Travel is a soul-bolstering, character-building endeavor, that’s a given. I happen to delight in one of the more frivolous side effects, the opportunity for wardrobe expansion and sartorial inspiration. A recent trip to the Netherlands meant plunging headlong into a situation that could only be called gezellig, a Dutch word that encompasses a feeling of well-being that comes from seeking delights with loved ones (view many more photos here).
I landed in Amsterdam and took a tram to meet my fiber-obsessed friends and colleagues Ragga Eiriksdottir and Stephen West. After trading presents and gorging on local candy and beer, we collaboratively composed outfits for our first strut around town.Rozengracht was our first stop, a street in the Jordaan district filled with craft supplies, professional grade cosmetics and my favorite find, The New Label Project. Stephen is a regular at the boutique, calling it a “real-life Etsy,” greeting Italian curator/owner Giulia Elena Bessone with a big hug and rapid fire inquiries about new products.
Later we ambled over to Penelope Craft, a thriving yarn store owned by American expat Malia Mather. The store is a cozy enclave full of delightful oddities like a macro friendship bracelet made with super-bulky yarn. Custom products like neon tapestry needles and Netherlands-themed kits designed by Mather herself round out the well-edited selection of American and European yarns. I can’t wait to knit my Noordermarkt Mittens.
After refueling with some street frites, we headed into the dizzying People of the Labyrinths showroom where the sun-soaked palette of spring enveloped us. Sugary pastels cut with pulsing touches of neon gave us a collective buzz. Affordable? No, but when it comes to wearable art, frugality is harder to uphold.
Before we could empty our wallets in exchange for their tie-dyed silk dresses, we moved onto Laura Dols a well-stocked, incredibly organized vintage store. Creaky narrow stairs connected colorful rooms organized by theme: childrens, wedding, Feestkleding or party clothes, linens, outerwear, etc. I limited my treasures to fur collars from the 1940s, but I was very tempted by a stack of fluffy mohair throws and a fur jacket that just happened to resemble a lopapeysa.
It was only a handful of hours and a skimming of what the city has to offer, but the Amsterdam vibe stuck with me. Carefree but considered, the locals look self-assured and colorful. This is a city that revels in classic design executed with exuberance. It makes total sense that Mr. West has landed on such stimulating stomping grounds. Wherever you are, grab some friends and get your gezillig on.
(expanded version of my Style Spotting column first published in Knitscene Magazine Summer 2013; reprinted with permission).