A FLASHBACK TO 2016
celebrating ten years of K&M
Fashion duo Klaes & Myra celebrate their 10th anniversary: the perfect occasion for an interview. They seem to never agree on anything during the interview, but nonetheless manage to produce beautiful clothing. How can that be? Their love for each other and their craft, but mainly by laughing a lot. “Without humor it would be dull.”
A creative wind is blowing in the beautiful loft in the Sint Jacobsstraat in Leeuwarden. Or rather, a tornado of energy. The kitchen table on the sunny first floor is littered with color swatches, computers, kids’ drawings and coffee mugs; a sign that this is a place where people work 24/7. The intercom – a direct line with the shop downstairs – hums a determined hum, an order is recorded through the telephone in fluent German, all the while the duo discusses… who can tell? Does this sound a lot like chaos? No sir! People live here!
One last time for the fans: how did Klaes & Myra’s begin?
Klaes (laughing): “When I kissed Myra in Brussel!”
Myra: “That’s right! It didn’t take long after that. That was ten years ago. Klaes didn’t want to move to me in Amsterdam so I moved here, to Leeuwarden.”
Klaes: “Hold on, it wasn’t like that. It started like this: Both of us were already working in fashion (as agents and importers) and used a showroom in Amsterdam for that. When I got an option on this building and we found out Myra was pregnant, we decided to start a fashion store right here. That was easier said than done, a lot of the brands we wanted for our store -mainly Scandinavian labels- were not available. So we had to augment it with our own designs. That’s when Klaes & Myra’s, the brand, emerged. Ahem, let’s just say that everything came from our love for each other.”
Myra: “Man that’s cheesy.”
Klaes: “But it’s true!”
Klaes & Myra’s summed up in one sentence?
Klaes: “Us together.”
Myra: “The strength of our brand is not necessarily in the designs, but the feelings it brings out.”
Which one of you starts up the creative process for the new collection?
Both: “Both of us, separately.”
Klaes: “We work independently.”
Myra: “Together, simultaneously, just doesn’t work. It’s bad for our marriage.”
Klaes: “Just like we travel, apart from each other. Not just because of the kids, but mainly because we distract each other non-stop. We would be arguing over every T-shirt.”
Myra: “Like I said, it’s a bad idea.”
Does forming a duo mean making concessions or complementing each other?
Klaes: “We differ in such a way that only one of us can come up with a good idea. But this also means that we then take it to a higher level.”
Myra (laughing): “Complementing? Do you mean bombarding? The one with the best idea wins and never has to make concessions. It’s as easy as that.”
When you are designing a new collection, what does your life look like?
Klaes: “I just yell whatever comes to mind, then write the ideas down in my famous black notebooks. I visit the major fairs, touch fabrics and travel across the globe, accompanied by photographer Rene Veldhuis. I might, for example, encounter a stunning pattern in a mural painting. I have it photographed and before I know it Rene has reworked the image into a spectacular design. Developing a collection to me is a series of coincidences. But every time, instinctively, nature becomes the starting point. Textures, shadows, wind. And then our own archives play their part. Fabrics that were discarded once, can become exactly what we need another time.”
Myra: “Those black idea books are handed down to me. I might use their contents, and I might not. If I find the ideas worthwhile, I start working out the technical details.”
Do you target your collection to a different woman each time?
Klaes: “No. It’s always Myra.”
Myra: “I actually just make what is lacking in my wardrobe.”
You mentioned photographer Rene Veldhuis. Just how important is he within the Klaes & Myra’s family?
Myra (laughing): “We’re like a second home to him.”
Klaes: “He is very important, especially in this age where everything is about images. He is able to translate our thoughts, designs and ideas into images. I always take him with me when I travel, and he never misses a fair. The same goes for Nynke and Simon, who make sure everything continues to run day and night. They are the backbone of the company.”
Myra: “Everyone in our close-knit team and family is special and very involved. This includes the manufacturers. We started with nothing, but they saw something in our idea and we gained their trust. We owe a lot to this trust.”
Klaes: “But don’t forget the game nights.”
Myra (suddenly stern): “They are essential.”
Klaes: “The most important thing is to laugh a lot. Otherwise it would get dull pretty soon.”
What is your personal favorite piece from your collections?
Klaes: “It’s not about one piece in particular. The collection in its entirety is strong. As soon as a woman puts on one of our designs, she makes it hers. She gets to do that, dismissing us and gain the design as her own. That’s the beauty of it. I let go at that time.”
Myra: “I do have a favorite: coat Dolly, with a 3D print. You know what the best part is? When one of my designs comes out exactly as I imagined it. At such a moment I’m literally jumping through the store.”
