Call it our slight sense of nationalism, but here at Prestage our hearts swell with pride whenever we read about a fellow Dutchie making it big overseas. A runway show without at least one Dutch model is a rarity nowadays, and even designers like Mattijs van Bergen, Jan Taminiau and Iris van Herpen have become household names outside of the Dutch fashion climate. Yet, some of the true artistry is obscured behind the scenes, creative forces that live outside of the limelight, assuming their work speaks for itself. Exactly the reason why we asked four of these anonymous artisans to share their points of view with the rest of the world. What made them decide to take that proverbial big leap and how has that affected their lives?
Rutger: Hair Stylist
Lives in: New York
Has worked for: Vogue, V Magazine, Numéro, AnOther Magazine
“Making a name for yourself is not only about other people recognizing the value of your work, it’s about them wánting to work with you”.
“I started my career about 18 years ago in Paris, where I’d teamed up with some of my friends who happened to be session stylists, before moving more into the direction of studio work. That feeling of being part of a creative collective, working on a common cause and creating inspiring imagery, is what did it, and still does, for me. That’s also partly why I decided to move to New York, surely the challenges might be bigger but so are the career opportunities, and has a hair stylist I like to be surrounded by people who share the same ideas and similar attitude in life. My success certainly didn’t arrive overnight, I have an extensively technical background in working with hair, have developed a trained eye of the aesthetics in the beauty industry and have acquired an immense amount of knowledge in terms of fashion and its history. Early in my career I’d been lucky enough to be part of Guido Palau’s main team, doing 40 shows a week and travelling all over the globe, and his mentoring has played a pivotal part in my professional life so far. So does the book ‘Hairstyle’, by Amy Fine Collins, which features the biggest names in hairstyling from the 80s and 90s and manages to portray the wide variety of styles from that particular period in time. If I had to pick a highlight, it would have to be the first time I saw my name printed in Italian Vogue; the bible of fashion magazines.
My success has not been handed to me on a silver platter by any means, but it’s really trying to stay on top which requires quite the determination and dedication. You have to be able to continuously come up with new ideas, instantly react on outside influences, as well as delivering on set. Making a name for yourself is not only about other people recognizing the value of your work, it’s about them wánting to work with you. That’s why I love collaborating with models like Bette Franke, Kati Nescher, Behati Prinsloo and Aline Weber. It’s a two-way street. And in terms of the future? To be able to continue this way. As I’m represented by one of the top agencies of the world, I hope to fulfill many more lifelong dreams. And if that happened to involve styling the future Dutch queen, I’d be happy to take on the challenge. Mind you, I’d have to get to know her a little bit better before getting my hands dirty, as hair is highly personal and should indeed complement one’s unique personality.”
Mathias van Hooff: Make-Up Artist
Lives in: London
Has worked for: Vogue, W Magazine, i-D Magazine
“I believe make-up should be alive. Flaws and all”.
“My career started quite casually, tagging along with friends and mutual acquaintances to shoots and sorts. Things got really serious once I made the big leap to London, figuring the opportunities this particular city provided were much broader. Rightfully so, because besides the immense amount of fun London has to offer, it also takes the creative industry much more seriously. Granted, I was a bit of a party animal back in the day, we’re talking ’97 here, so I wasn’t entirely impartial to the good times London was known for having. Besides, it was an exciting time for fashion photography and so much stuff was happening over here, that I decided to pack up and move. And even though that might all sound very impulsive, I came here with a long-term plan, always keeping in mind where I’d see myself in 10 years time and not the day after tomorrow. I guess that’s one of my strong characteristics, being patient, concentrating on the bigger picture, waiting for the right moment. That meant turning down certain jobs if it messed up my carefully crafted career plan. You see, it’s a rather political climate in which your career is molded according to the creative choices you make. But it has paid off and I’ve been able to have worked for huge names such as Burberry, G-star and Mulberry, which revolves around collaborating with the most passionate of fashion professionals. People who truly love what they do and take a visionary approach. Like the late Alexander McQueen, whom I’ve had the honor of working with in both London, as well as in Paris for Givenchy. These shows were larger than life and tremendous visual spectacles and have taught me to think outside the box. It’s also around that time that I’d joined MFA, my agency in London, and started working with Edward Enninful, fashion director at i-D and Italian Vogue at the time. Both he and Emma Summerton have played vital parts in my career, in terms of fashion and creativity. Despite my love for London, I moved to New York shortly before September 11, only to return to the UK in 2003. No financial means whatsoever and so I should make a point out of thanking House of Orange in Amsterdam, which has always supported me and whose enormous help I could not have done without. Regarding the trends for this upcoming summer season, it’s all about exaggeration. Still you, only a bit crazier. Personally, I prefer grease based products, they tend to keep away any dryness but, and perhaps most importantly, I believe make-up should be alive. Flaws and all.”
Sil Bruinsma: Make-Up Artist
Lives in: New York
Has worked for: Vogue, The Last Magazine, The Gentlewoman
“It’s all about continuously generating creative, fresh and new ideas”.
