Dear Shaded Viewers & Diane,
I have always admired the professionalism of Amsterdam’s PR agency SCHOON DEN BOER.
Jan Schoon (Broek op Langedijk, 1980) and Martijn den Boer (Mijdrecht, 1969) are the founders and directors of this noble team. Their company just turned five last August and I have no doubts on discussing their road to success. ASVOF has been working together with them for a while, and I must say the generated pleasure goes beyond satisfaction. Primarily, they have supplied national and international clients with contemporary views on public relations. The selection of clients reflected on their brand lists say it all. Do not expect a supermarket when it comes to their assortment, instead, a deep representation on painstaking fashion, design and lifestyle entities.
Accidentally in August I travelled down the river Old IJssel on the road towards Laag-Keppel, a small Dutch town dated from 1404 with a medieval castle located in Gelderland – where I visited a watermill (mid XIX C.) that operates in combination with a small windmill (XVIII C.). The precious watermill-windmill duo mechanism proves minimal materials are necessary to activate other systems around, and collectively be part of a progressive working landscape. The comparison was inevitable here.
Where water and wind meet to build the imperfect future (no matter if it rains) is the mentality I have associated with SCHOON DEN BOER’s services. It’s a minimal mechanical operational system in public relations, but it works, bravo! No matter the assignment, whether its a fashion presentation in Antwerp’s MOMU (International Woolmark Prize), or a dinner with stylish guests at the Bright Side Gallery in Amsterdam (Ace & Tate); there’s always a natural feeling of social fluidity combined with business. These two Dutch men seem to know all about circular relationships, no matter who is the water and who is the wind. Meanwhile, join us for a summer chat with the duo!
ASVOF: Five years Jan & Martijn, congratulations! Where were you both when you were five years old, and what were you wearing then? Because we know fashion has a tie to upbringing.
JS(Jan Schoon): Thanks Marcelo! My grandmother, who was a very creative seamstress, mainly produced my childhood wardrobe. I have strong memories of the bermuda’s she created from the most unusual materials she found everywhere; from promotional fabrics (dryer-than-dry stiff cotton) that she received to decorate her wallpaper-and-paint-store to the curtains of the primary school my mum worked (granny ‘accidentally’ cut up the curtains my mum was supposed to wash during summer holidays). So let’s say little Jan wore a curtain Bermuda with a matching shirt with a paint splatter print.
MDB(Martijn den Boer): in Mijdrecht (my hometown) wearing a brown and orange raglan T-shirt with an Owl printed on the front, similar to the one my brother and sister had. Combined with brown rib flared trousers and last but not least I had long blond hair. My bother Sister and me often got dressed the same in those days. Like for the wedding of my uncle, my mother made 3 identical outfits from green Devoré curtains and rib pullovers.
ASVOF: Cute boys!
ASVOF: You are a business duo that strongly represents your client without overbearing and being too prominent. What’s the magic behind that professional seamlessness?
JS: We both have a different educational background. Martijn schooled in fashion, and I did in communication. Both with high interest in current fashion and communication around it, it matches. Our different characters, one more introvert, one more extravert, surprisingly proved to work very well together.
MDB: Know-how, humor, down to earth, a natural interest in people, working from the heart. I just like people.
ASVOF: Is there a SCHOON DEN BOER holly working philosophy you radically follow and exercise with your friendly staff? Please, unlock us your secret!
JS: When we decided to join forces in 2011 and rented our first office, we tore out all walls, ceilings, flooring etc., exposing the bare structures. We started everyday by saying let’s get rid of the bullshit. Well, that sort of became our mantra, even though we present it a little more elegant these days . We focus on the core of things, weather it’s a brand, a product or person, without adding useless frills and decoration.
MDB: I think it’s a combination of a broad interest (beyond fashion) and welcoming attitude. Todays styling assistant is tomorrow’s creative director. We want our staff to know how the business is working. For example, we assign everyone in our office to assist a stylist at a photo shoot, or assist an editor. Just to see and understand how images, articles, media are made.
ASVOF: What would you say is the key to being efficient and organized?
JS: Think about why you are doing what you are doing.
MDB: POST IT, papers; respond fast to answers, even if you can’t help a journalist or stylist. Getting things have done, be clear and honest in communication.
ASVOF: Do your clients appreciate how internationally aware your company is?
JS + MDB: We guess they do, we hope so. Most of the clients we’re working with stick with us throughout the years.
ASVOF: What is your guys’ favorite summer beer? Being Dutch we fully trust your taste! Please, advise!
JS: Hmmm, after a month of no alcohol, this is a delicious thought. I recommend “Mannenliefde” by Oedipus, a nice combination of bitter, fruity and spicy, without being complicated.
