Dutch fashion conveys an extreme side of Dutch culture, a largely unexpected explosion of colours, fabrics, designs and exuberant forms. This is in strong contrast to the restrained image of the Dutch as portrayed in paintings from the Golden Age of the Netherlands: of sober ladies and gentlemen dressed in black and white. Nonetheless, this restraint is also an aspect of Dutch fashion. In this respect a parallel can be drawn between aspects of interior design, from Droog Design to Tord Boontje, designs for games and video art, theatre (including music theatre), photography and contemporary Dutch painting. In each case the element of restraint is diametrically opposed to the explosion of surrealistically tinted images. Evidently there is a lot brewing beneath the flat surface of the Low Countries.
Instead of having a fashion industry with a number of designers whose clothing is for sale all over the world, as is the case in Belgium, the Netherlands’ contribution to international fashion comprises on the one hand the mass-production of simple and wearable clothing and on the other hand registered designs which provide a source of inspiration for stylists and designers all over the world. The effect of the extraordinarily theatrical fashion shows by Viktor & Rolf, with their wide range of Dutch contributions ranging from music to graphic design, is proof that the Dutch are good at pushing back boundaries. The Netherlands produces large numbers of trail-blazing stylists, marketers, photographers and creative entrepreneurs who occupy key positions in the international fashion world. From Robert Polet, CEO of the Gucci group, to Wilbert Das, who until 2009 was head designer for the jeans brand Diesel, the Dutch continue to leave their mark upon the fashion world. An extraordinary duo in this context is the photography partnership between Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. Since1995, they have been operating successfully from their New York base with frequent commissions for Vogue and The New York Times, and are responsible for the image of large fashion and luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton. A number of Dutch top models, such as Doutzen Kroes from Friesland, feature as the face of such international fashion and cosmetics houses as Calvin Klein and L’Oréal.