“The 90s proved to be exciting times for me, hanging out with the club-kids, dancers and art students, where dressing up and going out played a big sub-cultural part. I enjoyed surrounding myself with these weirdly looking creatures and that’s really what triggered my interest in fashion and make-up. Gradually, I started helping out on several shows, doing other people’s make-up and started shooting for indie magazines. It’s never just about the color of a lipstick, instead, it’s about that collaborative effort. What works best with the clothes, model and/or setting? Sometimes this means no make-up at all, which is fine with me, because at the end of the day, it’s about the team effort; your people skills are equally important, if not more so, as the technical skills you apply with your brush. In that sense, I believe we have to work harder than say, 20 years ago. Fashion has become a billion dollar industry, a bona fide business, and that has raised the pressure immensely. From designers to the models to the make-up artists, it’s all about continuously generating creative, fresh and new ideas. It’s a non-stop process, one in which churning out 6 collections a year is deemed the norm, and that can takes its toll. People sometimes forget the amount of hard work that goes into taking on these challenges. It sometimes really is like a whirlwind, which is why I fondly remember some of the bigger shows I’ve done in the past, like Junya Watanabe, or the most recent Thom Browne collection at NYFW. High-energy environments, where it all comes down to those 3 hours of intense labor. You have to come up with a look that satisfies the designer, as well as suiting to each of the girls, talk to the press and direct an entire team of people, all of which can be quite stressful. But that’s all water under the bridge, the moment when all of those elements come together in the end. However, there are also times where a thick skin and a healthy dose of humor is vital in trying to succeed.
Fortunately, I’ve been able to work with a variety of people very early on in my career, that have played a large part in shaping my vision and finding my voice. Professionals like Jos van Heel, who has taught me about fashion and photography, Peter Philips, who has the capability to think outside the box and has come up with his own aesthetic and Paul Helbers, who has given me my first break doing the Louis Vuitton menswear shows, have had a huge influence on both my personal, as professional way of thinking. I also fondly look back on working with Dutch photographer Viviane Sassen, whom I’ve worked with on one of my favorite stories so far; imagine minimal production, 35 degrees in the shade, full-on body make-up and 18 hour workdays. Nonetheless, the result is absolutely stunning, even today. In terms of my favorite products, I use a wide variety of make-up, from high-end to drugstore brands, but there are 4 I probably couldn’t do my work without. The Armani Luminous Silk Foundation, the MAC Engraved Pencil, the Madina Luminizer Stick and the Chanel Mythic Lipstick are always part of my standard set of tools.”
“My work is about complementing a look, style or silhouette”.
“The funny thing is that I never anticipated working as a hair stylist, it all sort of came together at one point. I initially studied Art, Graphic Design and Advertising at St. Lucas in the Netherlands, while I cut and colored my friends’ hair, even styling them for parties, on the side. Because we were all quite a bit eccentric looking, this got noticed quickly and I was offered to work with Dutch make-up artist Pernell Kusmus. It wasn’t long before I was doing Belgian and Dutch editorials soon thereafter. Though I must admit I was in dire need of some serious training, my first set of curls were made with a pencil, hairspray and a dryer. You do the math. That lack in technical skills is what drove me to enroll in the Hair Academy, where I’d obtained my diploma, before doing several test shoots and assisting the world’s biggest names in hairstyling. Then, little by little and step by step, I started gathering my own jobs. I hasn’t always been easy, let me tell you. When I first decided to move from Holland and start my career abroad, I had to abandon my comfort zone; starting from scratch, doing odd jobs here and there to bring in the money. An assistant by day, a waiter by night. I lived in tiny apartments, surviving on pasta with ketchup, and though times were not necessarily easy, they were loads of fun. And it still is, I absolutely love my job. One can wake me up in the middle of the night for it, which they actually do occasionally. My work is about complementing a look, style or silhouette and accentuating someone’s natural beauty, so the possibilities are endless.
One dreamy cover shoot for i-D comes to mind, where I got to work with amazingly iconographic, and butt-naked, models Eva Herzigova, Helena Christensen and Claudia Schiffer. I mean, how surreal? Also my time working as the key-hair-stylist of Maison Martin Margiela comes to mind, being able to meet and exchange ideas with him has been an amazing experience. Oh, and that time I worked with photographer Peter Lindbergh and Charlotte Rampling, one of the most beautiful women in the world, in my humble opinion. I actually started shaking, blushing and stuttering at the same time, but everyone had been so wonderful throughout that shoot that it’s hard to forget that particular experience. My work continues to inspire me by getting to collaborate with people who share the same kind of passion, drive and ambition. People who thrive on reinvention. That level of creativity is what makes my everyday job so exciting and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. My favorite hairstyle of all times? I would have to chose between Mia Farrow’s pixie cut, Jane Birkin’s bangs, Marilyn Monroe’s bleached curls and Michelle Pfeiffer’s slick bob in Scarface. An impossible decision. My advice for the future generation of hopeful creatives, is to listen to your heart, enjoy everything you do and to never stop playing around”.