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Formerly a red-light district, the Spijkerkwartier has been transformed to a much loved residential area in Arnhem.

Red lights have duly made room for impressive facades and the monumental buildings have all been renovated. We get why Humanoid decided to locate its head office in this neighborhood.

We'd like to point out that a behind-the-scenes tour at Humanoid is not an every-day occurrence. Creative director Sandra Harmsen is not keen on giving interviews: "I enjoy talking about Humanoid the label and the collections, preferably in an informal setting, but I don't like talking about myself." Meanwhile, she is guiding us through the huge office. We are happily admiring the many marvelous rooms. Eventually we find ourselves on the spacious top floor. Seated at a table and equipped with a hot pot of tea, the interview can begin.

 

Fashion-wise you were free to be you, especially if you loved legwarmers, shoulder pads or cut sweatshirts.

1981

 

Humanoid was founded in 1981 by Sandra Harmsen and Hans Boelens. These were the fabulous ‘80s. Punk music was blaring from the speakers and there was ‘no future’. Fashion-wise you were free to be you, especially if you loved legwarmers, shoulder pads or cut sweatshirts. It was around this time that Sandra discovered her sewing machine, and quickly getting orders for trousers and skirts. ‘Starting out, I experimented. I didn’t have a background in fashion, so my motto was: “don’t worry about the future, just live in the now”.’ She approached the business aspect in a similar, laissez-fair fashion. Not without success. Humanoid has become a very familiar name in the fashion world. Its collections are being sold in over 25 countries and continue to be made with the same drive and passion. Simplicity is the strength of these collections of essential basics, quality fabrics, and hidden surprising details.

 

You might have guessed the current day production process is quite a bit different from what it was a quarter of a century ago. Every new Humanoid collection starts with finding quality fabrics, and after that the design stage begins. After the design team is done, it’s the turn to the girls in the studio. Here the new designs are put together in sample fabric. Sandra has a substantial input (for instance, every button is discussed) but in the end it’s a team effort. The process is completed with the actual production of samples and a (hand drawn!) look book, intended for agencies and various fashion trade fairs.

During our interview we made sure to ask Sandra about Humanoid’s corporate social responsibility. Sandra told us in clear terms that Humanoid works with fixed suppliers, buys all its fabrics in Italy, and has nearly the entire collection produced in Europe. ‘We try to stay on top of everything as much as is possible when dealing with a large production process.’, she says. ‘And we have also started working with organic cotton.’

 

We noticed that Sandra’s outfit was head-to-toe Humanoid, most notably the oversized Humanoid wrap. Sandra usually wears at least one piece of her own designs. ‘My wardrobe is full with Humanoid. I’m just very pleased with my own pieces, in particular those made of silk or jersey. So comfortable!’

 
 

Before we leave, we just want to quickly learn about Ateliers Humanoid, a new label with a special bi-annual collection. The first edition will consist of collectables; the best showpieces Humanoid has produced throughout the years. 

There is also a desire to experiment, meaning the next collection could be completely different. Racks filled with the collectables surround us. Sandra swiftly grabs a polo-dress. ‘Here, this dress can be worn two ways: front facing and also back to front. Pretty cool, right?’ Very cool, Sandra.

 

‘Here, this dress can be worn two ways: front facing and also back to front. Pretty cool, right?’ 

sandra harmsen

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