A · Brandsma
Meet Amber Brandsma the Rotterdam based designer behind A·Brandsma. With her critical eye on the current overwhelming fast fashion industry she does not feel the need to constantly reinvent, instead she creates a timeless collection that slowly evolves and grows every season with the changing of colours, fabrics and shapes. Her collection is produced in the Netherlands and a part of it in her own atelier. Of course we are curious to learn more about her, so Anna stepped on the train to Rotterdam and visited her there:
Hi, Amber Brandsma, let’s chat about your background. You began sewing at the age of 12, all because you wanted to create your own clothes. Could you share more about this early journey into fashion?
Amber: Sure, it’s a bit of a DIY story. I had a particular taste of clothing that my parents weren’t always fond of…so I decided to make them myself. So, with my mother, I bought a pattern for trousers and began my sewing adventures. I’d frequent the weekend markets, looking for affordable fabrics, usually around 2-3 euros per piece. My family would wake up to the hum of my sewing machine running on Sunday mornings.
That’s quite a unique start! How did your sewing evolve from there?
Amber: Well, it was an era of “flower power,” and I began making my trousers wider to match the trends of the time. Soon, I ventured into silkscreening and stamping with paper, experimenting with various techniques. I even started creating pieces for my friends during my early teens.
Your journey then led you to Willem de Kooning. Could you tell us more about your education and how it shaped your path in fashion?
Absolutely. At Willem de Kooning, I studied fashion, covering everything from drawing to pattern making. It was an intense journey culminating in a collection presented in a fashion show and a collection catalog.
After graduation, you co-founded “Nieuwe Meuk” with your friend Els Kuijt. How did this partnership lead to your focus on improving vintage designs?
Nieuwe Meuk was an important step in my journey. We shared a vision of improving vintage designs and believed that so many great designs already existed. Together we created a collection and started selling it at Puha, and, eventually, we went our separate ways. Although we now work independently, we were able to grow so much from this experience and clarify the visions for our brands today. Els Kuijt is currently a furniture designer running her own company, while I run my clothing label, A • Brandsma.
Now, let’s delve into your creative process. Could you walk us through how you bring your ideas to life, and what inspires your unique style?
My creative process often starts with an idea, typically related to the neckline, sleeves, stitchwork, or some small detail. I create samples and engage in a lot of trial and error. My collection evolves slowly, and I often use the same base patterns for different garments. I like to think that all my pieces are part of one coherent collection, with each silhouette and fabric building upon each other.
Your brand is known for being timeless, effortless, and playful. Can you elaborate on this aesthetic?
Certainly. I aim for my pieces to feel like you’re wearing a home suit, delicate yet playful. I strive to strike a balance between classic and tomboyish elements, creating designs that are simple with special details. These pieces should be something you look forward to wearing!
Are there particular pieces you’ve created that hold a special place in your heart?
Well, to be honest, everything I create is a bit like my child; they’re all my favorites. Although if I had to pick, I do have a soft spot for the bomber jackets and shorts.
As a successful entrepreneur in the fashion industry, what advice do you have for young designers and creatives just starting their journey?
My advice is to remain patient and embrace the fact that things take time. It’s perfectly fine to have more ideas than you can immediately pursue. Asking for help from others and overcoming self-doubt are also key. Understand that you’re doing this for yourself, not just for recognition. And remember, it’s okay to be a bit naive at the beginning; sometimes, if you fully understand how much work it takes to build your brand, you might never start.
Such good advice! Lastly, could you tell us a bit about your future plans?
We’re currently working on our men’s collection, with hopes of launching it in the fall of 2024. We’ll have special updates on our website. These pieces are designed to complement our women’s collection, offering options for guys who prefer something not too outspoken. Sustainability remains a priority, with a focus on creating everyday staples in neutral colors.
Thank you, Amber, for sharing your journey and insights with us!
Text and photos by Anna Cleveland