Artwork © Ulises Chamorro
© Courtesy of Margreeth Olsthoorn
Artwork © Ulises Chamorro
© Courtesy of Cris
Artwork © Ulises Chamorro
© Etienne van Sloun for Kiki Niesten
Artwork © Ulises Chamorro
© Arjen Schmitz for LABELS
Artwork © Ulises Chamorro
From Amsterdam, store listing the resized Dutch fashion retail – Text by OG
Since 2015, five of Amsterdam’s favorite physical concept stores have closed, leaving local and visiting pedestrians perplexed and hopeless in search of new fashion designs. Aside from the internal factors pushing these stores out, the slow decline of physical retail in town is the result of an unconscious syndrome I attach (partially) to supplier’s expectations. In the past ten years luxury conglomerates that own “tractor brands”, such as Kering and LVMH, are the ones demanding exorbitant funding in order to become brand-area representatives. If you compare these figures to the city’s actual shopping traffic (i.e. Amsterdam is not London and The Netherlands is not Italy – lavish clothing is less relevant in general here) you’d see that these budgets are in dangerous and disproportionate misalignment with the actual volume of consumers who do purchase full price designs each season. Even with its active population of shoppers consuming the many on/offline product ranges offered by the country, we still live in a tiny kingdom. Well-designed and well-produced fashion is consumed by a small fragment, while Asos and Zara satisfies the masses.
Resizing The Netherlands’ retail in proportion to its geographic size could bring new perspectives to this debilitated relationship between clients and physical stores.
Mega-brands expect mega-budgets from new accounts (stores), for the small retailers is a rather macabre transaction. For a new store to open a mega-budget is both a beginning and an end – it holds promise in today’s market and conquers more market space. But is the investment really worth it? It swiftly introduces new stores, mainly those prioritizing e-commerce, under shockingly short-term financial pressure. Undoubtedly, massive budgets and the size of our country, miscalculated by both suppliers and retailers, arise as the main external factors creating the precarious domain for new stores under pressure in Amsterdam. In other words, our country’s limited fashion-active clientele-population (read: those who seek valuable, designed products instead of discount brands and overpriced, chain luxury supply products) has been misled regarding the way our national system operates. Sometimes this leads them to abandon it entirely, which is quite sad.
Well-informed Dutch shoppers know that high-design (high-priced) brands that are sold in both small retailers as well as larger stores around the corner are essentially unclear. Brands must position themselves and their foundation strategically in order to be prestigiously recognized by its ultimate audience: the loyal consumer.
The endearing “once upon a time” narrative of a store, shared lovingly on behalf of designers with customers, has been castrated by social media’s superficial lexicon of dominance and dazed automation. The goal now is to re-direct those shoppers’ budgets. Investing seriously in high fashion today means giving brands a chance to reset, re-exclusify, and re-focus distribution – all aspects of the clarity Dutch consumers need to feel. Nowadays, many smart shoppers do not shop; they simply do not appreciate the daily onslaught of Instagram ads feeling disoriented and indifferent towards the popular practices. Who could blame them?
Now, we invite you to join us on a new type of train journey through the Dutch countryside. But first – Amsterdammmmmmmmm!
THE SMALL AMSTERDAM BOUTIQUE IS THE NEW CONCEPT STORE:
A recent manifesto dispatched by the city’s mayor, Femke Halsema, magically turns the small boutiques of Amsterdam into new, comfortable concept stores. She believes Amsterdammers deserve more options for engaging in public space, and these stores are big enough for the hypothetical post-pandemic new world (never mind the likely second wave). First politicians will have to come to an agreement as to how to best preserve this beautiful city from mass tourism. This includes bringing the neoliberal dream of profit maximization to a jarring halt. A new size, a new challenge, a new Amsterdam – all representing the warm, welcoming heart of locals towards visitors at once – absolutely worth it. It’s simple really: to travel to Amsterdam you will need a visa, and if your reason for travel is simply to purchase a luxury bag then your access will be denied. I promise that the city offers more than that! Culture and history could be stamped on your passport – voilà!
The following list consists of spaces that fit what we Amsterdammers genuinely are and can afford as a small town (and are worth visiting!):
Concrete: Ambush, Both, ByBorre, Facetasm, Walter van Beirendonck, White Mountaineering, etc.
1012VW – Amsterdam
Shop at www.concrete.nl
Cowboys to Catwalk Women: Anne Demeulemeester, Dries van Noten, Lemaire, Molly Goddard, Sara Lanzi, etc.
Oude Spiegelstraat 8
1016BM – Amsterdam
Shop at www.cowboys2catwalk.com
Margriet Nannings: A.P.C., CDG Shirt, Paul Smith, Maison Margiela, OAMC, etc.
1015DC – Amsterdam
Shop at www.margrietnanningswebshop.com
If you want to shop the best that Dutch retail has to offer and are open to having a multi-city experience in one day, do not hesitate to hit the following fashion hotspots. These expert representatives of international style have been distinguishing taste for over two decades. With a pedigree that goes beyond influencers or trends, we never doubt their buying or their services. Though sometimes obstinate and stubborn, they are filled with holistic manners and gentle care in the end.
