“Although I am born and raised in the city of Rotterdam, I feel closely connected to the windy dunes, horizon and salty seas of the Dutch coast. While exploring the rich history of Zeeland, I encountered craftsmen who were invited by the local museum to share their knowledge of historic clothing patterns of this coastal region. The traditional wear of the past enchanted me. When I tried on a handmade local suit in the museum, it felt like it was made for me. But of course, it was made to inspire making my own.
While meant as work wear, the suit, that included a matching vest, looked like a uniform with its double breasted buttoning and its exquisite fabric. When I got home, I couldn’t forget about how much I liked what I had tried on. The suit hit a sensitive spot too: it reminded me of my great grand father. Back in the day, like me, he was enchanted by the culture of the sea. His mother didn’t allow him to be a herring fisher, as his father had died on the water. Instead, he became a mailman, but I guess he kept dreaming of the sea. At one point, he wrote an illustrated travel story (which was published later on) about his multiple day tour on a herring trawler. As he had no money, he had to make his personal gear from scratch. Out of a cheap fabric, he made a fisherman’s suit that he greased by hand. Some years later, like his father, my great grandfather died at sea as well. In a bizarre turn of events, in 1931 as I remember, the mailboat he was working on sunk on its way to the shore, and those who couldn’t swim did not make it alive. I never forgot about this story, as it made a deep impression on me. Somehow the historical suit produced in the Zeeuws Museum triggered this memory.
The three piece suit that I fell in love with in the museum was made to be available as a pattern, so I could have a present day version made for myself. The coat is very fashionable and wearable, and so are the trousers. I find it so special that I can recreate this age-old shape into something modern, that I’d like to share it with others. A while ago I met two art academy students who are developing ‘Fruitleather’, a fabric that is made from waste fruit from the Rotterdam market and that can be recycled after disposal. As this fits present day fashion very well, I am discussing with them to develop the suit in this fabric for me. I looking forward to find out if this would be a suggestive material to create a magnificent piece of clothing.
I love the idea of what the suit will represent: a combination of traditional Dutch fashion culture, current day Rotterdam craftsmanship and future friendly fabrics. I imagine myself wearing the suit at sea, reminiscing about my forefathers, reliving the past and making new memories. Last year I met a herring captain who’s offered me to sail with him, so now all I need is the suit. Good thing I can swim… and sketch, to create a next illustrated travel story.”
( Wouter )