Hello, my name is Marjolein van de Donk. I have worked for years in the fashion industry as a designer and a graphic designer for large and small stores. I have been privileged to have had the chance to do a Masters degree at the London College of Fashion, one of worlds most esteemed fashion schools.

While experiencing these amazing opportunities I always felt a bit out of place. I put in extra hours to please employers as well as fashion teachers, but it never really felt right. The feedback from fashion teachers is like what you see on TV. Harsh, not holding back and with little empathy for their students. I remember being unable to express my disagreement with the teachers verdict.

In school I tried to figure out what teachers wanted from me and do just that, there was no other way to make it through the end of the course. I remember when I was in school, still in my bachelor years, I took my ideas for fashion designs to a meeting with a teacher. I had worked on those design-drawings for days, and was a bit scared to meet with the teacher as drawing is such a personal thing to do. Now I had to show them to my teacher and they probably had comments.

After I had put my drawings down on the big white table I put down small patches of fabric next to them. Those patches are for fabric reference. They show the judging party what fabrics the individual garments are supposed to be made of. The drawings weren’t the problem, the swatches were.

Apparently I had made a mistake. The fabrics I had were in expensive and, according to them, bad quality. They told me to do it again. I had to go to special stores, preferably all around the country, to get “special fabrics” and not this stuff. I had to completely change my approach on how to source for my fabrics.

I had not expected that reaction nor did I completely understand what they needed from me. You see, what I had done was what I always did. At home I had tons of scraps, leftovers and garments that weren’t any good anymore to wear but fine for their material. For years I had dressed myself with creativity, chopping old pants up to create new ones, making tops from dresses, that kind of thing. To the school that was not worth investing in. They needed an approach to fashion design that they knew.

For me it meant heavily investing in fabrics that, to me, were lifeless. A fabric that has been worn, has life in it, memory. It has been with you for a while, and it feels familiar.

At that point designing started feeling hollow. But everywhere I went the response to my way of working was the same; go mainstream. Go and do what we are used to. A recruiting agency told me I was “not a real fashion-designer” because of my preferences for being inventive with what I have.

I tried compensating for this lack of meaning fashion held for me by challenging the meaning of clothes. Some of my designs would challenge the gender binary, so the garments I created were almost political. I also tried to get consumers more involved in the final outcome of the designs through customization. If a person was able to influence the product that they would buy, would it not be more important to them, as it would be more personal and closer to their personal preferences?

After a few more years in fashion I made an excuse to leave. We went to live in a country where I couldn’t speak the language and therefore could not work. During that time, I experimented and questioned what I was doing and why. Slowly, I began to realize that I had been working to meet other peoples expectations, and not my own. When we left that country I was ready to change back to who I was, and forget about the constraints I had felt because of the way we were educated and required to work.

These restrains are not for me alone. I see it everywhere. Fixing your problem just by going to the store because it is easy, cheap and close. Everybody does this, why shouldn’t I? It almost feels as a right. Sometimes it even seems that when you are creative yourself it is inferior to what is available in the stores. When in fact, looking at the price, quality and the environment in which it was created, what you can make yourself probably beats most things that you find in stores.

It doesn’t help that we are wired to like getting or buying something new. Our system gets a rush, which will fade after a certain period, depending on the individual person and the thing we buy.

The information that we get nowadays about garment and product manufacturing can’t be ignored anymore. Workers’ conditions are horrible, and the planet cannot sustain the lifestyle we’ve become accustomed to anymore. Most people know this, consciously or subconsciously. Knowing this means you get an immediate negative feeling after buying something new, or even looking around your house with all that, meaningless, stuff.

Nowadays I am much better in solving things my way. I use what I have and I use what skills I have. It means I have done projects around the house that improved my feeling of self worth. It means I am keeping old clothes again to chop them up and stitch them back together according to the latest fashion. I love doing this because the fashion that I would love to wear is not sold by H&M it is sold by Vivienne Westwood at 500 Euros per shoe.

By doing this myself I can create unique pieces, fitting me perfectly. All my garments have a story. Sometime that story is simply Fairtrade. It means what I buy made sure somebody somewhere can live a normal life. Sometimes my garments are second hand garments which means there were no new CO2 or toxins released into the atmosphere/earth. Sometimes the garments I made forced me to learn something I didn’t know. Sometimes I made my new garment from old garments or leftover fabrics donated by friends, reminding me of them every time I wear that item.

I hope to give people the strength to look into their own habits and to change the automatism that seems to be in people, where they rely on mindlessly buying in stores for answering their needs. Buying new things with little knowledge about who made the items, what is the impact, where does it come from etc. means that you bring “empty” things into your house that do nothing for you.

I wish for everybody that they have a home and a wardrobe filled only with items that are meaningful. You could do that by finding you innermost values and creatively seeking out what you can change about your consumer habits.

