Interview with designer Natalie de Koning

Introducing: Natalie de Koning
Edited by: Liselotte Fleur

Natalie de Koning is a 23 years old fashion designer and just graduated in a bachelor Fashion Design at the Utrecht School of the Arts. I photographed her graduation collection and I loved the colours, the shapes and the material of the clothes.  Since her graduation she was nominated to participate in the ‘Lichting 2011 by G-star Raw’ fashion show during Amsterdam International Fashion Week. Besides that she was also chosen to participate in this seasons The Green Fashion Competition. At the moment she is fulfilling a part-time internship at Elsien Gringhuis and in the remaining time working on her own label ‘I am Nold’.

How did you get interested in becoming a fashion designer?
I was already very creative as a child. For a long period of time a already knew I wanted to be some kind of designer, but my interest in fashion design started when I was about 15 years old. Since that age I knew that this was what I wanted to do and started a simple sewing course in the small village I grew up in. So there I was, sewing things that were already seen as ‘different’ as everyone else did there, because I sat between old mothers and grand-mothers who where sewing little garments for their children and grand-children. The whole situation was a bit awkward but funny at the same time. In this period I also entered an art competition, where I won second place by giving a small fashion show (competition called Kunstbende).

How do you get inspiration for your clothes?
Inspiration for me comes mostly from three different things. First is vintage. I absolutely love vintage clothing and also collect them at home. This is a big source of inspiration for me. For example, the last time I got my inspiration out of ‘Space Age’ fashion design. I sometimes even call my own style ‘new vintage’. Second I found people on the streets very inspiring. I love to observe people and this is automatically an inspiration for me. Third are the colours of nature. Colour is also a very important aspect in my work and this is mostly a reflection of what I see in nature. For example, last time my colour palette was inspired by the colours of autumn (its leaves and clear blue sky).

How would you describe your style of fashion?
My style can be described as ‘new vintage’, colourful and the most important aspect in my work is sustainability. Sustainability is always the starting point in the designing process. A good quality and sustainable material use are always reflected in my work. I only use eco and/or fair trade certificated fabrics or I recycle fabrics my own.

What kind of person do you imagine wearing your clothing?
Creative, early-adaptor, women who are open for what can contribute to a better world and environment. Age does not matter.

What goes through your mind when you design a collection?
In my design process I always aim for the most sustainable solutions but at the same time keep it fashionable and contemporary. And when designing, I really put a lot of effort in the details and perfection. And since I just started my own label I think it’s very important to always keep your customer at the back of your mind.

What is your latest collection and what was the concept behind the collection?
My latest collection was my graduation collection Αυθεντες. With this collection, I have tried to showcase our present consumer behaviour in an ironic way. The outfits, inspired by the shape of a diamond, portray a kind of luxury in their details and decorations, but a closer look reveals that the embroidery, buttons and sequins are made out of plastic. It looks like people want to form some kind of ‘authentic’ identity by immersing themself in all kind of luxury, but in reality, this identity is quite fake. With this collection, I have painted some of the fabrics with tea and other fabrics are painted in a factory where water is purified and re-used. The leather is residual material. The plastics are from a company where energy and materials are managed in a sustainable manner.

What is your favorite design and why?
From my graduation collection: the outfit with the long beige skirt, mint-coloured blouse and the woolen jacket with the big plastic sequins. It not wearable at all but aesthetically I found it the most special peace of my collection.

What are you working on now?
At the moment I am working on a new collection for my new label ‘I am Nold’. A completely sustainable brand where all garments and accessories are made out of recycled and other sustainable materials. This January 22-23 I will present my first ‘I am Nold’ collection at the leading fashion fair Modefabriek in Amsterdam and in February my webshop will go online. So keep an eye on!

How do you see yourself in the ‘fashion world’?
I see myself as a designer who can really make a difference in this rapid and polluting industry. I’m a great advocate for slow fashion and new sustainable production solutions. At the moment, the fashion industry is, in my opinion, on a dead end street. We cannot continue to ignore the effects of this economic crisis and global warming whe’re in right now. I hope to inspire consumers but also other fashion designers to follow in the same footsteps and all try to contribute to a better world.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I have a lot of plans for the future. At the moment I hope I can continue with and expand my label ‘I am Nold’. My biggest dreams for the future are to one day collaborate with other artist or companies to create a total ‘cradle to cradle’ collection. Besides that I would really want to bring the production-chain back local and maybe in this way help poor people here this country to give them a new start by letting them be a part of this production process, so in this way create a total local and fair-trade collection.

Credit pictures:
1-5: Peter Stigter
6-7: Liselotte Fleur
8: Jerom Fischer
9: logo illustration by Thirza Kok

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