Meet Heleen & Debbie from Tout Près

A sneak peek into the design atelier

Introducing our SS23 collection, a collaboration with Tout Près, and a sneak peek at our upcoming FW23 collection!

At the atelier, we work with talented designers to create unique pieces from scratch for our wovens collection. We take pride in making the first proto pieces ourselves, setting us apart from brands that rely on 'white label' collections commonly found in the market today. Let's get to know them better!

Meet Heleen & Debbie

Debbie: We met 7 years ago when I worked at Christian Wijnants, I did production and Heleen was my intern, in the meantime we have become friends. After 3 years, I started as a freelancer with more of a focus on patterns and development for other brands. Very soon that started going really well and about 2 years ago Heleen came on board which meant that we could then do the whole production part as well.

Heleen: We do everything in the atelier: from design, development, production sourcing, sourcing materials to the finished product. We find this gives customers peace of mind because we are close to production.

What is your background? Have you done any particular studies?
Heleen: I started out as a freelance interior architect. I worked for a company that did retail interior design but I was always more interested in the collections in the shops. *laughs. After this, I started studying fashion management because I really wanted to and I ended up in production at Christian Wijnants. Now I’m also studying footwear which I’m also very interested in.

Debbie: I studied fashion design in Amsterdam, I’ve been passionate about it forever!

How do you work together (as a duo)?
Heleen: I source the fabrics and the organizational side of things.

Debbie: I’m more of the creative one, I do the designs and make sure the technical package is complete.

After 2 years of working together, we’ve learned that playing to everyone’s strengths and passions are the best way of working.

How do you work in the atelier?
Heleen: People come in with mood boards and an idea of what they want, and then we work with that. Then we do research, Debbie starts sketching, and we start making suggestions, present fabrics, do another sourcing round and start working on the first designs. Then we make a prototype, and once it’s approved, we make a technical sheet, get samples and, a production order is made. Minor adjustments are made and then the design goes into production.,This process happens in 3-5 months as we work on 2 collections per year.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
Debbie: Developing a new product and seeing the results very quickly. Identifying the brand’s unique quality and bringing that out in all the collections. You can be in all these different worlds and that’s really nice. I also really like going to producers to see how they work and getting to know each other well.

Heleen: For me, the project-based part is also very nice. Every time, you can dive into a client’s creation and every client is different. Our clients are very inspiring to us! I also love to see how things are made, regardless of what it is. My grandmother used to be a tailor and I look back on that with warm feelings. So fashion has always been in my life.

Have things changed in recent years?
Debbie: We started working together during Covid and it was all or nothing back then. There was a natural rhythm that had been completely pulled apart. We still haven’t completely gained our rhythm back.There used to be busy and quiet periods and we could easily work on our own brand projects in between, but that doesn’t exist anymore. Everyone is more geared towards pushing collections and drops doing. The classic system used before Covid has changed a bit in every area.

Heleen: During Covid, there was a counter movement of buying fewer pieces, but we feel that this has completely switched again. People are buying a lot more again. People want to see new things all the time.

How do you guys see the future?
Heleen: We are growing. We want to be able to digitize the patterns so that will require some investment. This will give us more space, freedom and time. We would also like to add footwear and ideally, one more person in the team and grow our own brand as well!

In terms of the future of fashion, I see a very hard dichotomy: there are the people who want to buy timeless pieces and be more conscious about fashion, from an ecological and fair trade perspective, but I also see a lot of people who don’t want/can’t pay for it because of the rising prices.

Debbie: people are becoming more conscious about the fashion footprint, even younger people are doing it more and more. Second-hand and reselling will also become more common.

How is the collaboration with LN Knits?
Very smooth and spontaneous. Ellen knows very well what she wants and where she wants to go with
her brand which also makes it work very nicely for us. She also values her customers highly so she really
wants to offer quality. The expectations are always very clear and we always find a way to work well together.

What are the trends for the summer?
We are a bit outside of that because we work for different brands, we are always very brand-specific when it comes to this line of thinking. We do see a lot of linen for this summer. With us, every customer is also different so we have very little overlap in terms of trends or designs.

Interested in discovering more? Have a look at our first collection together, SS23, now live and selling fast!