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G-Star Raw Shines a Spotlight on Amsterdam’s Denim Talent

Fashion may not be first to mind when people think of Amsterdam, but denim heads know better.

With pioneering denim companies, like PVH Europe, Scotch & Soda, Denham the Jeanmaker and Kings of Indigo headquartered in the Dam, and as home to the world’s first denim-focused education offering, the Jean School, the city has become a breeding ground for denim talent during the last decade. The arrival of the trade show, Kingpins Amsterdam, in 2013 welcomed the denim supply chain, followed by a crop of denim mill showrooms and the launch of the now global festival, Amsterdam Denim Days, solidifying denim as part of Amsterdam’s economy and lifestyle.

“We like to call Amsterdam the birthplace of denim innovators,” said Charlene Verweij, press officer for Amsterdam & Partners, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the city’s businesses. “We are truly a denim capital. Jeans fit the Dutch practical lifestyle well and are great for cycling.”

And G-Star is one of the city’s homegrown brands that is globally recognized for upholding contemporary Dutch design’s panache for form and function. “G-Star is a great ambassador all over the world for our denim and fashion industry,” Verweij said. “The brand showcases Dutch creativity and innovation, while at the same time keeping the edginess that Amsterdam is known for.”

G-Star’s presence in the city helped Mariette Hoitink establish her fashion recruitment and consultancy business. “They are the ones that co-shaped my company, HTNK, which I started in 1997, to what it is right now by always asking for the best talent and finding experienced people to join their team not based on their CV, but on unique talent and skills,” she said. “I had the honor to work on the key positions [and] literally saw G-Star grow from a local to global brand.”

Although G-Star didn’t invent raw denim, Verweij says its philosophy of focusing on “just the product” has inspired other denim brands to hone their craft in a responsible way. Amsterdam’s Nine Streets in the Central Canal District alone reveals itself to be a shrine to raw denim from brands and retailers like Denham, Nudie Jeans and Tenue de Nîmes. Along with raw denim, these purveyors have sustainability top of mind—a focus that G-Star helped spread across the denim industry through its efforts to reduce plastics in the ocean, conserve water and create a circular economy for its jeans.

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And in some ways, G-Star’s mission and Amsterdam’s culture are a perfect match. This eco-responsible mindset is echoed across the various Amsterdam-based organizations dedicated to sustainability, like Fashion for Good and Made-By, which G-Star became a stakeholder in back in 2011.

“Amsterdam has the mix of old world with bikes, brownstones and canals, with new world electric cars, high speed ferries and digital start-ups,” said Tricia Carey, director of global business development for denim at Lenzing. “It is the perfect environment for G-Star’s mission of innovation and sustainability. Old world denim mixed with new age technology.”

“We all know that the fashion industry is, unfortunately, one of the most polluting industries in the world,” Verweij said. “G-Star is one of those companies that committed to being more sustainable very early on and, as such, became frontrunners and are now truly leaders when it comes to sustainability and innovation in the denim sector.”

While celebrity collaborations with Pharrell Williams and Jaden Smith help raise awareness for sustainable collections, like Raw for the Oceans, Verweij said there are so many more layers to the company’s sustainable investments.

“I would say that the true power of G-Star is that the brand works both on making sustainability an integral part of their business as well as making consumers aware of pollution, while at the same time offering them options to be part of the solution,” she said. “I think in doing this, G-Star has been an example not just for fashion companies but for businesses in general.”

Beyond sustainability, G-Star has left its mark on Amsterdam in other positive ways. The company has been a supporter of the Jean School since day one and a founding partner of the House of Denim, an Amsterdam-based foundation dedicated to education and promoting best practices for sustainable denim manufacturing. At the Jean School, co-founder Hoitink said students work on unique projects with G-Star based on the brand’s signature patterns. The company also offers internships, which sometimes lead to jobs at their headquarters.

G-Star’s influence can be found across the city, including its famous canals. In a nod to its military and uniform design aesthetic, the brand refurbished an army boat from 1927. Now a luxury cruiser available for private rentals, the Raw Ferry 01 debuted in 2007 as part of the Cross Over Concept series, which applies G-Star’s industrial look to hard goods, including a Land Rover, a Cannondale bicycle, a Leica camera and office furniture by French designer Jean Prouvé.

“There’s also this edgy, much more industrial side to the city that you can, for instance, see in the North of Amsterdam and G-Star very much appeals to that side,” Verweij said.

Even G-Star’s headquarters, designed by renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas’ firm, OMA, in the industrial Zuid-Oost area, is a destination for design junkies.

G-Star shines a light on Amsterdam's denim talent.
G-Star’s HQ OMA

Modeled after an airport hangar, the three-story, 296,000-square foot behemoth houses a nucleus of offices intended to spark collaboration and communication between the various departments. A multi-purpose “raw” space provides a setting for work, productions, events and parties, while the basement is home to the brand’s 35,000-piece archive. The building’s glass and steel façade—visible from the A10 highway—serves as an architectural reminder of G-Star’s efforts to be transparent yet durable.

“It showcases Dutch design at its best, whether you’re inside or outside of the building,” Verweij said. “I don’t think anyone could have done a better job of translating the ‘raw’ feeling of G-Star into an office building.”

This article appears in the latest issue of Rivet. Click here to read more.