Caroline engelaar MKDT Studio


When talking to fellow creatives, we often wonder: HOW DO THEY DO IT? To prevent Instagram stalking or doom-scrolling to figure out their secret sauces and success stories, we prefer to ask them face-to-face. Today: an unfiltered conversation with CAROLINE ENGELAAR, creative director at MARK KENLY DOMINO TAN. Cover photo: courtesy of MKDT Studio


“When I was 10, I lived with my father and his former girlfriend. She was independent and believed that girls and women could do anything, which she often expressed in various situations,” Caroline Engelaar fondly remembers her youth. Tomboyish as a child, she reminisces that “girls can do anything.” It showed. In 2023, Engelaar won the ELLE Denmark Award for Designer of the Year. With more than fifteen years of experience in the creative industries, it felt like the justified cherry on the cake, even though her career will span over many more decades. Her ability to understand and translate a brand’s culture into creative outlets is beyond the extraordinary. In twelve years, she’s won ten awards – and it’s safe to say that her trophy cabinet will only expand as time passes. With a career that spans interior design to fashion,  it’s only exciting to imagine what the future has in store for her. 

Looping back to her youth, where her “limitless” mindset is rooted. Her upbringing taught her that everyone should participate in everything, explaining her broad resume: “From a young age, I had an assigned day for cooking and washing clothes. Everyone in the family was expected to participate in everything; everyone had an assigned day for laundry and cooking and was required to contribute. I have carried this mindset with me into adulthood.”

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After seventeen years, Engelaar felt it was time for a shift. She worked independently for almost two decades, leading and managing over ten projects simultaneously. “The allure of making a significant impact, engaging with a project from inception to completion, delving deep into its details, and witnessing the entire process unfold- the sense of commitment and being an integral part of the journey from A to Z- this is something I’d been missing while working on a freelance basis for clients. Therefore, I was genuinely drawn to the concept of MKDT Studio and had no hesitation when the opportunity arose, and it’s not something I would have considered elsewhere. I appreciate the circular thinking and contemporary approach the MKDT Studio applies to its products, and most importantly, it was something I could see myself in and identify with.” 

Engelaar would describe MKDT Studio’s aesthetic as contemporary, sophisticated, and rooted in craftsmanship. 2024 marks the tenth anniversary of the house, which is still grounded in its atelier concept. Through the year, though, it has gradually transitioned towards a more accessible approach, Engelaar explains. “Notably, we’ve recently reinvented our atelier collection, presenting a refined interpretation that maintains a uniquely tailored experience, although now in a non-customized capacity.. Alongside this evolution, the brand has embraced a more feminine aesthetic than before, always with deep respect for our heritage. Our team has experienced significant growth, empowering us to navigate and explore innovative avenues. The brand’s reach has extended, spanning a wider array of markets, underscoring our dedication to engaging diverse audiences.” 

How do you generate ideas and bring them to life?

“Our creative process always begins with crafting a strong overarching concept. Through thoughtful and intuitive research, we identify elements that feel right. We also include specific components that fit seamlessly into the collection, aligning with our established concept. Building on a solid foundation is key; we look back at past collections and select elements that continue to work and remain timeless.”

What’s on this season’s mood board? 

“The Autumn Winter 2024 collection, titled “The Sky,” is a homage to our enduring fascination with the limitless freedom of the sky. Drawing inspiration from the audacious spirit of early female aviators, particularly the iconic Amelia Earhart, the collection’s narrative is deeply rooted in their fearless independent ventures into the open skies.”

“In our efforts to translate this inspiration into our designs, we aimed to pay tribute to their pioneering courage. The collection features elegant silhouettes, purposeful layering, and a nuanced color palette that seamlessly blends boyish charm with a distinctly feminine touch. It’s a respectful nod to the historic beauty of those who dared to conquer the skies.”

How do you keep your head cool during CPHFW and the preceding weeks?

“Handling those situations is tough, but I stay calm by trusting my gut feeling about people and ensuring the collaborators we’ve picked are the right fit. For example, when things get uncertain, like when deciding on styling, I must believe I’ve made the right call. It comes down to having faith in my team. Instead of panicking or comparing ourselves to others, I keep believing that my choices and those around me are spot-on, playing a crucial role in the success of everything we do.”

Caroline Engelaar

Are there any rules or rituals you live by?

“Many believe there are clear-cut rules or rituals where you must choose either A or B, and if you choose B, you should go with A. However, I don’t subscribe to the idea that there’s a “wrong” choice. Once a decision is made, it’s crucial to follow through. It can be challenging along the way, especially in this industry where there’s no definitive answer or set path to follow, but that’s also a fundamental component of our development and journey. I embrace it with genuine openness.”

What’s the one moment in your career that you will never forget?

“Winning the ELLE awards was very touching. It was a surprise, and I hadn’t expected it. It was a mature choice, and receiving recognition after only being with MKDT Studio for a year was lovely. What Mark created was so significant that it was almost destined not to be as successful as when he oversaw the creative direction. However, acknowledging that the new approach was sensible and reconditioned for the direction we’ve taken the brand meant a lot.”

What are you most proud of? 

“I’m proud to make a living by being creative without coming from inherited wealth, but rather, having built a successful career from the bottom. Being able to purchase some lovely homes and provide my children with both necessities and comforts is an achievement I take pride in.”

Caroline Engelaar

What excites you most about the future? 

“I’m most excited about the growing emphasis on sustainability within the industry, where many actively embrace this commitment. I believe this focus will continue to strengthen in the future. As part of MKDT Studio, I look forward to taking the brand to new international heights. It’s thrilling to contribute to a more sustainable future while expanding the brand’s reach and impact globally.”