We continue our Amsterdam denim coverage this week with our visit to the headquarters of one of the Netherlands’ most iconic brands, G-Star RAW.
As one of the Denim market’s permanent fixtures and one of the Netherlands’ most innovative exports, G-Star RAW was an essential must-see for our Amsterdam denim coverage this week. We took a trip down to the Pieter Braaijweg headquarters in the south of Amsterdam to meet with one of G-Star’s most longstanding figures, Remco de Nijs, to discuss the latest developments for the Dutch denim giant.
On arriving at the G-Star HQ, you immediately recognize how the look and feel of the building captures the driving design ideals of the brand: rough, stylish, pure, and functional. Like the G-Star stores, there is a definite uniformity to the monolithic building, which has been developed by G-Star’s in-house architecture team. The exterior of the office blends a sleek facade of black-tinted steel and smoked glass, while the interior effectively juxtaposes natural materials such as wood against raw concrete and steel. Throughout the interior you find iconic references to the brand’s style, whether it be the huge wooden sculptures of the Elwood jean and the Prouvé RAW furniture that dominate the reception area, or the various G-Star Crossover Series like the RAW Cannondale bikes, Skeleton Dogs and Denim Museum pieces that line the corridors. It is clear to see the brand are rightfully proud of their history.
It is this history and DNA that the brand celebrates as part of its S/S 13 collection, reworking and evolving its most iconic jeans, The Elwood and The Arc in slim and tapered silhouettes. New additions like the Radar Pant, designed by Pierre Morisset, offer the unorthodox styling you come to expect from G-Star with lowered front pockets, while the Dexter collection deliveres an unexpected design approach of clean and sartorial denim with minimal stitching and unbranded faces.
“G-Star is about making eccentric combinations whilst maintaining authenticity. We respect the authenticity of the fabric but we always want to combine the modernity and a raw edge because it makes the product so much more interesting.”
The main inspiration for the S/S 13 line was Pierre Morisset’s rediscovery of Toile de Chine and indigo blue; both forgotten beacons of the denim industry that date back much longer than other stories tell us. The result is an intense blue that is created with an indigo-on-indigo weave that becomes even more distinct over time. The mix of fabrics throughout the collection creates a beautiful scale of indigo intensities. The care taken with the color of the fabric also extends into the product design, details and finish.
As a local Dutchman with over 10 years experience throughout the G-Star brand we asked Remco a few questions on Amsterdam and his thoughts on the new collection:
What makes Amsterdam so key for denim and the G-Star brand?
The big advantages that we have in Holland is that we have so many people who are wearing denim and denim is such an acceptable product here. It’s so interesting for denim labels because you can really sell volumes out of this country even though it has such a small population (16 million people).
G-Star is constantly challenging convention and pushing the boundaries of denim design. What drives the inspiration and innovation behind this each season?
Our Design Director, Pierre Morisset, has one of the biggest denim archives, which always helps; we travel a lot and we also have a very dedicated design team. But inspiration can be drawn from anywhere. We once made an entire collection from an old aircraft helmet, where there were stitching details in the helmet that we thought were so interesting that we translated it into our denim. It’s these sort of details that we look out for and that we like.
G-Star recently launched RAW Tailored Atelier and will be releasing the Red Listing program for S/S 13. Do you feel the premium scene is growing in the mainstream or was it simply something that you thought was key to G-Star?
For sure I see that the premium market is growing and I also see that there is a big need for personalizing, especially in the mass produced world that we live in. For people who spend more than the average price, then these kind of incentives are getting more and more important.
What’s your favorite piece from the S/S 13 collection?
For next season it would have to be the Red Listing low tapered, a new fit in a Japanese selvedge.
The brand regularly collaborates with various figures in the design industry. How do you select these people to collaborate with?
We always approach people in a very organic way, we never have a marketing strategy for the coming five years. We have friends of the brand; for example, that is how it happened with Jean Prouvé . For many many years we were fans of Jean Prouve and we needed new chairs for our showroom. Usually for our showrooms and fairs we design and build the chairs ourselves, but we loved the Fateuil Direction chair that was out of production by Vitra. So we called Vitra and asked if we could order 600 chairs. Pierre Morisset knows everything about Jean Prouve, and Vitra had organized a meet and greet with the licensee of the company, who is the daughter of Jean Prouve, and it was love at first sight. They were both French, he was a big fan, he knew more about the product than she did, they connected and so they decided to make a collection together. The same happened with Marc Newson and Sukezane, our latest collaboration. The ingredients and the vision [are] always the same between us and the collaborators but the interpretation is always different. It is these clashes that we look for that make the G-Star brand more interesting because there is a big learning process that we can get out of it.
There is a strong feeling of menswear throughout the G-Star brand with denim as the core business and your technical designs. How do you ensure the business is balanced?
People who have bought G-Star from the past always link it with our men’s collection, but if you look very objectively to the older items and you don’t have that history, you don’t see or feel that. If you go into our womenswear store you see the basic ingredients of the wood and concrete and steel still there, but now with the combination of velvet, carpet and organic shaped lamps it’s so feminine but still on a very denim-related way. What I see also is that the store is performing from day one unbelievably well and it has only been 10 days.