INTERVIEW: ERIK FRENKEN OF AVELON

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Based in Amsterdam, Avelon is all about the belief in Beautiful Different. We recently had the opportunity to speak with designer Erik Frenken about this belief, cutting his teeth at Alberta Ferretti and his tenure as head women’s designer at Viktor & Rolf. We’re also taking a look inside his studio, a converted horse stable from the 1800s.

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OAK: How is the layout and appearance of your studio reflected in your collections?
ERIK FRENKEN: Our studio is a blank canvas [and] each season we start gathering inspiration. The studio slowly fills up with, magazines, books, print outs, art, fabrics and just pure chaos. I need the chaos to be inspired and trigged to do new thing but the real innovation is in the space in-between, the white noise. So our studio is really important part of my creative process and therefore the collection.

OAK: Can you give us a brief history of the space itself?
EF: Our headquarters used to be a stable. In the 1800s and 1900s it housed the horse and carriages of local tradesmen who came to visit the city. When it was converted, the original features – such as the double doors and metal stud beams – were kept but the rest was plastered white. The contrast between the two fits the brand like a glove and enhances the brand and its Beautiful Different concept.

OAK: How would you describe Amsterdam street style? What trends do you like and what would you like to see less of?
EF: Amsterdam has a very safe street style. People often don’t dare to be different or stand out from the crowd. This doesn’t mean that I want everyone to look hysterical but standing out with style is something the Dutch could do more with. What I do like about Amsterdam street style is the casual and dressed combination. A silk blazer with sweats, full on gowns with sneakers, I really like that.

OAK: The ethos behind the Avelon brand is your belief in Beautiful Different. Can you give us some examples of what this means to you? What are some things you find beautiful that were perhaps overlooked by everyone else?
EF: Beautiful Different isn’t identifying something as beautiful which isn’t perceived as beautiful per se. It’s more about putting things out of context and the contrast and/or combination of things to create something new and unique. Our signature denim and leather combinations, in which we combine the luxury material leather with something everyday as denims, or stone washing our silk which gives more edge and depth to our dresses and suiting.

OAK: You’ve incorporated transparent plastics, leather piecing, and white paint in this fall collection. What was your inspiration behind this sort of fabric blocking?
EF: The concept of this collection was the contrast within the world that we live in. [There is a] contrast between good and evil, but also [one] between shadow and light. We tried to play with these contrasts and stay true to the brand. We created our own paint print for denims and t-shirts and translated the concept in texture by the combination of plastic (shiny) and cotton (matte), leather (luxury) and sweat (contemporary).

Photo ERIK FRENKEN

OAK: What from your experience working for Alberta Feretti and as the head designer of womenswear for Viktor + Rolf have you brought with you to Avelon?
EF: It’s there where I learned what working in fashion really means. Fashion is business. Of course they where also places of great inspiration but to me it was never obtainable for my generation. When I took the leap to starting my own brand I wanted to keep the inspiration and design elements but make it more accessible.

OAK: What about your approach to design, if anything, has changed since your arrival at Avelon?
EF: Avelon is much closer to my own heart, which makes it so much more personal. With every collection it feels like I’ve put everything on the line and opened myself up to the world.

OAK: What ideas or concepts would you like to expand on in your future with Avelon? How would you like to see the brand evolve?
EF: I always say that this is only the first few centimeters of the road ahead. With every collection I try to push myself as a designer and carve out the Avelon style niche. I think it’s important for me as a designer to stay true to the concept of the collection but still make something accessible. The concepts I create are so personal to the collection that I don’t even think about the next one, I live for the one that we’re making now.

OAK: How does your environment inspire you?
EF: Everything around me inspires me. It can be the small every day things to visiting one of the great museums in Amsterdam like the Stedelijk. I’m one of those people that is constantly fed by everything around him. I’m not an ivory tower hermit kind of designer, I need my surroundings to keep feeding my imagination.

OAK: Where can you be found when you’re not working?
EF: I wish I could give a really glamourous answer but in reality you can find me at home, on the couch trying not to think about work.

OAK: What are you listening to currently?
EF: Thomas Azier, I love all his music but his latest song “Ghost Town” is a new direction and I can’t wait to here more of the new album!

OAK: What’s something our readers would be surprised to find out about you?
EF: That when I’m home I’m surrounded by my wife and three young kids.

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