Simultaneous buying and floor-managing does not terrify Margreeth. Her enviable autonomy has not only undocked her store from mega structures and systemic pressures but has also reinvigorated and reinvented her narrative. Having recently moved into a new space in the harbor city of Rotterdam, the MARGREETH OLSTHOORN concept store welcomes both the jaded and sparkling to dip their toes into national and foreign designs. Fashion is forever vital for Margreeth, whose keen sense of past, present and future make her current momentos orbuculum a delightful crystal ball shopping delirium.
Margreeth Olsthoorn: Rick Owens, Y/Project, Hed Mayner, Helmut Lang, Joseph, etc.
3072AR – Rotterdam
Shop at www.margreetholsthoorn.nl
From its perfect customer service to its suitable size for a mid-range Dutch city, Cris offers an integrated and non-pretentious approach to retail. While men may love the “hunting” aspect of shopping, they often prefer a harmonious, unrushed atmosphere like that found at Cris. They excel at shirts, particularly with 7D, a Belgian brand with moderate pricing, great fabrics/patterns, easy maintenance, and a relaxed fit. Their taste for footwear is also on point, along with accessories and gadgets such as socks. I often feel like a child in a candy store, spending hours touching each pair of socks without being able to choose which one. Don’t worry – their friendly staff will help you. Finally, do not forget to taste their organic selection of Ligurian wines displayed just around the fitting rooms!
Cris: Delikatessen, John Smedley, 7D, Marni, Our Legacy, Yoost, etc.
3511VH – Utrecht
Shop at www.cris.nu
Deductive reasoning and amusement characterize the shopping experience at Maastricht’s fashion institute Kiki Niesten. When all of your clients are darlings and your store products are chosen for pure sweetness, the customer service cannot be anything but unique high-performance. Kiki and her team are well known in the southernmost Dutch province; the store is recognized by both national and international luxury fashion customers for its personalized attention and record-keeping of women’s choices. Who doesn’t want to receive the VIP treatment of receiving a phone call when the perfect summer dress has arrived in your size? Skip see-now, buy-now. Engage Kiki’s matchmaking and they will make sure to call you by your name.
Kiki Niesten: Alaïa, Dries van Noten, Jil Sander, Kassl Editions, Plan C, The Row, etc.
6211GD – Maastricht
PHYSICAL & VIRTUAL LEADERSHIP:
Just two hours by train from Amsterdam and a blink from Maastricht, LABELS Sittard is where you will find NL’s pioneering leader in combining offline and e-commerce. Their 2008 opening revealed proud Amsterdammers ignorance to their own country’s geography. Where was this new fashion epicenter of Sittard? Now on the map as a stopover for shoppers covering Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands, Sittard has gained quite the reputation and is on our radar. LABELS products are all handpicked and curated by the Ehlen’s family, a husband, wife and their son, who combine their unique and confident aesthetic with a vibrant social media presence – often going live to show the fun atmosphere they’ve created. Their intense buying journeys and precise selection processes are driven by their focus on advising clients and making them joyful – the fun is part of the marketing strategy and it certainly makes them more attractive to us all. LABELS worldwide operation success is grounded in cleverly representing The Netherlands using a daring commercial formula different from their online peers. Their timing, passion and credit are here to stay.
6131HL – Sittard
Shop it all via www.labelsfashion.com
JUNIOR RETAILERS OR AMAZON-IANS:
Though we live in a free market country, oversaturation in high fashion remains a pressing matter on the agenda of organizations regulating the future of Dutch retail. As a result of physical stores closing in Amsterdam over the past few years, other stores throughout the country have opened under an e-commerce façade. Often with brand representation, their hope of achieving sales targets seems too ambitious for today’s overflow market. Though they have managed to compose nice brand lists, they have not (yet) managed to bring amazon-ian warehouses to hold their product. Therein lies their missing link – glaring inexperience in retail. In other words, the software that automatizes all of their sales transactions and digital distribution remains insufficient when it comes to buying and connecting with clients. This inconsistency causes unnecessary instability within national markets. To be continued…
Many of these junior retailers have put all their eggs in one basket – Instagram stories cockcrowing daily into consumers’ ears. They share this information without first evaluating if it is necessary or adds value. The growing challenge persists not only for clothing stores but also young brands, food bloggers, and retail in general. Instead of overwhelming viewers with daily content to the point of dissociation, try curating with new acoustics. Whether it’s on or offline, cultural content is what creates success and brings in new clients. Representing a brand should not be taken lightly – how stories are told should be more important than increasing the number of Instagram followers. If the story being told is only one side of the landscape, we need to positively change.
My own personal approach to resizing lies in exposing other side – what has been hidden? When I visit the Museum de Pont in Tilburg, a spot of cultural decentralization, I feel as though I am in a major contemporary art gallery, not a museum. In other words, size absolutely matters. Now, how do we adjust Dutch retail so it is approp?