The architectural approach, the exquisite choice of materials to recreate different textures, and the use of 3D technology all define the work of the Dutch designer Chris Van Den Elzen. His professional career has been a constant evolution of collaborations, exhibitions and fashion shows since graduating from the Identity Department of the Design Academy in Eindhoven. A year later, in 2013, he began his relationship with FashionClash and, together with Judith van Vliet, two collections were born: Excidium (shoes & accessories) and Dark Depths. Both collections have travelled most of Europe to participate in different events such as Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Amsterdam, Berlin Fashion Week or Cologne Fashion Days.
Chris van den Elzen – Photo: Fanny van Poppel
Working this time with Liza Snook from the prestigious Virtual Shoe Museum, Chris has created an exhibition called “The Damn Pretty Dutch Shoe” as part of Dutch Design Week, an attempt to gather together on one stage new talent from around the Netherlands.
We here at So Catchy! Where Fashion Begins love his work and how he is able to create synergies and collaborations with his colleauges. He proves that joining forces can make you stronger.
SO CATCHY!: From 2012, the year you finished your studies, until now, how has life been treating you?
CHRIS VAN DEN ELZEN: My life has been pretty busy, the life of a starting shoe designer is a tough life. a lot of investments and hard work. But when the response of the people is good, it gives you the motivation to go on. It’s a real passion.
SC!: Damn Pretty Dutch Shoes has just finished. How did the first edition go?
CH: Damn Pretty Dutch Shoes is a new platform that I created together with Liza Snook of the Virtual Shoe Museum. We wanted to show the Dutch Design week crowd the amazing shoes that are made by the Dutch. Most of these shoes go on expo’s and shows worldwide and are hardly shown in the Netherlands, so we wanted to changes this and create the platform for the talented designers here in the Netherlands.
SC!: What do you think has been your greatest success up till now?
CH: I think my debut catwalk collection (Excidium) has been the greatest success from now, it is a collection in collaboration with Judith van Vliet, a Dutch fashion designer, the collection is about the decay of architecture. A nice feature about the shoes is the with woodpulp 3D-printed platforms.
SC!: You say that you are a ‘constructor’, what do you prefer to design?
CH: I see myself as a constructor, I build my designs, love to develop new constructions and therefore not to follow the normal path.
SC!: What was FashionClash 2015 like?
CH: I love the FashionClash Festival! both 2014 and 2015 where amazing! The organization, the crowd, the designers, everything is so well balanced! This festival feels like a warm welcome, a family. Everybody treats each other with respect and helps out where they can. I recommend this festival to everybody! Love!
SC!: Tell us about Excidium and the Dark Depths collaboration with Judit van Vliet.
CH: The Excidium and the Dark Depths collections are both collaborations with Judith van Vliet. The Excidium collection is all about the decay of architecture, how materials become more pretty by ageing. The shoes have an architectural design with a 3D printed Heel. The calf leather uppers make the shoe more comfortable. But you need to be a trained high heel wearer to walk these heels.
The Dark Depths collection is a easier heel to walk on, only a actual heel height of 9cm that makes the shoe really easy to walk on. For this collection i used two types of 3D printing, a Nylon laser print for the Black heels, and for the ice heels a PLA print that I printed in pieces in my own studio. The heels are inspired by the dark depths of the oceans. Judith and I want to show what beauty can be found in those deep depths. These creatures living under high pressure, with no perception of time, mostly existing out of jelly creating beautiful lights and shapes. These creatures are the angels of the sea.
These creatures need to be protected, so please everybody stop polluting the oceans!
SC!: Up until now, you’ve used mostly 3D printing to make your shoes. Do you think this is the future of footwear design and production?
CH: I love the options in 3D printing, but I always try to find the best option for creating the heels I design. For the Excidium and the Dark Depths collection 3D printing was the best option. In my designs I always try to find the right balance between high tech and handcraft. I love to experiment.
And about the future of footwear? haha that’s a hard one. I think new techniques will play a big part in the future of design in general. These techniques make things possible that weren’t possible in the past. But techniques like 3D Printing and Lasercutting are still pretty expensive. So there’s still a long way to go to use it in mass production.
SC!: Is it difficult to make a living being a young accessories designer nowadays?
CH: It is difficult for a young designer to make a living out of it, I started on my label 2,5 years ago and most of the designs I make are statement pieces.
SC!: Up-and-Coming Footwear Designers you admire…
SC!: If you hadn’t become an accessories designer, you would have been….
CH: A Scientist, in chemistry.
SC!: A person you would love to wear your designs…
CH: Valentijn de Hingh, a Dutch model, I think she can be a role model for everyone.
SC!: Define your work in a few words.
CH: Minimalistic uppers with architectural heels
SC!: Your next challenge is…
CH: A new collaboration is coming up, with a new designer, so stay tuned!
SC!: The perfect shoe is/must have….
CH: Depends completely on the setting, purpose and event, but it always needs to give you that little thing that represents you as a wearer.
SC!: Fashion is need of…
CH: Better care for the people that work in the mass production factories. You cannot tell me that a t-shirt that cost €3,00 in a store is made in a fair way.
Photos courtesy of Chris Van Den Elzen
Photographer: Fanny van Poppel
Translation and Layout by Michael Padilla