Amsterdam is quickly shaping up to be the Denim Capital of Europe. This 17th century village is home to the world’s first Jean School. iconic denim pioneers such as Jason Denham and Tommy Hilfiger operate their flagship stores in Amsterdam and it now plays host to an annual five day festival dedicated to the fabric.
Tenue de Nimes is Amsterdam’s treasure chest for timeless, functional pieces of denim wear. Rene Strolenberg and his business partner, Menno Van Meurs, opened their first independent denim shop in 2008 and since then they have opened another store and launched a publication dedicated to denim wear.
Their stores were founded on the basic principles of quality, function and simplicity that are rooted in the history of jeans. Evolving on from a solely denim shop, their stores have developed into places where they sell what they describe as ‘The Good Things in Life’.
I met up with Rene in their newest store on the bustling street of Haarlemmerstraat
WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND TENUE DE NIMES?
We opened our first store in 2008. For me personally, my love for denim started when I had my first job. I was only 15 and my mothers friend had a store where they sold denim jeans and I would vacuum clean the floors on a Saturday. That was the first time I really saw the blue gold and was completely sold. Since then I have always worked in stores or fashion and I was working for G Star the last seven years previous to opening Tenue de Nimes. My business partner and I thought we had to do something a bit different to the rest of the world and so Tenue de Nimes was launched in 2008.
WHAT MAKES TENUE DE NIMES DIFFERENT?
We were quite fanatic about buying for ourselves before we had the store, almost to the point of obsession. We would often go to certain shop, sometimes to buy, but mostly just to look. What we found was, that although everyone in the store shared a passion for the same thing, there was a sense of arrogance around them because they worked at the store and we didn’t. That whole philosophy for us was a no goer. We really wanted to create the feeling that we all shared a passion for the good things in life and we want to educate people about the denim. To us, approachability is key.
SO WHAT DOES ‘THE GOOD THINGS IN LIFE’ MEAN TO YOU?
Well, we adopted this tag line after opening our second store. We started off being just a denim store but now with this bigger store, it’s not only about denim any more. Of course, the denim is the red line and that’s where our heart is but it is so much more. People come here to feel part of something and it’s those people that understand denim, they appreciate that I have flowers on the table and a certain kind of magazine in the store to appeal to a particular lifestyle, or a like-mindedness, something like that.
SO THAT’S WHY YOU HAVE MADE THE MEN AND WOMEN’S ENVIRONMENT SO DIFFERENT IN STORE. THE LADIES FLOOR HAS FLOWERS ON THE TABLE AND THE MENSWEAR IS…
…The manhole, down the stairs to the basement to the man cave! This store has been opened for two years now. Our older store attracts a different type of lifestyle. Different types of people. It is a more denim focused environment whereas this store is tailored for my more fashion kind of customers. We opened this store in the beginning because we were really weak in selling women’s clothes, denim, everything… and for us opening another store is like getting a tattoo, it’s an addiction. The kick that you get from having a thought and then making it what it is, that’s insane! So when we had the excuse for ourselves that we wanted to open another proper women’s department, we launched our second store.
DO YOU THINK THERE ARE ADVANTAGES TO BEING AN INDEPENDENT STORE?
Definitely, I mean the reason we opened the stores was not for the money. It was down to what we thought would be the nicest thing to do in life. The love we have for the stores comes through and this is something that can be lost the bigger a company gets. We never want to get to the big scale where we can’t talk to the customers, our philosophy has always been to be here to help and have a relationship with customers and staff alike.
Working in a clothing store needs to be seen as a profession. You need to be able to sell but you also need to be a personal shopper, as well as a stylist. We want to get back to the time where people are proud to say I work in a clothing store and we are seeing it more and more. In the coffee industry, the cocktail makers, there is a certain amount of connoisseurship building up again and people are proud and passionate about their service based professions. There is a craft involved in working in our store and we are proud of that, we hope it is something that catches on.
Visit Tenue de Nimes online at: www.tenuedenimes.com or pop into one of their stores in Amsterdam!