Hello, my name is Marjolein van de Donk. I have worked for years in the fashion industry as a designer for large and small brands. I have been privileged to do a Masters degree at the London College of Fashion, one of worlds most esteemed fashion schools.
While experiencing these amazing opportunities 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 one particular time.
When I was in school, still in my bachelor years, I took my ideas for fashion designs to a meeting with a few teachers. I had worked on those design-drawings for days, and was a bit scared to do the presentation. I had plenty of experience making clothes, not so much drawing them. 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. Something unexpected to me happened, the drawings weren’t the problem, the swatches were.
Apparently I had made a mistake. The fabrics I had were inexpensive and according to them, bad quality. They told me to do it again. I had to go to the store, preferably all around the country, to get “special fabrics” and not this stuff. I had to completely change my design approach.
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. I had to change my approach to fashion and design as it would have been impossible for me to finish the course otherwise.
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 which was a no-go at the time. I was investigating what would happen if a person was able to influence the product during the designing process. If they could, would it not be more important to them? If it would be more personal and closer to their personal preferences, would they not try and make it last forever?
After a few more years in fashion I made an excuse to leave. I 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. 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 before fitting into the fashion-scene. I was ready to let go of the constraints that I had felt because of the way I was educated and required to work.
These restrains are not for me alone. We expect fashion to work in a certain way, and keep it that way by joining in. It is easy to go to the store because it is cheap and close. Everybody does this, why shouldn’t you? It almost feels as a right. At the same time creators in fashion have a hard time when they have ideas that differ from the status quo. They feel like it is swimming against the current. It saddens me because that is exactly what the fashion industry needs. People that want to do things differently.
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 to chop them up and stitch them back together if I want to. I love doing this because this is the kind of fashion that I fell in love with all those years ago. Also, by doing this myself I can create unique pieces, fitting me perfectly. All my garments have a story. Sometime that story is simply “This item is 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 make new garment from old garments or leftover fabrics donated by friends, reminding me of them every time I wear them.
With my fascination of the unique and my way of seeing things that others overlook, I help you to show up as who you are, too. I help you tackle limiting beliefs, helping you to believe in yourself. I help you to cultivate your creativity, making sure you break through your boundaries. I help you to be who you are supposed to be, inspiring others while you do this. I want to meet you in the streets and see the real unique and beautiful person that you are, not the latest collections of the H&M.
The main way for me to do that is by online-coaching. Rethink your wardrobe is a course that I have developed solely for the purpose of making sure you dare to show off your real self.
If you find that interesting you can find more information on the Rethink page of this website. You can also fill in your email address below, so you will be the first one to hear about what I have been up to!
If you want more inspiration you can also look me up on Instagram, Facebook or join our group on Facebook so you can join the conversation and inspire others.