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Interview – Helen de Kluiver from sustainable fashion label CAES

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CAES is a timeless and sustainable brand you immediately fall in love with, as soon as you discover its great designs with timeless appeal. We had a chat with Helen de Kluiver, founder of CAES.
Cover photo: CAES

Helen de Kluiver

Founded in 2019, sustainable fashion label CAES is based on our belief that fashion does not have to be fast or seasonal. Instead, CAES designs timeless garments that can be worn for many seasons to come. Founder Helen de Kluiver felt the need to do things differently, after having worked in the fashion industry for years. According to her, designers should rather focus on quality and have an eye for detail, instead of hunting the big money.

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© Stories by Pien

Sustainable fashion

First of all, we’re curious about the way in which De Kluiver views sustainability. Due to its broad meaning, many big retailers claim to be more or less sustainable nowadays.

De Kluiver: “I think sustainable fashion consists of several aspects, but overall the use of high quality materials is very important. On top of this, sustainability is about working with the right people – those who love what they’re doing and work passionately. These people should be all over the supply chain.

Over time, she’s collected such a team for CAES. “I collaborate with a bunch of companies who continually aim to improve their processes in order to make better choices. I deliberately chose to produce the designs in Europe and to solely work with small family-owned businesses. In this way everything is relatively close-by and within your own control. Furthermore, I think it’s important to also keep in mind how far the clothes have to travel. By producing within Europe the items are packed and shipped in a responsible way.

caes
© caes

This is a great start and hopefully more fashion retailers and big brand will follow. But how does De Kluiver think the fashion industry will change during the upcoming years? Helen de Kluiver: “I sincerely hope that brands and the industry overall will think about how they will improve the quality of products. There’s a lot of waste at the moment. Many companies produce products without selling them. So the question is: how can we change this? I totally understand that it’s hard to change a big company’s system, but it would already help if everyone would reduce their waste or at least make plans on how to do so.

CAES

Let’s talk about CAES – Helen de Kluiver’s slow fashion label, founded in 2019. She doesn’t develop collections, but rather works with ‘editions’. When designing items, it can be hard not to fall for trends – or at least not to be influenced by them. What does De Kluiver get inspired from? “Some days, I’m bursting of new ideas and inspiration. Some designers look for inspiration in nature, but I like cities as well. I love the different atmospheres and new creative initiatives of others. Sometimes I even get inspired by a woman passing by, by looking at the way she moves or is dressed. Before getting inspired and letting my mind go, I decide what kind of items I want to develop and how many items should be part of one ‘edition’. For the first edition, I started with just a few items – bigger editions will follow.

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© caes

In the second edition, Helen de Kluiver will work with woven fabrics. On top of this, she found a leather-look fabric, made out of fruit waste – of which she’s very proud (“It’s so inspiring that new fabrics are developed out of natural waste!”). The edition will be a little bigger than the first one and will be covered by a campaign shot by a London-based photographer. However, since health and well-being are the world’s number one priority at the moment, the second edition is postponed. It simply didn’t feel right to launch a second edition now.

This doesn’t mean, however, that De Kluiver isn’t busy. She’s always working on new designs, ideas and picking the right fabrics. “Since my designs are so minimalistic, the fabric becomes more important than ever. When the design feels right, combined with matching fabric, then an item is successful. Finding the right materials is quite a quest, at the moment. Luckily, many suppliers are working on material recycling and make more and more use of organic cotton. It’s a start.

caes
© caes

At last, we’re curious about the future of the brand. De Kluiver: “Hopefully we’ll be part of the collections of great shops. Besides this, I hope to go on like we do now. I find it very inspiring what’s going on in the fashion industry. Hopefully there will be a tipping point on which customers will finally start buying more consciously. Buying new collections every season simply isn’t necessary. On top of this, I work with very inspiring people and hope this will remain the same within five years. For me that’s the most important.

Also read: Interview – Leanne Jacometti, founder of Wildthings Collectables

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