Dutch brands make it big
2020-01-20 | By Kim McClure
It’s hard to define the Dutch way of doing things. Is it pragmatism? Almost-but-not-quite-Scandinavian simplicity? Street style not bound by fuss or frills? Original Dutch brands are popping up beyond the Netherlands.
Scotch & Soda, G-Star Raw, HEMA, Patta and Ace & Tate are bright orange tulips proudly representing the Netherlands around the world. What is it about these Dutch brands that carries such worldwide appeal?
Everything, everywhere, for everyone
The iconic red-on-white lettering, the plethora of colour on shelves and the ability to provoke the “I didn’t know I needed this leopard-print soap dish, but now I can’t possibly not buy it.” There’s nothing more Dutch than HEMA.
If you need it, you can probably find it at HEMA. Before it was affordable-funk, HEMA was a dime store, Hollandsche Eenheidsprijzen Maatschappij Amsterdam (Dutch Standard Prices Company Amsterdam), and HEMA still caters to the thrifty, while delivering on the immediacy of novelty–lots of millennial pink, masses of black and white polka dots and 90s nostalgia, alongside freshly-made hot dogs.
Thrift carries international appeal. HEMA now has stores across Europe, the USA and the Middle East, and travellers fill the last empty space in their carry-ons in HEMA stores in Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam Central Station and London’s Victoria Station. At its heart, HEMA understands that no matter what you earn or where you live (or shop), we all want something that makes us feel good. HEMA doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is. Authenticity is worth everything.
From an atelier in Amsterdam
The crew at Scotch & Soda are travellers and explorers –it’s at the heart of their brand–so the ubiquity of their stores outside of Amsterdam isn’t surprising. Their Keizersgracht atelier is in the heart of Old Amsterdam (although their head office is in the slightly less romantic Hoofddorp), and Scotch & Soda’s brand lives and breathes the spirit of Amsterdam, with travel in its DNA.
Scotch & Soda now sells denim in 100 stores from Beverly Hills to Johannesburg, weaving a thread of Amsterdam-style around the world. A closer look at any Scotch & Soda item reveals attention to detail, small XXXs (the municipal symbol of Amsterdam) sewn into the seams of jeans and imprinted on the backs of leather brogues, tiny tulips printed onto cuffs. The world can’t get enough of Scotch & Soda’s ready-to-wear classics.
View from the top
Affordable, direct-to-consumer eyewear may not have been an entirely original idea when Ace & Tate was founded in 2013 but that’s not to minimise its well-deserved success. The brand added a layer of Dutch directness and style to the concept and the result is an eyewear company that’s expanded with more than 30 stores across the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Spain and the UK, supported by a big online presence. Ace & Tate glasses are just the right balance of hipster-vogue, fresh, straightforward and no-nonsense. They’re affordable too, so it’s no wonder the company is a real Dutch firecracker.
Worth the hype
Patta is about as anti-brand as it gets, a story that reads like a sneaker-culture streetwear daydream. Founded in 2004 by Edson Sabajo and Guillaume ‘Gee’ Schmidt as a part-time ‘footwear and gear’ business for friends and family, Patta rose to iconic status thanks to the founders’ deep ties to the Dutch Hip-Hop scene.
Beyond carrying a range of designer sneakers, Patta’s own brand–emblazoned with their unique logo–has become a favourite with sneakerheads and hypebeasts. Also sold from their London outlet, the success and expansion of Patta is an intersection of music, sneaker culture, anti-brand mentality and the kind of pure, deeply embedded meaning that big brands wishfully imitate (but often cannot).
Star of the raw kind
G-Star Raw was founded in 1989 under the name Gap Star. The name was soon changed to avoid confusion with the other Gap. This was last time the brand imitated–and has grown into a well-loved urban wear brand, dedicated to all things denim.
G-Star’s famous ‘unwashed’ denim forms the basis for their simple and structural designs. Like any smart fashion brand, they’ve prioritised sustainability as they grow. And grow they have, with flagship stores in fourteen cities around the world.
The Dutch way of life is unique: the small spaces full of gezelligheid (coziness), the weather conditions, active lifestyle, and no-fuss approach to work and play. These all create a pragmatism that is perhaps the orange thread running through Dutch brands making them big abroad.
About the author
Kim McClure is a copywriter and Brand Language Creative at Design Bridge Amsterdam.