Fruits. An amalgamation of other TikTok-approved styles — think: cottagecore’s chunky knits, clowncore’s rainbow prints, fetishcore’s harnesses, and fairycore’s frothy silhouettes — it has become recently embodied by brands like Marc Jacobs Heaven and Chopova Lowena.
But while the aesthetic's influence is felt worldwide, currently, the weird girl is thriving in Amsterdam, as showcased by the most recent fashion week, as well as its street style — with brands putting on twists on runway shows and guests indulging in mismatched metallics and piled-on accessories.
“I would describe the Amsterdam fashion scene as free-minded,” says Ashlee Janelle, an Amsterdam-based influencer and editor. “We love seeing people being their authentic selves.” Local influencer Tricia Nganga Mokosi credits this self-expression to the different cultures and people that make up the city. "[It] creates this freedom of expression and blur[s] out unwritten rules that these big fashion cities like Paris or Milan have," she says. "Amsterdam's fashion is literally all over the place.”
According to designer Ronald Van Der Kamp, the eccentricity of Amsterdam’s new wave of style is rooted in their culture. “The Dutch are very opinionated,” he says. While the designer didn’t present a physical show at Amsterdam Fashion Week, his couture collection, shown in July 2022 in Paris, embodied the Weird Girl look: a bow here, a patchwork miniskirt made of three different fabrics there, a golden sleeve attached to a black gown, a model wearing geometric block forms with jeans... If you didn’t know it was a Paris couture show, you might think the looks were pulled from the closets of TikTok maximalists like SaraCampz or myramagdalen. What’s more, each outfit was constructed from deadstock fabrics, leftover scraps, and pieces from last season — adding to the mismatched aesthetic of the Weird Girl, in which sourcing pieces secondhand or vintage is common. “For me, it’s about eccentricity. If people know who they are, they become a more sustainable person, because they build a wardrobe around their personality,” he recently told Vogue.
While this unabashed experimentation was on full display this Amsterdam Fashion Week, perhaps the two most revered Dutch fashion houses, Viktor & Rolf and Iris Van Herpen, have long prioritised the aesthetic in their own way: Van Herpen for tech-fueled 3-D printed silhouettes that look like wearable art, and the latter for their dramatic silhouettes, from shirts and blazers with exaggerated shoulders to oversized tulle confections with meme-like sayings.
Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren credit the love of bizarre fashion to a history of conceptual design — a.k.a. fashion that isn’t rooted in practicality. “For a long time, there was hardly any connection between education and industry or education and media in Holland,” says Snoeren. “There was a disconnect. So the answer to that was conceptual thinking.” Originating in the ‘60s, Dutch conceptual design became prominent in the ‘90s, when designers from other industries like decor and industrial design were experimenting with the approach, inspired by Droog Design and the Design Academy Eindhoven.
This creativity was on full display this season. While Viktor & Rolf hosted a bike tour through venues like a barber shop filled with the brand’s recent menswear collection, the most talked-about emerging designer Duran Lantik staged a show inside the red light district’s Moulin Rouge with dancers and performance artists, including the Spanish DJ Virgen Maria, who often dresses in outfits that exude the Weird Girl aesthetic. Elsewhere, the label Martan hosted an immersive show inside Grand Hotel Amrâth Amsterdam, where, in place of models, actors wore the collection and took guests on an orchestrated performance of the building. The entire collection was constructed out of upcycled hotel linens hodge-podged together. In other collections, bright colours reigned. “It's how I was brought up. My mom is fully in colour,” says Elza Wandler, whose recent collections include rhinestone-studded bags that looked straight out of Harajuku, as well as super oversized leather vests. “As a child, I was fully in colour, so it's very natural to me.”
Janelle agrees that the aesthetic comes naturally to its residents. “Amsterdam is a small city blended with so many different cultural backgrounds, and we truly embrace that,” she says. “It is all about innovation, so we’re always open to new ideas, perspectives, and people.”
But perhaps what makes Amsterdam more open to experimentation is the fact that, unlike Paris, Milan, or London, it isn’t considered a major fashion capital. As such, the city has been able to develop its own unique identity when it comes to fashion. “In a way, it's like a non-entity, so it creates a certain atmosphere that allows us to work,” says Snoeren. And to stay weird.