Now on his seventh wardrobe, Ronald van der Kemp has the formula for RVDK down pat: a line of quasi-unique artisanal clothes, with an ethical touch. That last part’s the trickier one to pull off without being preachy. “It has to be a positive movement, just like women’s empowerment,” the Dutch designer said after his show. “Doing good feels good. That’s what it should be. Fashion is about fun.”
And fun it was.
Strong shoulders and sexy confidence were the name of the game. Without anchoring himself too much in any given time period, van der Kemp looked to rebellious girls, the kind that would wear with equal aplomb his deconstructed denims as she would a draped floral cocktail dress — and the cone hat that came with it, too.
There isn’t one single RVDK woman, and he saw to them all through a multitude of styles. A dramatic floor-length gown with a sweetheart neckline and voluminous sleeves looked referential to a home decade of big hair and ever-bigger personalities without ever looking reverential or passé. A white tuxedo shirt paired with immaculate embroidered denim gave a light/indigo jeans paired a coral shirt a run for their money. A trench cape and a leather jacket with blue and white western swirls were eminently desirable.
Van der Kemp’s signatures were there: ruffles, volumes, leather, heirloom couture silks, denim, along with quirkier repurposed choices such as cork, proving that nothing should be discarded. There were hand-painted mythical creatures crawling along a skirt, from a collage he made and had reproduced on fabric. One dress was made out of upholstery and looked hot, hot, hot. It would have regardless of its material’s origin.
Van der Kemp also harnessed the embroidery skills of Afghan and African refugee craftspeople through Dutch integration outreach program Refugee Company. That part wasn’t a deal clincher — the clothes were — but it added a form of substance that difficult to achieve with the clothes alone.
“Que je t’aime,” crooned the late Johnny Hallyday as RVDK’s women took a final turn around the room, for one last glance at this fun, fabulous outing. How right he is — we love van der Kemp indeed.