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No. 07 — Pien Barendregt of Pien Studios

No. 07 — Pien Barendregt of Pien Studios

Pien Barendregt is a fashion-trained textile artist, designer, and founder of her eponymous accessories brand, Pien Studios. Based in Amsterdam, Pien prioritizes quality over quantity in her work, collaborating closely with a network of mostly local artisans to craft enduring pieces with traditional techniques. Pien's collection champions the art of slow fashion and favors the importance of materials, resulting in truly treasurable pieces. Fans of all that she makes and her original sense of style, we were so happy to have a minute to speak with Pien about her journey of becoming a designer, her creative process, as well as the charms of her daily life in Amsterdam.

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP AND WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW?

I grew up in a small farm town in the North of the Netherlands. I moved to Amsterdam, the city I still call home, to study at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute. While studying I lived in NYC for a little over 2 years.

WHAT DID YOU STUDY AND WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO TEXTILE ART?

I studied ‘Fashion and Branding’ at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI) but I had always felt drawn to textiles and materials even before entering school. Fairly soon during my studies I discovered that my strength and interest were in the way I express myself and in the concepts I develop; by combining material, form and color.

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YOU SPENT A BRIEF PERIOD WORKING FOR A FASHION LABEL IN NEW YORK BEFORE RETURNING TO AMSTERDAM TO LAUNCH YOUR BRAND. HOW DID THIS EXPERIENCE INFORM THE DECISION TO START PIEN STUDIOS?

At AMFI’s ‘Fashion and Branding’ department I felt like I was missing something and had to find out whether designing would actually better suit my creative preferences. Therefore I started looking for a design internship in New York, which was challenging as I did not possess all the technical skills of a design student. For this reason I searched for smaller experimental brands in New York Fashion Week. I went to visit the brand Linder in NYC (now ‘Linder Sport’) and it was a real match! I learned everything from design to development, research, teamwork, production, and how to work with factories and crafts people. After six months, I was asked to stay and I became head designer of their accessory line with an intern working for me. Linder was the best thing that happened to me because I gained confidence and trust; and my question of whether or not I was a designer was answered. During this time I learned how to develop a design into a finished product, taking all commercial, production, and business aspects into account. They gave me so much freedom that I not only created designs but also decided how, and in which factory, the piece would be produced. At Linder I realized I wanted to start my own brand one day, but never thought it would happen this soon after graduating.

AS A DESIGNER AND ARTIST, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS? DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE PLACE TO WORK? 

I have a wonderful studio space in Amsterdam. Even though it's located in the city’s center, it's a very quiet space with high ceilings and a lot of natural light. I can let myself go while researching and playing around, without the need to finish by the end of the day. I can leave my whole process on my table and get back to it whenever it feels right. 

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SUSTAINABILITY AND "PACE" ARE BIG THEMES IN YOUR WORK – CAN YOU SPEAK TO THIS? 

Our concept is to design when the time is right. This can, for instance, be triggered by a new material, then leading to a design or a certain color combination I put together in one of my ‘textile pieces’. Since we are a small team and produce most of our items within the Netherlands, we are  forced (but also appreciate) to take it slow. Many production companies shut down and moved abroad where labor is cheaper. Yet, we keep discovering new initiatives and traditional hidden gems who take care of our production and create with us. We are so thankful for these collaborations! 

AT SOMMER WE ARE INTERESTED IN THE LONGEVITY AND IMPORTANCE OF QUALITY "BELONGINGS" THAT ARE KEPT, AS OPPOSED TO MASS PRODUCED ITEMS THAT ARE OFTEN DISCARDED. CAN YOU SPEAK TO HOW YOUR WORK FITS INTO THIS?

Since we are a brand that always flows between fashion and objects for the home, we don’t want, nor have to follow, the traditional ‘fashion calendar’. This gives us the time to create products that really matter to us. I think our community really feels when a product carries a lot of love and, as a result, they start treating our items like heirlooms. Something you keep forever and pass on to your children or something you sell with love to a new owner. The home pieces we design are almost like an abstract object that you can place anywhere in your home, while at the same time having a function.

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BEYOND LIFE IN THE STUDIO, WHAT DOES A DAY AT HOME LOOK LIKE?

I don’t spend a lot of time at home, since most of the time I work at the studio. The weekends are often filled with social activities, spending time outside and going out for dinners with friends. So a day at home feels like a special treat since I love love cocooning! This can include doing my laundry at a slow pace, taking baths, cooking good food and cookies, and taking long walks in the big park near my house with my dog Tako.

WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU IN A HOME? DO YOU HAVE ANY RITUALS OR BELONGINGS THAT ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU?

I think there is one important tradition at home I’ve developed. During mornings and evenings I light a little candle and play slow warm music. Light in particular can really determine my mood. I love the big windows in my studio, letting in natural daylight. But, as I am living in the Netherlands, where we often experience gray and rainy days, creating warm light in the form of (cozy) lamps and candles are essential to me! Another thing I find important in a home is personality! Small things that characterize the person who lives there, such as art pieces, things you collected while traveling or something unusual, like a fun weird colored door :) 

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IS THERE ANYTHING THAT HAS BROUGHT YOU INSPIRATION LATELY?

On the last day of January, I went to a big fabric fair in Milan by myself. At the beginning I was pretty intimidated to go to such a ‘commercial’ event with mostly sales people. But it turned out to be the opposite. It was great to meet people so close to the source of making textiles and craftsmanship. There were also many new sustainability initiatives. I was so inspired and realized again how important it is to me to start my work with the material, instead of the other way around. Being there really helped remind myself of that fact! Another thing I have been enjoying lately is baking cookies. I got inspired by my colleague who makes the best cookies. So I started doing it too and now I can’t stop, haha. It’s been so relaxing to do something with my hands that has nothing to do with my work, like kneading the dough. Then there is also the part of giving away the cookies, which makes people happy! :)

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WHAT'S NEXT FOR PIEN STUDIOS?

We have grown a lot during the past few years, evolving from just me into a company with a team. This also means the work pressure has become much higher and therefore I want to focus more inwards – as in building more structure within the team and company. I was used to doing everything myself in the beginning, so I’ve learned how to manage giving away tasks and control to others, which has not always been easy. But I am sure a lot of business owners in their early phase can relate to this. In addition to this, we are also expanding our product categories. One of these items – I can’t share yet :( – is going to be my favorite piece maybe ever made. I can’t wait to launch it, and I hope you will like it as much as we do!!!

FOR ANYONE WHO HAS INTEREST IN LEARNING HOW TO KNIT OR WEAVE AT HOME, DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR FIRST-TIMERS?

Step one; pick a really nice yarn that sparks something in you! I believe that good and fun work starts with the material you use. Then I would ask your friends who knit a lot, to teach you, or look up YouTube videos for beginners. Another important note; don’t set the bar too high!! Start with just learning how to knit straight pieces, like a scarf, instead of creating a sweater right away. Do this as many times until you feel comfortable enough and you are able to fix your own mistakes.You won’t get bored if you give yourself time to learn the basics, it’s so therapeutic that most people I know already love just doing that! <3

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