But tell me, does fashion never bore you, even after ten years?
Klaes (from the kitchen): “Never. I’m still hungry for more.”
Myra (nearly choking on a glass of water): “You’re always hungry… for food, and drinks…”
Klaes (unruffled): “Oh, but I love shopping, and exploring new things.”
Myra: “Well I don’t.”
Klaes: “And again it’s good to have Rene on board. We share an ambition to explore.”
Myra: “Sometimes at the end of a season, when the whole circus has ended, I do get tired of it. It never lasts for more than a few days though. One trip to the beach to look at the sea and my energy and inspiration are restored.”
How eco-friendly is your brand?
Klaes: “This has become a trend, right? We have been working like this from the very start. But it comes from our core, not because it’s the hip thing to do.”
Myra: “We deal with manufacturers with the best certifications, use organic cotton and eco-friendly dye where possible.”
Klaes: “Our eco-friendliness is practical.”
Myra: “We don’t need an eco-friendly image with some associated badge. We just take our responsibility. Nature is not our inspiration for a reason.”
It seems to me that fashion is less and less about trends and more about developing a personal style. How do you experience that?
Klaes: “The term ‘trends’ is not very interesting to me. Nowadays it’s all about personality and style. This idea is where our brand ‘BLACK’ originates. Clothing should always amplify your personality, never drown it out.”
Myra: “It’s not up to us to say: you have to wear this now, because it’s fashionable. That’s coercive and not our style. It’s a dated idea.”
Klaes: “There is a tendency that following trends is secondary.”
Myra: “Hey, fashion isn’t brain surgery. Don’t take it too seriously.”
Your collections often openly flirt with the 80s and 90s, combined with the power of the color black. Would you prefer to go back in time, or do you choose the people in the streets of today?
Klaes: “I have noticed that people lack guts. This is true in a broader sense.”
Myra: “I sometimes long for the days when people would go all out in their clothing. You get away with everything nowadays, but still people are hesitant to use this freedom. It’s a shame.”
Klaes: “We would welcome the freedom from the 80s with open arms.”
Myra: “Let me make an appeal: could the people in the streets rebel a little more?”
What piece has been in your wardrobe for years, but will never be discarded? Even with holes in them?
Klaes laughs and points at his trousers with unintentional fraying: “All my clothes have holes and missing buttons. If you look at my wardrobe, it’s just the remains of what I found in Paris and my favorite city Copenhagen. These are places where people have guts and governments are not afraid to value design and put money into it too. But that’s beside the point. Good male fashion is a huge quest and until my next one I will wear what I have until the very end.”
So it’s time for a male brand?
Klaes (pensive): “Hmm, maybe. Who knows?”
What do you like best about your line of work?
And outside of work?
Klaes (laughing): “Myra.”
Myra (screaming): “Klaes!”
You have three daughters. Do they ever let you know what they think of the designs?
Myra: “Not really. Nynke wants to come with us on our travels. It’s much more fun than school.”
Klaes: “She doesn’t want to miss a thing.”
Myra: “Anna will bring her drawings downstairs to show them to me. Emma just doesn’t care, but when you notice how stylish she is and how she manages her wardrobe: wow. Emma does a great job combining.”
Klaes: “They mix and match their own outfits. We never have to do a thing. I will sometimes let them know that it looks awful, but if they like I will tell them to own it and not be afraid what others might think.” Laughing: “It started with wearing different socks. One high, one low. They are our mini-inspirations.”
Myra: “I love that. All of us are wearing different socks now.”
Klaes point to an almost life-sized papier mâché horse on display in the middle of the room: “My daughters school project. When we came to painting it, paint was nowhere to be found in the house. I uncovered some leftover fabric paint from the collection. We started to mix the paint… a little white… a little black… eventually the most perfect color for the next Klaes & Myra’s design emerges, from the horses’ skin. Another coincidence. That’s why I love to be around young people. I keep playing and be amazed.”
Off to the next ten years. What is on your wish list?
Myra: “I want to take our collection to the catwalk. Preferably in Copenhagen.”
Klaes: “My dream is the male brand. We have to! I am nearing the end of the clothes I have. The perfect moment will present itself when it does. The moment when everything comes together.”
The time has come to leave the sunny first floor apartment. In the staircase, filled with cheerful children’s jackets, baskets and the obligatory games, the relaxing music playing in the store can be heard. While the collection may be the result of a series of coincidences, in the store few things are left to chance. Every item sold is packed lovingly into chic paper, accompanied by a personal thank-you note and a big smile. Work hard and laugh a lot: a golden duo.