MDB: I drink every kind of beer. More important is with whom I’m drinking that beer.
ASVOF: That sounds sexy Martijn!
ASVOF: Pretend it’s five years later now, you need a bigger space and there’s a huge budget for a spectacular project. Here are five types of wood used to construct Dutch watermills and windmills. What piece of wood would you ideally use for which part of the new dream furniture?
JS: I want to work from a tree house!!
MDB: Everything in Larix. A beautiful shade of red, it’s also for outdoor use. And acacia you shouldn´t use, for environmental reasons. Just its syrup, that is delicious!
ASVOF: It might be hard sometimes to educate your folks on behaving properly before a show starts. Seating is often a battlefield. I have seen guests taking home four or five goodie bags in their hands, when actually is one per person. How do you measure and control the wild side of those unpleasant guests?
JS + MDB: Ha! Just be honest and explain in a friendly way that they’re acting a little rude. We treat them like people at our party (well, actually our clients), so they should behave. Of course we’ll make fun of them afterwards.
ASVOF: What’s your opinion on being a TV icon by night and suddenly flicking over to be a fashion designer by day? Convincing consumers you are a fashion designer, would you feel honest in those shoes?
JS + MDB: Not at all.
ASVOF: What would be the top ten established Dutch designers to work with?
JS + MDB: Next to the designers we’re already working with? Iris van Herpen, Lucas Ossendrijver, Fong Leng, Pascalle Gatzen and Ronald van der Kemp.
ASVOF: PR is a high profile business these days; it demands a solid relationship with press and editors. And above all, without taking too much risk to build relevant and interesting bridges for clients. Its quite a high maintenance endeavour right?
MDB: I’m in the business for over 15 years now; I know a lot of press/editors from the start and grew up with them. A lot of them have become friends over the years. I know what their interests are (also beside fashion), so that makes the relationship very strong.
ASVOF: What happens when you have a potential new client you really want on board but does not match your selection criteria. Do you negotiate your terms or stay strong to your beliefs and just say no?
JS + MDB: It never really happened – we actually always trust our guts and rarely was mistaken in getting the right impression from our clients. We talk a lot with each other before starting to work with a client, and always follow our instinct.
ASVOF: Is there a future for young designers who have a big social following and are popular on Instagram, but don’t really produce work?
JS: This huge followings are very tempting and promising for many people, but to me it doesn’t guaranty good design. Fashion is not only supposed to be liked, but to be loved and worn.
ASVOF: Your Company includes services such as brand consultancy, digital strategies, and event production. You operate digital but also on a person-to-person basis, which I think makes your identity attractive: Is it exhausting to see and great us the whole year round with three kisses every time?
JS + MDB: We have a natural interest in people, so we take it from there. It’s not exhausting to us.
ASVOF: What do you do when you get home after a busy day?
JS: Cook, eat and drink. And I like watching movies too.
MDB: Spinning, very relaxing!
ASVOF: Can you tell me five of your favorite menswear designers? Only five guys!
JS: I pick Raf Simons, Junya Watanabe, Lucas Ossendrijver, Chitose Abe and Christophe Lemaire as my favorite designers.
MDB: I don’t have particular favorites. It depends on the season.
ASVOF: What are your five favorite vegetables?
JS: Potato, beetroot, Brussels sprouts, tomato and paprika (or are these fruits?)
MDB: Leek, parsnip, spinach, Brussels sprouts and beetroot.
ASVOF: No matter Jan, vegetables or fruits are all sacred anyway!
ASVOF: What are your five favorite flowers?
MDB: Dahlia (the dark red ones), Lily of the Valley, Parrot Tulips, Carnations, Magnolia.
JS: I agree!
ASVOF: What is something that people usually misunderstand about PR agencies?
JS: That we are only operating on the surface of fashion.
MDB: That we drink champagne all day.
ASVOF: A lot of people expect fashion people to be divas, and not everybody seems very laid-back and approachable. Who is more down to earth and passionate in the system?
JS: I’m not going to give you names. But in general I learned that I like fashion people that also appreciate good food.
MDB: I’m not judgmental, and without prejudice. I treat people with respect and expect they do the same.
ASVOF: It was a pleasure talking to you guys as usual. Thanks, and when do we see each other next?
JS + MDB: Want to join for a nice presentation of the next generation of Dutch designers? You’re invited to a anti-glitter-and-glamour presentation in a homey style by Schueller De Waal, Lisa Konno & Karin Vlug, Barbara Langendijk and Camiel Fortgens. The new season has started; we hope to see you around!
ASVOF: We will all be there!
Jan Schoon and Martijn den Boer bike every working day along the Oudeschans canal to their Amsterdam office, they represent the future of Dutch fashion PR. No doubt!