PHOTOGRAPHY HANS & ALAÏA FONK | TEXT HANS FONK

They’re two cheerful young women, brimming with humor and creativity. They live and work in the Dutch town of Arnhem, but their clothing designs are shown on catwalks in all the major European cities. Twin sisters, working together closely to create their spijkers + spijkers couture and their more accessible sis collections. They recently celebrated their tenth anniversary as fashion designers with a spectacular exhibition at the Arnhem Museum of Modern art. The exhibition was devoted entirely to their designs and working methods, and bore the name: The Mirror has Two Faces. It also highlighted their first furniture designs. And their fashion show opened the 2011 Amsterdam Fashion week. In the museum OBJEKT©international met the sisters and talked to them about the ideas behind their work. And to get the ball rolling, a statement: “People should be more daring about what they wear. It’s better to buy original design than cheap imitations.”

They are cheerful optimists, Truus and Riet Spijkers, identical twins who stimulate each other in their work and, together, draw and design new clothing collections. Sophisticated patterns and colors are the basic elements of their creations, which are shown on catwalks in London, Paris, Milan and Amsterdam. They also design spectacles and shoes, and recently added a furniture line. For the Dutch company, Gelfort, they have designed seating elements based on the Tangram puzzle. Simple items of furniture, which can be used separately or combined into one large element. They plan to further extend their design activities with an outdoor furniture line. But back to fashion – about which the young women have always had strong views. Their main objective is to produce attractive garments that are modern and radiate a touch of timeless beauty. They draw their inspiration from strong women in art, literature, films, as well as in sport, and the times in which those women lived. Interestingly, for Truus and Riet Spijkers these are invariably women living and working in the 1920s. You might say they have a fascination with art Deco. Geometric shapes and offbeat patterns, which are not generally considered to be typically feminine, are powerful statements, which the sisters pursue in order to counter the stereotypical female image. With their eloquent approach, they highlight in their designs the theme of elegance. And that is brilliantly reflected in the exhibition The Mirror has Two Faces. To accommodate it, the Museum of Modern art in Arnhem had been practically emptied – and, on account of its great success, the exhibition had to be prolonged. Not only does the exhibition showcase all the collections designed by spijkers + spijkers in the past ten years, but also reveals what the ‘fashionista’ would not normally see: a look behind the scenes, an opportunity to find out what goes on in the designers’ minds, giving insight into their ideas, thoughts, role models and sources of inspiration. The many faces of this international fashion duo are the focal point – and the aspects that play a part in the process of inspiration, creation and presentation.

This look behind the scenes is stylish, surprising and designed as a magical experience by stylists and exhibition designers Maarten spruyt and Tsur reshef. The chief characteristics of their work are, in their own words, the graphic element, the references to the ’twenties, the apparent simplicity and the attractive design. Although the garments may, at first sight, appear simple, that is by no means the case. They are made in such a sophisticated – and inimitable – way that they certainly cannot be mass-produced. “Our creations are hard to copy. it would require good research and production companies. That’s a problem people don’t understand. it would actually be impossible for big fashion chains to stick to their stunt prices if they were to conduct that type of research themselves and develop their own patterns.” The Spijkers sisters agree: “People have to start appreciating attractive, sustainable things again”. Incidentally, the building where the exhibition was being held has a special history. it is located high above the Rhine river on an old lateral moraine on the outskirts of the town of Arnhem. at the start of the 19th century there was a wooden café with a teagarden at this striking vantage point, known locally as ‘reh’s place’ or ‘reh hill’ after the owner, Jan M. van reh. in 1873 the architect, cornelis outshoorn, well known for his design of several striking buildings in the Netherlands, such as the Amstel hotel, the Paleis van Volksvlijt (Palace of the People), the Fodor museum and various railway stations, built at this unique location a gentleman’s club for repatriated sugar planters from the Dutch east indies. he was instructed to “build a large hall [to accommodate] an orchestra, communal lounge, billiard and reading room, all with a large veranda and together providing space enough for 1500 persons, also a goods cellar and publican’s accommodation with immediate access to the club building”. The club did not last long and in 1920 the municipal museum of Arnhem was established at that location. There have been a number of radical innovations and extensions to the building over the years. Two major interventions have been the addition of a new wing in 1956 designed by eschauzier, and Hubert Jan Henket’s recent extension. he linked together several pre-fab units, covered them with a free-standing roof and created space for a shop, entrance area and museum café with a perfect view of the sculpture garden and the Rhine.