Opening Amsterdam Fashion Week, the couture-meets-RTW collection Klavertje Drie is an ode to the Dutch summers of her childhood and a love letter to the ordinary beauty that surrounds us all.
After debuting a few select looks during Copenhagen Fashion Week, Tess van Zalinge opened Amsterdam Fashion Week on the rooftop garden of Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. Set high above the busy streets, between mirrored walls reflecting trees and sky, models and everyday women alike walked through an otherworldly environment in a collection fit for its atmosphere.
The collection, titled Klavertje Drie, is a celebration of the magic and fascination that exists around and within us. Touching on themes of appreciating and working with what you have, she draws on summertime childhood memories searching for four-leaf clovers amongst a Dutch field of three-leaf counterparts — and her present day interpretation of her youthful frustration. “Last year, I was doing a lot of meditation and kept going back to this moment,” she tells me over Zoom. “I realised that I could be so much more at ease if I was just super happy with finding the three-leaf clovers. It’s admiring what you have, seeing the silver lining, and appreciating what you find and trying to build with that.” As the starting point to her collection, she began translating these ideas into fabrications and silhouettes, selecting deadstock materials and joyful colour palettes to highlight the power of reuse in a layered, complex yet playful portrayal of her sustainable and accessible intersection of couture and ready-to-wear.
This focus on sustainability and accessibility was born from four years of freelancing, prior to developing her own brand. “Couture almost always felt like art,” Zalinge told me over Zoom, a few days before she was set to open Amsterdam Fashion Week. “It’s something you have to see from a distance, where sustainability doesn’t have a place and you cannot touch or wear it. So while I was freelancing, I was sketching and designing a bit with that in mind: how can I make couture more accessible for a wider audience and also more sustainable?”
“Here in the Netherlands, the fashion industry is not that big,” she continues. “So when people heard what I was doing on the weekends, the [previous] director of Amsterdam Fashion Week came over, looked at what I was doing, and advised me to drop all freelance jobs and give whatever I was doing a shot. It was two and a half months before Fashion Week in 2016, and I had a spot on the official programming.”
Since that 2016 show, Zalinge has grown and refined her brand’s visual aesthetic, goals, and structure — making one-of-a-kind pieces, telling stories, collaborating with bigger brands to inspire an urgency of sustainable practices and beautiful design, and expanding into an eager global audience. “For a few years now, we’ve only done one couture collection a year. That’s not a lot. But I really believe in the craft we do and the effort that we put in.”
For Zalinge, a big part of making sure her pieces are sustainable is ensuring that their owners will want to take good care of them, cherish them forever, and pass them onto generations to follow. “In fast fashion, the whole connection between people and what they wear is gone. A garment just becomes a random thing, it’s replaceable, they don’t care too much about it,” she explains, before telling me about the exhibitions, lectures, and events that she hosts to re-spark the wearer-garment relationship. “We invite a small group of women to come together and I explain everything about the collection, and they can try it on. And I think because they hear the story, they understand where the fabrics are coming from, and even meet the tailor who made it, it brings back that sort of attachment to a certain garment. So in the end, they will care more about treating it very well or giving it to their daughter. I think that is something that is also a way of sustainability.”
And it works. Walking into the show knowing about the ideas behind Klavertje Drie, the design and production processes, and the women who were to wear them on the runway, I fell in love with every piece for more than meets the eye.
As a rainy sky shifted into clouds that parted to reveal a beautiful sunshine, the looks and the women wearing them floated down the runway with an aura and beauty that felt like a true rainbow. Walking to the sound of violinists, a lot of the women were not models, but rather people that Zalinge collaborated with, previously dressed, or admired. The result was a joyful and powerful show, a “cheerful moment” for the designer who gushed over being able to share her collection alongside people she loves.