Marlies Dekkers launched her first collection in 1993, two years after graduating from St. Joost Academy in the Netherlands as an art /design student. Since then she’s won numerous awards for her original and innovative designs, and attracted legions of fans in Europe and the U.S. Runway talked with this visionary designer about her journey and her plans for the future.
RM: Why did you decide to design lingerie?
MD: For my studies, I designed outfits that tended to look like lingerie. I wasn’t completely aware of this until one of my teachers pointed it out to me. For my final project at St. Joost in 1991, I won the Zeebelt prize, awarded to the best art student in the Netherlands. I received a grant from the Dutch Ministry of Economics and designed my own line, Undressed, which I launched in 1993. I find the female body very inspiring. I see it as my canvas and I want to frame it with my lingerie.
RM: You’ve been very successful as a lingerie and swimwear designer. Do you have plans to extend your brand beyond that?
MD: I already design all the interiors for my stores myself, including the wallpaper and the furniture. Last year, I designed a Christmas collection for the biggest warehouse store in the Netherlands. The designs included lamps, clothes (dresses, suits, baby clothes), cakes, champagne bottles and bedspreads. I really enjoyed it and would love to do this more often in the future. However, lingerie remains my main focus at the moment.
RM: Is there a difference in what European women and American women buy from you?
MD: More people in Europe already know my designs. In Europe, they don’t mind it if you see a little bit of the lingerie pop up over the clothes. The better people get to know me, and my designs, the more they understand my philosophy of innerwear as outerwear. For example, when new people start to work in my offices, they don’t wear the lingerie visibly at first. Then, slowly but surely, they learn to combine the lingerie with their clothes and they start to see it as an accessory to their outfits.
RM: You’re often described as innovative. When you were first starting out, was that your goal?
MD: I didn’t intentionally set out to be innovative. I just started a new way of thinking about the female body. Women were portrayed as giant froufrou bonbons in lacy lingerie, presented to men on a platter. I wanted to empower women with my lingerie. I design to please women, to make them feel beautiful no matter which size they are. I started designing different models to enhance the parts of the female body that were often forgotten, such as the bottom of the back or in between the shoulder blades. This is how my lingerie was conceived as innovative, and I believe it is important to continuously keep innovating and developing new designs.
RM: What is your single biggest inspiration?
MD: I find my inspiration in everything around me; art, literature, movies, choreographers, music, etc. I’m the creative director of my company but I also have a great team of creative people working for me. I sit with them to feed them with my ideas and inspiration. I go on trips to be inspired and also send my team to other countries to keep them discovering new ideas. They manage to translate my ideas and inspiration into beautiful lingerie.
For the Spring/Summer 2011 collection, I was inspired by all facets of the 1960s and ‘70s, like the French students in Paris, the fashion styles of the hippies, the music of that era – like Jimi Hendrix and Mick Jagger – the typesetters and photographers, like David Hamilton.
For my upcoming fall 2011 collection, my personal muse plays an important role.
RM: What is the thing you are most proud of?
MD: I am most proud of my daughter and of my company.
RM: What are you working on now?
MD: I’m working on the new brand segmentation of Marlies Dekkers. It’s a really exciting time for me. I won’t give away too much information but be prepared to be surprised!