Dutch fashion designers

In the 1920s and 30s Joan Praetorius became known as ‘the first Dutch fashion designer’. He worked under his own name, running his own successful fashion house. Gemeentemuseum Den Haag owns his collection of design sketches, including sketches for outfits designed and made for Queen Wilhelmina, Princess Juliana and Emma, the Queen Mother. In the 1940s and 50s Dutchman Charles Montaigne (Karel Meuwese) was head of a successful fashion house in Paris. Because of his French pseudonym, few people realise he was originally Dutch.

After the Second World War a new generation of designers emerged. Like Praetorius, they launched their own fashion houses. Some followed Paris fashion, while others developed their own signature look. This was the age of designers like Max Heymans, Dick Holthaus, Edgar Vos, Frank Govers, Frans Molenaar, Sheila de Vries and Rob Kröner. From the 1960s onwards Dutch fashion began to acquire its own unique look. In the 1970s Fong Leng caused a stir with her original designs, which retain their appeal to this day. In the 1980s Koos van den Akker attained international fame with his designs in New York, where he had gone to live in the late sixties. Several couturiers continued to work in the Netherlands, including Mart Visser, who launched his own couture label in the 1990s.

The earliest Dutch designers were largely self-taught. The 1950s saw huge progress in fashion training in the Netherlands when the Academy in Arnhem launched a fashion design  department headed by Elly Lamaker. The department would train many designers in the art of conceptual design. Many successful designers are Arnhem graduates, including Alexander van Slobbe and The People of the Labyrinths. The course started producing a new generation of conceptual designers in the 1990s. Some of them launched themselves in Paris as ‘le Cri Néerlandais’. They included Viktor & Rolf, who would become world famous with their extraordinary shows and spectacular collections. Dutch fashion continues to develop and the Gemeentemuseum regularly adds work by new generations of talented designers to its collection, such as the recently acquired work by Jan Taminiau.

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