Esther fell in love with photography at a young age. Her godparents gave her her first camera. ‘One of those old school devices, equipped with rolls, which – of course – filled up far too fast. Having taken the negatives to the store for a while, I resolved to develop them myself. And so, I built a darkroom in the attic, which was so cramped I couldn’t even stand up straight and had to twist my body to work the enlarger. But from that little room there ran a steady stream of black-and-white pictures.’ After graduation, the photo academy was the expected next step, but Esther’s choice fell on journalism: ‘I found myself drawn not just to the photo, but to the story behind the photo as well.’
For 10 years Esther worked as a journalist and documentary maker in the Netherlands and Latin America. She did interviews in overcrowded prisons in Honduras, filmed children living on the streets, and she worked on a documentary about the drug war in Colombia for which she trekked through the jungle along with guerrilla organisation the FARC.
‘The world was my oyster: each accomplishment was followed by another and I just kept going and going until every fiber in my body suddenly screamed out to me: stop!’ Esther ended her work as a journalist and went into therapy. ‘A tough but ultimately rewarding period. This was when I began to really listen to my feelings, and to live in a way that harmonizes with who I am.’
It was during this period, also, that soul-sister came into being. Esther has always had a taste for exclusive fashion labels. And so, one day she found herself looking for her favourite Italian boots, when she entered a store that was about to close its doors and looking to sell its entire stock. ‘I followed my gut: I borrowed the necessary money from my mother, bought up the whole stock, photographed all the boots in my friend’s old-timer, and went online.’ Since then, the website has grown organically into the online store that it is today. Over the years its digital shelves have been stocked by exclusive labels with a special story.
Of course, photography plays a large part in soul-sister. Esther herself photographs each and every piece. Her photos are characterized by their minimalism and their artistic character. She tries to see art in the little things. These features are reflected by the location of the shoots, and even more so in the way the piece is presented.
Esther is a free spirit and lives partially with her two sons in a village just off the Veluwe, and partially at the ocean. Besides running soul-sister, she also works as an energetic healer, after having experienced a spontaneous Kundalini awakening. Think of body de-armouring and traumarelease. 'I am very, very gratefull to be working with people and help them heal.' More info.
'For me this combination of jobs is ideal. In the beginning of the week I set the course for soul-sister together with the team, while the rest of the week I am able to focus on my spiritual practice and give sessions.'
She has a husband and two sons; fashion is her fourth love. Fast forward, in 2014 she started doing freelance work as a writer for soul-sister. 'Intended as a short-term thing, it grew into an extended collaboration.' Starting in 2019, she works full-time for soul-sister she continues to write most texts, manages the socials, and besides this she is responsible for the customer service, the warehouse and the daily ins and outs at the office. 'I like to give advice in an honest way, so the customer enjoys a purchase longer and more consciously.'
Today Annemieke lives together with her husband under the smoke of Utrecht. Both her sons have long left the nest. In her sparetime, she trains Crossfit, does running and walks a lot. A lot. 'Clears your head.'
She also takes interest in art, owns a modest art collection and likes to visit galleries, fairs and museums. 'My husband and I were once on the verge of taking over a gallery; it didn't happen, but I would have been very close to becoming a gallery owner.' She probably wouldn't have lasted long in the art world, because fashion just runs through her blood. She enjoys style, clothes in general. And so she still gets joy from working in fashion every day.
Being happy with and at your work, not unimportant, but so is a work-life balance. It may be an age thingy, but the need to 'live on the land' is growing in Annemieke, and if possible, self-sufficient. This is stll being considered, with her and hubby. Meanwhile, on weekends she keeps herself busy with an allotment garden, because yes, practice makes perfect.
With a great passion for fashion as well as a great interest in people, it was difficult to choose in terms of studies. She initially chose to study at the Social Academy in Nijmegen. But blood is thicker than water, so she studied fashion styling at the Artemis Academy in Amsterdam. She then worked for more than 10 years as a freelance stylist for photo productions.
In 2014, when she was ready for a new step, soul-sister came her way. And how wonderful, she was able to combine all facets: creating images, putting together collections and the contact with clients. After a brief foray within fashion, Lize is now back on the scene. She buys all the collections, and works as image editor for soul-sister photo shoots and visual statements.
'Bringing attention to the beauty of a product made with love is one of my big motivations. It makes me happy when everything comes together: brands that go together beautifully, putting the carefully selected photos online, and then - last but not least - a happy customer.'
In addition to her work at soul-sister, Lize is co-owner of STILL - Ambacht in de stad in Utrecht, a store and 'petit galerie' where the work of 25 Utrecht designers comes together. A place where craft becomes visible and where she wants to show how much time and attention it takes to make a product.
In between all the work she sometimes meditates and she often forgets to exercise. So her days are well filled, even weekends are often spent working. But that doesn't keep Lize from new challenges. 'I would like to pick up classical ballet again. And learning to sing, I'd like that too, they might like that at home.'