A Recap of the Weekend in October When Amsterdam Turned Blue

I’d been aware of the Denim Days Festival in Amsterdam ever since I started @rugged_style on Instagram and got the ‘denim bug.’ But the 5th edition this October was the first time I visited.

I’d always get envious around October as indigo flooded my feed when fellow blue bloods and denimheads flocked to the denim mecca of Europe. Although I’d visited the city many times before, timings hadn’t quite lined up, or cash was in short supply.

With an average of five pairs of jeans per person, Amsterdam not only tops the charts when it comes to denim ownership but has long been a hub of denim development. With brands like Denham, G-StarKings of Indigo and many more being based in the city, Amsterdam seems like the perfect host in Europe for Denim Days.

In this blog post, I’m going to recap the activities and events of the festival. From dipping our hands in indigo to meeting Instagram pals and shopping for denim bargains, this post highlights some of my favourite moments from a weekend in the ‘Venice of the North.’

Amsterdam Denim Days, Denim Days 2018, Will Varnam, Denimhunters

A Warm Welcome

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the event, especially travelling solo from the UK. But I knew there would be like-minded people with a common interest.

I also knew there would be plenty to see at Amsterdam Denim Days, and at locations throughout the city. I knew and had visited some of the Amsterdam’s heavy hitters in the menswear world, from Tenue de Nîmes to Concrete Matter, Red Wing Shoes Store Amsterdam and Patta.

I was also familiar with Denim City, a centre for innovation and craftsmanship since 2015. That’s how serious Amsterdam is about its denim, it has its own denim campus.

Amsterdam Denim Days, Denim Days 2018, Will Varnam, Denimhunters, Nick Williams, Denim Branded book, Denim City, presentation, book signing
Nick Williams, author of Denim Branded.

As soon as I arrived at Denim City on Friday night for the Denim Branded talk by Nick Williams—graphic designer, former Levi’s employee and self-confessed denim enthusiast—I knew I was in good company. Denim Branded takes a closer look at the details of denim and profiles everything from hang tags, rivets, zippers and associated branding.

From industry insiders, denim critics and people I recognized from Instagram, the weekend got off to a great start. The event and warm hospitality of Denim City set the tone for the weekend: welcoming, friendly, relaxed and fun.

Everyone I met was more than happy to talk about jeans, their connection to denim and their reason for being at the event. After the talk, the low-key gathering with music and drinks allowed time for attendees to hang out and discuss plans for the weekend.

Amsterdam Denim Days, Denim Days 2018, Will Varnam, Denimhunters, Denim City, denim flag
Denim City.

A Blueprint for Success

The first full day of the festival took place on Saturday at Gashouder, Westergasfabriek, to the west of the city. A fifteen-minute walk from Centraal Station, Westerpark blends green spaces, peaceful canals, eateries and independent shops.

The industrial architecture of Gashouder was the perfect venue for Denim Days: a large, pillar-less chamber with an iron roof and capacity of over 3,000 people. Littered with exhibitors, a denim marketplace, seminar space and social areas, the venue definitely lent itself to the denim madness!

@koenkuik for @blueprintamsterdam

With so much to see and on offer throughout the weekend, it would be difficult to pick a highlight. But if my selvedge depended on it, it would have to be the indigo dyeing workshop offered by Blueprint Amsterdam in collaboration with Soorty Enterprises and @robindenim.

The workshop was run by Cecelia Geraedts who created a custom print bandana, which was applied with rice paste and dyed in natural indigo. The workshop was free for all attendees and you got to try your (blue) hands at indigo dyeing and leave with your own bandana!

Judging by the crowds of blue bloods around the Blueprint Amsterdam booth all weekend, this was clearly a highlight for many who attended Amsterdam Denim Days. The workshop was supported by a talk from Cecilia on Sunday afternoon, which taught attendees about the indigo dyeing process and shared insights into Cecilia’s story.

Amsterdam Denim Days, Denim Days 2018, Will Varnam, Denimhunters, Benzak Denim Developers

From Retail to Reality

For those who wanted to indulge in some retail therapy over the weekend, the Denim market offered everything from vintage kimonos to chain stitch embroidery and reference books.

The market featured some of Amsterdam’s best stores for heritage and indigo product, including Concrete Matter, Zipper Vintage and CKX Studio. Local and leading denim brand, Benzak Denim Developers, also indulged crowds in a sample sale with some high-quality product at reduced prices (thanks to Lennaert for the super fresh 16 oz. Japanese selvedge!).

Amsterdam Denim Days, Denim Days 2018, Will Varnam, Denimhunters, Amy Leverton
Amy Leverton.

Throughout the weekend, Denim Days also played host to a number of talks and discussions from industry experts including the ultimate denim dudette, Amy Leverton. Amy kept the crowd engaged with discussions on ‘Denim Dudettes in a Denim Dudes World’, following the recent release of her second book in the Denim Dudes series.

Founder of Kings of Indigo, Tony Tonnaer also kept the show rolling with a presentation on ‘low impact denim’ and the KOI approach to sustainability in the denim world.

Amsterdam Denim Days, Denim Days 2018, Will Varnam, Denimhunters,

A Denim Community

Besides the workshops, products and talks, what really left an impression on me was the people. I left Denim Days having met people I’d spoken to via Instagram for many years, made new friends, and established new connections. This was an event which successfully brought together like-minded people in a warm, exciting and fun environment. What more could you want?

Amsterdam Denim Days aims to offer an ‘inspiring program’ where professionals from the denim industry and all denim enthusiasts get together to connect, get inspired and enjoy. The event really is for everyone and if you’re considering whether you should attend or not, hopefully this re-cap has encouraged you to make arrangements for ADD 2019.

Amsterdam Denim Days 2018, denim influencers
? from @calgeary by @teampeterstigter

From Friday through Sunday, not a minute went by where I wasn’t talking to someone, taking part in a workshop or just having a coffee whilst trying to take everything in. I was welcomed with open arms by anyone that I met and to me, that is the true highlight of ADD: The people.

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Unless stated in a caption, all photos are by me, Will Varnam aka @rugged_style on Instagram ?

Author

My interest in denim, style and heritage menswear stems from over 15 years of collecting vintage military garments. You can find me on Instagram (@rugged_style), amongst piles of surplus at the flea market, and here on Denimhunters.

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