We e-traveled from New Amsterdam to (Old) Amsterdam to have a conversation with Renaissance woman, Sylvia van der Klooster, model/designer/stylist. Hailing from what Sylvia describes as “a small farmersville in the east of Holland”, her thriving modeling career accorded her the opportunity to live in New York City for several years. In those handful of years, I met her in one of my favorite neighborhoods—Nolita, Elizabeth Street to be exact (which also happens to be one of my most magical, treasured streets in all of New York City). Her striking beauty, towering, lithe figure and razor sharp cheekbones clued me in that she was a model. Nevermind that she has a comprehensive file of over 200 photos on Style.com, I was immediately drawn to her soft-spoken yet powerful spirit, the warmest smile, and a laid back sensibility of a modern day hippie.
Now based in Amsterdam, Sylvia has recently graced the cover of Dutch Marie Claire’s 20th Anniversary Iconic Issue, alongside other model notables including Doutzen Kroes, Kim Noorda, and Frederique van der Wal. She’s had plenty of practice, having been photographed in editorials for French and American Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and ELLE to name a few. Sylvia tirelessly walked countless runways for top-notch designers including Celine, Christian Dior, Dries Van Noten, Lagerfeld, Marni, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Versace, and Viktor & Rolf. Through the course of her impressive career, Sylvia was also muse to Dolce & Gabbana, having walked 17 consecutive shows, eight years in a row.
Sylvia’s story continues to grow as she determinedly delves into two more facets of the fashion industry: styling and designing. Her styling work has been featured in Dutch L’Officiel and her bags have already garnered press in Dutch ELLE and Dutch Grazia. Fellow friend and Chanel muse to Karl Lagerfeld, Saskia de Brauw, is an adamant supporter of Sylvia’s handbag line. If Sylvia’s previous incarnation as a model is any indication, we’re excited to see this Amsterdammer’s golden touch radiate within and throughout her new endeavors.
*Gold star kudos to Sylvia for answering the questions so eloquently in English; Dutch being her native tongue. (Editors’ note to selves: Doris needs to finesse her French, likewise with Vietnamese for Mark). New York mist je. Hartelijk dank, mooi Sylvia!
Doris: You’re a model, stylist, and designer! In what ways does each job creatively lend to the next?
Sylvia: I think the aesthetics and my love for fashion. Modeling is something that just happened to me—I think I made the most out of it and believe it opened my eyes even more. Since I was always interested in fashion (how things are made, the process of making a collection, a reflection of the time we live in featured in a collection), it is fascinating to me. And to create your own story with the styling—it is a creative puzzle that, with the right combination of people who are thinking alike, is very appealing to me.
D: You’ve been nominated for an ELLE Style Award and were on the cover of Dutch Marie Claire’s 20th Anniversary Iconic Issue. How did that make you feel?
S: It’s incredibly important to have support and that people are wishing you success and good things, in all aspects in life, so I have been very lucky. I am proud and honored to be recognized for my modeling career by being on that special Marie Claire cover with all those big names, and to have worked with some amazing, talented people (Steven Meisel, Peter Lindbergh, Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin, and Dolce & Gabbana). Also, getting nominated for an ELLE Style Award, just for dressing the way I like.
D: How were you first discovered as a model? What has been your favorite, most positive modeling moment?
S: I sent in some pictures to an agency in Amsterdam when I was 19, and they sent me to Milan to build up my book. A month later, I walked my very first show ever on my birthday for Prada! That was something that gave me a kickstart straight away.
D: You have a beautiful, namesake handbag line. Tell us a little bit about your creative process.
S: I went to the only ‘handbag-making’ school in The Netherlands. For all of the assignments, we had to make our own version of: the shopper, the satchel, the doctor’s bag. After a while you started so recognize everyone’s style. Mine tends to be nostalgic and timeless, vegetable and organic dyed leather, no crazy colors (love a good brown), simple and seasonless. Inspiration comes from pictures or movies that draw me. It can be a detail from something that makes a design base for a bag.
D: Where can one buy one of your beautiful handbags?
S: For now, I only sell my bags en privé. My site is in the process of being built, but you can contact me via email. I need to get production rolling in order for me to take the next step to approach shops. Now I make them all by hand, myself, from cutting the leather, thinning the edges, to sewing (with a machine) the whole bag and it’s quite time consuming together with modeling. I do have a waiting list and a lot of supportive Dutch people in the fashion industry so I think it’s a matter of taking bigger steps. Something I am a bit hesitant towards since I want to keep it small and supervised, but it’s something I will have to do.
D: How is life in Amsterdam different from New York?
S: Wow, sooo different. I love those cities both, but could only live in the one that I live in now. I miss New York for the inspiration, the craziness of sounds and action, and the smell. New York smells like anything can happen, in a good way. :) Amsterdam is cozy and the most relaxed city with relaxed people; a very ‘liveable’; city. On the fashion side, we have a lot to improve on, I think, but slowly it is getting there. I think the Dutch are too down to earth to care sometimes. They have to get on their bikes, so it has to be functional first and foremost. But it is a fantastic city to live in, no stress or crazy fastness—I like that.
D: Please let us know your much loved spots for inspiration, dining, and shopping in Amsterdam.
S: I love the new shop of Rika, Maison Rika. She sells John Derian plates which I love. I also love the shop The Frozen Fountain and Interieur by Piet Hein Eek. For dining, I like places like Café Zeezicht on Singel, van Kerkwijk on De Nes, Mitsukuni for sushi at Reguliersdwarsstraat, and the best Mexican is Los Pilones at the Kerkestraat. For clothes shopping, I like Van Ravenstein for Ann Demeulemeester and Dries van Noten, and Sky for A.P.C.
D: What do you miss most about New York City?
S: You can always wake me up for an avocado, white cheese burrito from Café Habana. Haha. But what I miss most—I really miss the smell, the ‘anything can happen’ smell. It’s just exciting to be there!
D: Who are your style icons?
S: I don’t think I have style icons but I really like Kirsten Dunst, our friend Jennifer Krako, Lou Doillon, and her mum, Jane Birkin.
D: What are five pieces in your closet that are always in constant rotation?
S: A vintage lace cardigan that I bought in NYC a while ago, a vintage shirt from the No. 6 store, my green corduroy pants, vintage Celine buckle boots, and my grey or brown Billie Bag by Mayle!
D: If you could have any designer create a wardrobe especially for you, who would you pick?
S: Wow, tough one!! I think I would pick Jane Mayle of Mayle. I interned there for a few months, had no clue what I was doing, but I loved her view on fashion so much. Something from the past in a modern way with details to die for, and she is a pretty cool lady as well.
D: What is your all-time favorite meal to make and share with others?
S: I am not such a good cook, but my boyfriend is. He has worked in his aunt’s restaurant in Belgium and he makes the most fantastic oven roasted organic chicken ever.
D: What are you currently reading, making, and dreaming of?
S: I am reading a book about the psychology of love, working on a new model for a shopping bag, and dreaming it will someday hang in Barneys!
D: Who/what are five people, places, things that are inspiring you right now?
S: Yoga inspires me to clear my mind and let new things in, my agent Mo who gives me good objective advice for my bags, and Amsterdam at night, on my bike. I love the peaceful feeling of the lights, bridges, and canals.
words Doris Ho-Kane
image Wiglius de Bie
image Philippe Vogelenzang
image Philippe Vogelenzang
image Versace Makeup Ad
image Paparazzi Models
image Inga Powilleit
image Garance Doré
image Sylvia van der Klooster
video Dennis Swiatkowski