Maarten van der Horst burst on to the fashion scene with his Hawaiian printed two-pieces at Central Saint Martin’s renowned MA show just last year. His playful take on holiday dressing – rich in colour and unashamedly cool – had our buyers in a sartorial spin and within no time at all a Topshop collaboration was in the works! Inspired by his SS12 collection sent down the catwalk as part of Fashion East’s London Fashion Week show, Maarten’s first capsule collection is set to transport you somewhere utterly tropical. As huge fans of Maarten’s holiday vibes, we headed to East London to catch up with the designer himself. Once you’ve read this interview, we're pretty sure you’ll agree that Maarten should be re-named Maarten van der Hot.
We know you studied at Saint Martins – what was your experience there like?
Like getting your behind kicked every single hour!
What do you love about being a young designer in London?
What gets me through the day is the love and support I get from amazing people like Lulu Kennedy and seeing girls actually wearing my stuff. Working with friends like Thomas deKluyver who always does the amazing make-up for my shows, or photographers-duo Meinke Klein and Laurenz Brunner who work on the graphics. There’s nothing that means more to me than that – because of them I enjoy being a designer. The support system in London is incredible! Topshop has supported me from the start and it’s so great to have this structural support from people that really want to invest in your future.
What excited you about collaborating with Topshop?
My dream has always been to make clothes that people can afford, that I can turn my weird ideas into something universal and understandable which is incredibly difficult if you’re a crazy head. Topshop enabled that and it was such a good ride. It’s so great to graduate and then immediately start working with a team that’s so professional and sincerely love what they’re doing. There’s nothing more inspirational than that.
Which elements of your mainline collection carried through to your Topshop collection?
My goal was to make desirable separates that people can actually wear. It’s just at a more affordable price level now. The cut of my clothes is essential to my brand. Everything is always cut very flattering and boxy. My signature isn’t just in the prints, it’s in the well thought out proportions and detailing.
How would you style the pieces from your Maarten van der Horst for Topshop collection?
I designed the Hawaiian shirts so girls can also wear them as dresses, which is so incredibly hot! Then we have some jersey separates, like a cropped top, cycling shorts and a big oversized tee in a heavy jersey. They are incredible for a night out!
What inspired your AW12 collection shown at Fashion East’s London Fashion Week show?
I saw this old performance from Madonna on Saturday Night Live which triggered this idea of mixing macho-like masculine tailoring with almost disgustingly sweet prints and overtly sexy bodysuits.
We know that Drag queens and tourists are your muses. Are there any other eccentric characters that give you ideas?
It’s more the clothes that they wear that inspire me. Cross dressers I find very fascinating and their strange ideas of femininity is what makes me completely obsessed with them. I like the subversiveness of dressing a girl in a shirt normally worn by big fat tourists in Bangkok. Drag queens like Divine inspired my graduation collection, in which I “dragified” garments by throwing Nylon frills over everything. So they’re not really muses, but they do almost personify my approach to fashion. Again, it’s all about escaping, whether that’s dressing up as the opposite gender or wearing Hawaiian shirts when everything else is grey!
You showed with Fashion East at the Topshop Show Space last season, how did you find this experience?
Topshop is such a great support for me and the rest of the Fashion East team. To be able to show our collections, our little babies to the press and buyers in such a beautiful location was a dream come true. It was incredible and I had to pinch myself that it was actually happening!
There’s a great holiday vibe to your work – are there particular places you have in mind when designing?
It’s always about escaping, about dreaming and escaping! As long as it’s far away, it’s good enough for me!
What first got you excited about Hawaiian prints?
I love the Hawaiian shirt and how humble it is in regards to the detailing and I love how loud it is in regards to the print. It’s so wrong! We have such weird associations with the Hawaiian shirt that makes it so much fun to work with. For me, the Hawaiian print symbolizes my wish to escape boring daily routines which is the perfect symbol for what fashion means to me; escapism!
Will you be branching out into new print themes, or can we expect more amazing florals?
I love how florals speak to so many people. But yes, in June I will present a new project that is all about my new prints! Lets just say there’s a lot more florals coming, but I have so many ideas, who knows what will happen.
If you had to choose between print and colour, which would win?
Ah! That’s the most difficult question ever! How could I live without prints or colour? Everything I make is meant as an antidote to everything grey! So I guess colour.
What’s your ultimate colour combination?
Any colour combination that makes you think twice!
What would you say are your design trademarks?
My clothes are unpretentious, is that a good trademark? When I design new collections, I focus on developing a vocabulary and for now that consists of shirts, masculine tailoring and a certain way of working with proportions.
Where do you find inspiration?
Oh gosh – everywhere. I feel like there are millions of ideas planted in my brain (which often drives me crazy) and then sometimes I see things that trigger something and spurs me on to stay up a few nights in a row trying to make the ideas visual.
What are your favourite inspirational movies?
I love everything by John Waters, especially Serial Mom and Female Trouble. I love Downtown 81 with Basquiat in it. Interiors by Woody Allen is one of my personal favourites and when someone breaks my heart (which happens way too often!) watching Annie Hall always makes me feel better!
What kind of woman do you aspire to dress?
Someone who has a great sense of humour and loves her clothes to be fun and sexy. But it also takes some guts to pull off some of my looks!
Who would you love to see wearing Maarten van der Horst?
My friends, I always design for my friends!
What’s your favourite thing to do in London when you're not working?
I love hanging out in bed all day, shopping for books, falling in love, drinking rum and ginger beers and going out dancing. I do have a lot of fun! ;)
Don't forget, Maarten's first Topshop collection has landed! Let us know what you bought and how you'll be wearing it.