A few weeks ago, Ken Grace, one of our magazine’s readers, left us a comment on the Dedicated Brand report, stressing that motivation is sometimes the most powerful weapon to change things. It was even hard for David, he beat Goliath… It’s up to us, he said.
Elsien Gringhuis is one of those people with a powerful and inspiring motivation. We wanted to meet her, discuss fashion with her, ask her what she thinks about the many important things we can find in this world, to lose ourselves in her creative world… And she, without hesitation, very kindly, opened her study’s doors.
Look at the long term! Make sure you buy something that fits your personality. Do not follow trends. Buy less, choose well, make it last…!!! It’s absolutely worth it and much more satisfying. You not only help yourself, but also the designer, the producers and the planet…. look at the bigger picture!
To get an idea of who we’re talking to, we’ll tell you that Elsien Gringhuis is the owner of Studio Elsien Gringhuis, a high-end, sustainable label with a focus on the essence of clothing. Timeless, clean, chic and minimalistic, with innovative details are the on the top of its High-end products, made with quality in cuts, fabrics and finish. She has won numerous prizes.
Yes, all this is applaudable, but what we like the most about her is that she’s invented a way to make a fashion style that is as original as enriching. Instead of fashion collections, Elsien presents books. In those books, she writes styles (which she calls chapters) following the rhythm her creativity requires… Confused? Maybe it’ll be better if she explains it…
Elsien Gringhuis and her fashion books
I started the label directly after graduation. I won some international awards and there was a lot of attention for my designs. They asked me to open the Amsterdam fashion week. Since that moment the ball started to roll. However, I was very naive and had to learn to make a business out of it, just by doing it. After two seasonal collections and shows I had no idea where I was going. So I decided to write a business plan. This took me a long time, but it was a real eye-opener. And with this I won the Greenfashion competiton in 2011. From that moment I was ready to start with selling and finding a good atelier for production.
Meanwhile making a new collection every season was a big frustration to me. I just did not understand putting so much time, money and energy in something that only last 6 months. Crazy!! This made me decide to stop doing this and chose to work with an ongoing collection, which we bundle in BOOKS. We no longer create completely new collections every season but design a contemporary collection which we call “Books”. These books will be complemented regularly by a number of styles, so-called “Chapters”. The individual items remain as long as the fabrics continue to be available. We follow our own rhythm.
Paradoxically, that is something that today is very difficult to hear: our own rhythm. In fact, many designers have targeted the See Now, Buy Now movement, with fashion collections that can be purchased at the same time they are presented on the catwalks.
Follow your own rhythm. Don’t let other people or the system dictate what to do. Find your own way into it. Don’t be afraid to make choices, you can use your time only once!
Elsien dreams with a new fashion system where people choose quality over quantity. And only buy things that really suit them. She would like to live in a new world where people think about the long term, where designers have time again to design instead of running from deadline to deadline without even breathing in order to reach all targets. Where it is important that it’s produced environmentally friendly and in an ethical way. Where everyone is making a profit and not only the big commercial chains. This hopefully will be the norm – she adds.
She is optimistic on one hand, because she does see change and, to her, people is getting more and more aware and also are very tired of our capitalistic society. On the other hand, she is also pessimistic because this change goes way too slow: If I walk through my city on a regular day, I see the majority of people with Primark bags. As long as we do not take responsibility for better choices this will keep existing and ruin the industry.
The current ‘old’ system is just horror to me. The incredible overkill of clothes, the emptiness, the poorly made quality, the environmental damage, the exploitation, etc. To me it’s like an ugly disease.
We just have to see some documentaries about the huge amount of waste, poison and terrible workers conditions in the fashion industry to understand this. We, personally, see every too days one and, believe us, it is really an one way devastation. Elsien thinks the same: After watching some of these documentaries, I decided only to work in fashion if I could do it in an ethical way. I wanted to make high-end fashion in a sustainable way. And at that time (2008) there where only a few brands/labels that were ethical/sustainable. And most of them seemed very alternative to me.
This made me start my own label. I wanted to show that style and sustainability can go together (…) We want to keep on growing slowly and never loose our authenticity.
Dreams versus Reality
But, how you do this, we ask her: We try to be as sustainable as possible on all levels. I always say: quality is not an act, it’s a habit. We work with the highest quality of mostly natural fibres. Appr. 80% of our materials are certified with GOTS, Oekotex or at least fair-trade. Also, all items are produced in our own studio in The Netherlands by me and with help of skilled tailors, that I train myself. This way we support (local) craftsmanship, that in many ways is about to be forgotten and we stimulate economic growth of the local community.
All tailors get fair pay for their work. The working relationship with the co-workers is close, transparent and open. I know them all personally.
Besides, they focus on highly innovative patterns, reducing waste to the maximum. All items are produced on demand, not before people order them, which also saves the environment from overproduction. And, by doing all the production in Holland, and sourcing materials as close to home as possible, they save a lot of travel miles and carbon emissions in the production process.
Hope for the future
Elsien Gringhuis hopes the sustainable fashion is the new luxury. One has to do more research regarding fabrics and how they are made. It’s a matter of making the best choice possible. I often have problems with the minimum quantities of the fabrics I have to order. This is a problem most small labels encounter.
Also, when she started it was very hard to find good quality, nice looking and sustainable fabrics. I had to make concessions sometimes to maintain a high fashion look. Right now the collection exists out of 80% certified fabrics. And hopefully soon it will be 100%! These days this it is already so much easier. It’s very good to see the variety of sustainable fabrics has grown immense! –she says.
That is something the fashion lover has to know: Look at the long term! Make sure you buy something that fits your personality. Do not follow trends. Buy less, choose well, make it last…!!! It’s absolutely worth it and much more satisfying. You not only help yourself, but also the designer, the producers and the planet…. look at the bigger picture! – she concludes.