By Sanne van der Steeg
Still relatively unknown in the international fashion world, Jan Taminiau is emerging as one of Holland’s top designers, with his imaginative creations being worn by a variety of people, including Princess Maxima and Lady Gaga. After completing a master’s at the Fashion Institute of Arnhem and undertaking various traineeships at the corsetieres of Dior and Yves Saint Laurent, Taminiau decided to launch his own label, JANTAMINIAU. Two years later Taminiau showed his collection during Paris Fashion Week, one of the biggest events in the fashion calendar. From 2007 onward he has shown his couture collection there twice a year.
I first came across Jan Taminiau while procrastinating and reading blogs, daydreaming about the next pair of shoes I would buy instead of studying Mussolini and matrices. I was awestruck by his work and very surprised that his atelier was in Naarden, a mere 10-minute bike ride from where I lived. I had no plans to work in the fashion industry, and had never sewed before, but thought it would be interesting to experience how the industry worked, and to see what a designer’s atelier was like. So, I decided to apply.
A few weeks later I received an offer for a 3-day trial at their atelier. I accepted. At 9am sharp, I turned up only to find the place totally deserted. Twenty minutes later, a slightly disheveled man showed up, introduced himself as the manager and welcomed me to the atelier. I was very surprised at how relaxed everything seemed so far, as the fashion industry is normally thought of as uptight. The atelier itself was less surprising. It was modern and stylish, with inspiration boards and bits of fabric everywhere. The other workers were a mix of experienced seamstresses and younger high school interns.
The work itself was fiddly and quite tedious (I spent most of my three days creating tiny flowers out of sequins and beads) but the environment of the atelier and my co-workers make the work a lot more interesting. Whilst working, the co-workers would gossip about their love lives, and one lady in particular was very keen on sharing torrid details of her latest affair with a married man. The arrival of a pair of custom-designed heels for Lady Gaga also resulted in lots of excited chatter and squealing. It seemed I had intruded a weekly coffee meeting rather than working in a high-end designer atelier, not something I had expected from the fashion industry. But there was also work to be done, and when they were not gossiping, they would be talking about how the pieces were coming along and the fast-approaching deadlines. It seemed there was still a lot to be done, and even Taminiau’s family came in during the weekend to help out.
After the three trial days, the atelier manager offered me an unpaid internship for three months, which I decided to decline because as a student I was probably better off finding a paid job. However, the three day trial gave me a unique insight into a world of design. Witnessing just how much time and effort goes into creating these beautiful couture gowns has given me a new appreciation for work that is too easily dismissed. More importantly, it often seems that the fashion world is unreachable, and there is the idea that people who work in the fashion industry can be aloof, arrogant and elitist. But my
time at the atelier showed me that perhaps not all aspects of the fashion industry match up to their stereotypes, and that they are perhaps a lot more accessible than it seems. Sometimes all you have to do is send that email.