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Five Years Unveiled

February 26, 2024

Five years into the journey of Hul le Kes, and the exploration feels like it’s just unfolding; we sense we’re merely at the inception. It was March 2019 when we first stepped into the Dutch market with a fashion show during the Amsterdam Fashion Week. Shortly thereafter, we had the honor of dressing Duncan Laurence for his winning Eurovision Song Contest performance in Tel Aviv. Since those early days, much has transpired – from navigating the challenges of the COVID pandemic to the opening of our Hul le Kes Store in Arnhem. In this reflection, we take you through some highlights of the past years.

Before 2019

Let’s rewind to 2015 when Sjaak Hullekes and Sebastiaan Kramer, weary of the conventional fashion system, decided to pause and establish the Hul le Kes Manufacturing Studio in the Netherlands. This studio, now integral to us, was set up in collaboration with Rijn IJssel, a local education partner for seamstresses and assistant designers. Initially crafting for other designers, these years allowed Sjaak and Sebastiaan to step back, ponder, and redefine the entire system, shaping it in accordance with their vision.

For those who’ve been with us since the outset, you may recall our subtle introduction of Hul le Kes during the Fashion + Design Festival Arnhem and State of Fashion Biennale in June 2018. This marked our initial, albeit modest, encounter with our audience, a stepping stone towards reshaping the fashion industry narrative. However, the grander introduction occurred nine months later during the Amsterdam Fashion Week. Yet, Hul le Kes was still evolving then, and truth be told, it continues to do so…


Post our Amsterdam Fashion Week debut, we were approached by Duncan Laurence‘s stylist to design his outfit for the Eurovision Song Contest. The media buzzed about Duncan wearing repurposed tablecloths – a noteworthy start to conversations on textile waste.

In 2019, the Dutch Salvation Army reached out to us for a collaboration on textile waste. Together, we collected rejected white garments from textile waste piles, dyed them with restaurant waste, and sold them in a well-visited pop-up store in Amsterdam. It became a concept store, not only showcasing fashion industry color practices but also fostering discussions on waste. This year marked our initial foray into selling Hul le Kes garments via Margriet Nannings (Amsterdam) and Margreeth Olsthoorn (Rotterdam), engaging directly with wearers and understanding their perspectives. It was also the year we started working with refugees at the Hul le Kes Manufacturing Studio alongside students from various Dutch fashion schools.


As a new year began, we were selected as finalists for the Ignite Award by Anton Jurgensfonds with our Hul le Kes Recovery Studio concept. This selection propelled us towards becoming a social enterprise. Despite the challenges posed by the initial COVID lockdowns, it gave us an opportunity to delve deeper into our social and circular processes. We utilized this time to set the stage for new collaborations and prepare for the upcoming Recovery Studio.


In 2021, we unveiled our collaborative collection with Gray Label RNTD, focusing on dyeing, repairing, and upcycling previously rented baby garments for an extended lifecycle. This collaboration, ongoing to this day, is showcased in the Gray Label Restore in Amsterdam, featuring new Gray Label x Hul le Kes garments for future generations.

Come October, everything aligned for Hul le Kes to officially become a social enterprise, marked by the opening of the Hul le Kes Recovery Studio in Arnhem. The support from Stichting Doen, Rabo Foundation, and the municipality of Arnhem made this possible.


In 2022, we took the initial step towards internationalization by gradually entering the wholesale market in the Netherlands and Belgium. Our collaboration with the German brand Allude Cashmere began, and in March, we opened a pop-up store in Amsterdam with Gray Label for our Gray Label x Hul le Kes collection.

Yet, this was not our sole pop-up store; in June, we launched our temporary store in Arnhem at the same location where we are now based with the Hul le Kes Store. This was also the year when we introduced our current website and webshop. After navigating the challenges of the COVID period, Hul le Kes was ready to welcome new wearers and retailers.


Last year, we engaged in intriguing projects like Kruid tot Kleur and collaborated with Limo Hair, both centered around natural dyes. By June, our Hul le Kes Store became our permanent store location. We participated in the HeimTextil fair’s forecasting area in Frankfurt am Main, showcasing our work with natural dyes and mending. And we started our collaboration with Yumeko.

In 2023, we incorporated all the individuals from Studio 3, expanding our social activities to approximately 50 working places for individuals facing challenges in the labor market. The first Open Studios were organized this year, providing a platform for interaction (note: another Open Studio will take place this upcoming Friday, register yourself here).

2023 also saw our debut at the Paris Fashion Weeks and Pitti Uomo in Florence – vital steps in our international wholesale journey. We aimed to spread our circular and social approach to a wider audience.


At the onset of this year, our Creative Director was honored with the Cultuurprijs Arnhem for our contribution to the creative climate in the city. It serves as motivation to persist in our social, circular, and creative ambitions. This is also the year when we celebrate five years since introducing Hul le Kes at the Amsterdam Fashion Week, kicking off with our fifth-anniversary fashion show in Amsterdam in March. This Saturday we have a Casting Day in Arnhem, check the link for more information.

Over the past five years, a myriad of events unfolded within the entire Hul le Kes company – too much to encapsulate here. We didn’t delve into the beautiful interviews in magazines and newspapers or the radio and television appearances. Nor did we touch upon the incredible individuals working at Hul le Kes, famous people wearing Hul le Kes or the stakeholders providing us with support, knowledge, and materials to forge ahead on our path toward a sustainable future.

We express our heartfelt gratitude to all the people and organizations who have supported us over the years and, hopefully, will continue to do so. Bringing an alternative energy to the fashion industry isn’t easy, and it wouldn’t be possible without the backing of all of you!


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