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The Industry Interview: Danie Bles, owner of Amsterdam Fashion Week

Renee Waters
05 September 2018

With the fashion industry about to embark on its bi-annual month of catwalks and presentations at the "big four" fashion capitals, The Industry meets Danie Bles, the new owner of Amsterdam Fashion Week who has big plans to turn the event into an internationally relevant platform that celebrates Dutch talent.

Amsterdam Fashion Week is returning to the autumnal fashion month on 6–9 September 2018 at the historic Museumplein. Along with the live, invitation-only presentations AFW will be streamed on its platform throughout the week

In addition to the scheduled brands and designers there will be talent featured from AMFI Amsterdam Fashion Institute, Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, and five other universities. Thursday (tomorrow) marks the return of presentations since the event has changed hands of several previous owners in recent years. Bles purchased AFW from Telegraaf Media Groep in 2017 and is ready to debut her new format dedicated to promoting Dutch fashion.

Could you give us your background and tell us of your experience in the industry?

Over the past two decades I have been working as fashion entrepreneur, and stylist for magazines, television, and celebrities. After gaining wide-ranging experience working amongst others as Fashion Director at Jackie Magazine, styling celebrities, and fashion productions, I founded ByDanie in 2008. Present day, ByDanie produces events, develops online brand strategies, and 360 concepts. Together with partners I run Amsterdam Fashion Week, and Maison 365 – an online personal styling experience.

As you are an experienced creative in the Dutch fashion industry what can we expect in your direction of Amsterdam Fashion Week?

By moving AFW in line with all other ready to wear fashion weeks internationally I hope to create a more (internationally) relevant platform. We have also chosen to focus more on the see-now buy-now concept enabling consumers and brands to directly interact and use the fashion week platform as more than just and industry presentation tool.

What do you determine are the benefits and signatures of the Dutch fashion industry?

The Dutch fashion industry is characterised by its entrepreneurship and creativity. It’s part of our heritage and the key to our fashion future. With seven fashion academies we educate and form a large amount of fashion professional. Young talent that more and more opts to profile themselves within the international fashion scene, where they are recognized by the industry for their outstanding concepts and creativity such as BOTTER winning the LVMH award. Secondly Holland houses some of the world’s largest commercial brands such as G-star, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein making it an international commercial fashion hub still unnoticed by most.

What do you believe will attract media, buyers/sales distributors, and other professionals to the revamped Amsterdam Fashion Week?

AFW will be a reflection of the Dutch fashion industry a mix between creative talent and commercial brands. Generating a schedule that offers press, buyers and consumers a great way to get a full 360 view of what’s available within the Dutch market. Dutch talents that normally present their collection internationally, such as NINAMOUNAH, are invited showcase their success and gratitude by showing at AFW whilst giving the Dutch market the opportunity to view the brand in person.

Which labels will be showing this inaugural season at Museumplein?

David Laport (Dutch Designer Brand), Maison 365 (An online personal shopper service that offers young styling talent the opportunity to showcase their talent), Lichting 2018 (debutants ball for the 14 most talented graduates 2018, winner receives 10K as an award), NINAMOUNAH (Dutch Designer Brand), Penn & Ink N.Y., Hudson’s Bay, Silvian Heach, Goldbergh, 10days, Lidl (Supermarket chain), Zoe Karssen, Le Café Noir Studio & Jeneskens.

Which trade/government and other entities have supported this new vision?

The local Amsterdam government has been fundamental in enabling us to bring AFW back to the city centre, the museum square. Off course we have several commercial partners that support AFW as sponsors such as; Amsterdam Marketing, ANKO, Belvedere vodka, BIZ Museum Quarter, Conservatorium Hotel, Entourage group, Eye Wish, George Cafés, ghd, Godiva, Jimmy Woo, M.A.C. Cosmetics, Madfox, Marie-Stella-Maris, Marriot Group, Metro, Möet & Chandon, Sassoon Professional, Sebastian Professional, SteamOne, Telegraaf Media Group, Toral, Wella Professional and VD AKKER.

Will Amsterdam Fashion Week host any other components to the presentations such as curated collections and industry mentoring?

The off-schedule program contains several other components such as in store trunk shows, designer talks, a movie theater showcasing exclusive backstage videos and live streams of the show and many more. For talents selected for Lichting 2018 there is a full week of workshops and coaching to help them prep for their further career, from press meetings, portfolio training and head hunter introductions.

Who would you like to see participate in the new format? 

Let me start by saying that I am very proud of all the brands participating this first edition of the new Amsterdam Fashion Week. If you’d ask me what’s high on my wish list, I’d answer that I’d love it when brands with a strong Dutch heritage will participate in Amsterdam Fashion Week. I’d like them to consider Amsterdam Fashion Week as their stage to showcase themselves to the rest of the world. Amsterdam is particularly known for its streetwear, a trending subculture that is also very relevant right now on a global level (look at Supreme, Palace, Bathing Ape, Billionaire Boys Club). In Amsterdam we’ve got several cool designers with their own take on street couture: Filling Pieces, Patta, Daily Paper, The New Originials, By Borre. Each of them with a DNA of their own, and a profound story to tell. Plus, and for me this is a big plus: all of these brands were born by passion. Next to streetwear I’d love designer Ronald van de Kemp to join AFW. I think he is an amazing designer and the best export product Holland’s got at the moment. Scotch & Soda, a brand with a strong Dutch heritage, should also be part of Amsterdam Fashion Week next edition.

What is the 5 - 7 year plan for this event? What metrics will you wish to score? 

A balanced program (a mix of young talented graduates, emerging designers and established brands) is key to our future plans with AFW. We hope to earn appreciation and acknowledgement by the strength of our schedule, that will automatically attract international press/buyers/guests. The schedule must gradually become ‘whole’ by including themes like sustainability and inclusivity and to add some spice I would like to effectuate surprising collaborations (how cool would Lichting x Viktor & Rolf be?): to bring different parties to the table to join forces. But for now, I hope that Amsterdam Fashion Week serves the participating brands, to each his own.

How will AFW differ from its counterparts globally?

It differs in the participating brands and the way AFW can support young talent with the help of all the commercial parties involved. It’s a joined effort in elevating and supporting the Dutch fashion industry as a whole.

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