You will create a personal and unique wardrobe and home.

Find my story in a movie on YouTube too… Here is the link..

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Over mij!

Mijn naam is Marjolein. Ik heb jaren in de fashion-fashion gewerkt als modeontwerper voor grotere en kleinere merken. Ik ben opgeleid als modeontwerper in de Kunstacedemie van Maastricht en heb een Master in digital Fashion achter de kiezen op een van de meest vooraanstaande opleidingen van de wereld, de London College of Fashion.

En hoewel ik eigenlijk een super tijd achter de rug heb gehad, heb ik me altijd een beetje een buitenstaander gevoeld. Ik merkte al vroeg dat mijn manier van werken niet regulier was, en dat er op de acedemie en daarbuiten geen ruimte voor was.

Op de acedemie is het hard werken. Ik weet nog dat er klasgenoten in de kast kropen, ‘savonds als de school dicht ging. Zo was de beveiliging er van overtuigd dat er niemand meer was, om daarna weer gewoon achter de naaimachine te kunnen kruipen.

Voor mij was het vaak niet mogelijk om in het weekeind terug te gaan naar huis, omdat er nieuwe tekeningen gemaakt moesten worden naar aanleiding van een moment met een leraar die de boel (weer) afgekeurd had. Vooral mijn materiaalkeuzes waren vaak een probleem.

Ik ben namelijk de opleidingen begonnen met doen wat ik altijd deed, van niets iets maken. Ik had bakken en tassen met oude stukken kleding en stoffen die ik wilde gebruiken om mijn ontwerpen te realiseren. Dit was ik al jaren gewend om te doen. Op deze manier kon ik dragen wat ik tof vond om aan te doen, want wat ik wilde was meestal bij de H&M niet te koop. (Overigens zou ik nu waarschijnlijk, met de weinige centen die ik had, de Pull ‘n Bear leeggekocht hebben, er is toch meer modieus aanbod tegenwoordig. Nog faster-fashion eigenlijk…)

In ieder geval, wanneer je een keer of wat je ziel en zaligheid in die tekeningen en ontwerpen hebt gestoken en steevast te horen krijgt dat het niet goed is ga je vanzelf zoeken naar “wat ze dan wel goed vinden”. Dat was vaak dure stoffen kopen bij allerlei winkels in het land. Voor mij was dit eigenlijk alleen maar een manier om de opleidingen door te komen. Ik vond de sfeer op de acedemie fantastisch en de creativiteit, maar toch wordt ook daar van je gevraagd om alles op de bekende en herkenbare manieren te doen.

Eigenlijk heb ik me daarna aangeleerd om vooral te zoeken naar wat mijn leraren en later mijn werkgevers wilde. Ik stak extra uren in het werk om te te zorgen dat zij het goed vonden. Daarbij laat je langzaam wel wat van jezelf los.

Op een gegeven moment ben ik naar het buitenland kunnen verhuizen. Weg uit je bekende omgeving. Ik kon daar de taal niet, dus kon ik daar niet aan het werk. Dit betekende tijd om na te denken over wat ik wel wil en hoe dat dan precies eruit zou zien. Ik heb de kans gekregen om hier en daar wat te proberen. Na een paar jaar was het zover dat we terug naar Nederland gingen verhuizen. Ik was klaar om alles op mijn eigen manier aan te gaan pakken.

Tegenwoordig bewaar ik mijn oude outfits om er nieuwe dingen van te maken. Het materiaal van een kledingstuk wat je al gedragen hebt heeft vaak veel meer leven dan een nieuw stuk platte stof. Daarnaast zal ik altijd mijn best doen om iets op te lossen op mijn manier. Bijvoorbeeld wanneer ik spiegels wil ophangen, dan kijk ik eerst of ik iets tofs kan bedenken wat ik zelf met stof kan maken voordat ik naar de winkel ren. Dit zorgt er voor dat ik mijn creativiteit kwijt kan, gesterkt wordt door iets wat ik zelf uitvoer en dat mijn vrienden mij in mijn huis herkennen. (en niet de ikea erin herkennen…)

Ik hoop dat jij door het lezen van mijn blogs (link) of door je te verdiepen in Creativisme (link), geinspireerd wordt om ook eens kritisch te kijken naar je gewoontes. Weet dat ik het ook soms moeilijk vind om te breken met wat we zo gewoon zijn, consumeren. Maar hoe meer je het traint om op je eigen manier dingen te doen, hoe meer eigenwaarde én eigenheid je zult ervaren in je directe leefomgeving. Je doet dit echt voor jezelf!

Je kunt me ook nog op facebook (link) vinden of op instagram (link) ik vind het leuk om te horen over jou creative uitspattingen of jou gelukte of mislukte pogingen om je gewoontes aan te passen aan wat je eigenlijk echt wil bereiken!

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