MEET HUL LE KES W/ SJAAK AND SEBASTIAAN
Established by Sjaak Hullekes and Sebastiaan Kramer in 2018, Hul le Kes is a brand with purpose, existing not for profit but to make and meaningful impact on society and the industry. Seeing the beauty and character in imperfection, Hul le Kes take a holistic, and circular approach to design, creating pieces that will live many lives. We talked to founders, Sjaak and Sebastiaan, about changing our societies views on perfection, and valuing materials and people that don't 'fit the box'.
"We believe our Western society is too much focused on perfection. Perfection within people and within the products and materials we use."
What 2 words best describe Hul le Kes?
Imperfection & social.
When did you start Hul le Kes, and what inspired you to?
We founded Hul le Kes somewhere in 2018. We wanted to create a new focus on fashion; for ourselves and others. For Hul le Kes we are inspired by the many beautiful materials that already exist and we wanted to add more values to fashion. Like the beauty of imperfection, of mending, of antique materials, of stories and much more. That is why most of our garments have their own clothing passports too. We ask people to write their own stories about the piece of clothing in there. Then when one is done with the garment, it can be returned to us where our people from the Hul le Kes Recovery Studio will mend and/or dye the product. And then the product will go to a new owner again. With Hu le Kes we want to show there is a beautiful alternative to the current fashion system; one that is social, local ánd circular.
Founders Sjaak and Sebastiaan / Sjaak with Recovery Studio team member.
Tell us about the team behind the brand
Sjaak Hullekes is Hul le Kes’ creative director and co-founder. The other co-founder is Sebastiaan Kramer, he is the managing director. At Hul le Kes all is done in-house, so there are quite some people working for the brand. Most of them work at our studio, making the garments. Then we have a design assistant/productmanager and an office manager. As Hul le Kes is part of a social enterprise there is also a person working on the coordination of our Hul le Kes Recovery Studio. And besides all these people we have people working at our studio’s with a distance to the labor market, for instance with short- and long term mental problems. Our manufacturing studio we set up together with Rijn IJssel, the local vocational education institute. There we also teach students and interns about the making process. All together there are about 30 people working at the company.
What’s playing on the office / studio stereo?
That all depends on the exact location. For instance at our Hul le Kes Recovery Studio there are people working with mental problems, from burn-outs to extreme stress or autism. They work in serene silence, so no music is heard there. At our manufacturing studio you will hear anything, nowadays it is a lot of 90’s music but sometimes they are into techno or anything else.
We define good design as ‘making positive impact on people and the planet a key input in the design stage’. How do you approach this at Hul le Kes?
At Hul le Kes we work in a very holistic way; meaning we work on this subject on multiple levels. To start with our use of material; all materials we use at Hul le Kes are existing materials. From antique linens to vintage wool blankets and other secondhand or dead-stock materials. Then another thing is that we make all our clothes locally, at our own manufacturing studio in Arnhem. In this process we work together with students and people with a distance to the labor market. And, as said, we have our Hul le Kes Recovery Studio; a recovery studio for people and textiles. Circular and social design is integrated throughout our whole company, even in its business management. At our company there is no fixed hierarchy for example and we want people to express their emotions and characteristics. Like we want our clothes to do, and our consumers.
The positive impact you aim to make goes beyond clothes, and you recently launched The Recovery Studio where people can work with you to repair clothes in a safe space that embraces mental wellbeing and recovery. Can you tell us about that…
We believe our Western society is too much focused on perfection. Perfection within people and within the products and materials we use. That focus means that there are so many people not fitting that box of perfection, if not all. There are more and more people with burn-outs, depressions, stress or in social isolation. Also others with, for example, autism do not fit the box of perfection. We think that is a lack of our society, because we believe everyone has, and wants to have, a purpose in this world. That is why we launched the Hul le Kes Recovery Studio, and work with people with a distance to the labor market throughout our company.Then the same problem is going on with the materials and products our society is using. Everything is thrown away so easily. With textiles that means people throw away a piece of clothing when there is just a small stain or tear in it. This means global textile waste is growing and growing. We think many of those materials are still to be used, with just a little mending or dyeing. So that is what the people at our Recovery Studio do; they repair textiles while they are at the same time working on their own repair. Giving purpose in both ways; to people and to our environment.
To champion transparency, we always ask designers - what would you like to do better, or are you working on improving?
We want to make sure everyone is paid as good as possible for their work at our company. Also we want to hire more people that do not fit in the mainstream-box of our society. But for that we need more turnover; and that is what we are working on at this moment the most. Not more turnover to have more profit, but more turnover to higher wages within our company.
Where is Hul le Kes going in the future?
We are working on opening more Recovery Studios. Next to the one we have now in Arnhem in the Netherlands, we are talking to other cities about opening a Hul le Kes Recovery Studios. Next to that we will open a very first Hul le Kes store soon, in Arnhem. It will be called ‘Hul le Kes Privé’, because it will be a store that is open by appointment only so we can focus fully on helping our customers. Then of course we are working on more collaborations with the big textile waste processing companies to make sure we can upcycled more and more. Also we are working on a next level collaboration with Rijn IJssel on vocational education.
As we all know, the fashion industry is responsible for huge environmental and social issues. How would you like to see the industry change and progress?
Everything should become circular. With that we mean not only the process of material handling but also the way of working with people. Less focus on profit and more focus on doing good for the environment and society.
What advice would you give to people who want to be more responsible when they’re shopping?
Think not only of what you need but on what is good for the environment and other people's needs. Try to look at where it is made, on the type of company it is. And look at the material; upcycled and biological are simply the best things to buy at the moment. Try to avoid synthetic materials as much as possible.