What’s your story?
Hi there, my name is Kalinka Hählen and I live in Amsterdam. I’m a writer and sub-editor and I work for several magazines such as ELLE, ELLE Eten, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Quote and Oh and Dutch leisure blog Barts Boekje. I know a little bit of everything, something that has helped me immensely in my work. Fashion is of special interest to me, but do not ask me to dissect a mathematical thesis. I will fall short and disappoint hugely.
What do you find inspiring in fashion, art and design?
Although I’m a black raven at heart and dress as one, I’m drawn to different crafts (crochet, macrame, knits, mola, quilt, embroidery) and colours and patterns in fashion, art and design. I really love bright patterns created by Memphis Art member Nathalie Du Pasquier. Furthermore I get inspired by digital print artist Camille Walala, textile designer Celia Birtwell, traditional Dutch fabrics like Staphorster Stipwerk and Zeeuws Schortenbont and designs for Vlisco fabrics. I also adore twenties Tiki, the kind of kitsch use of colour by painter Vladimir Tretchikoff, or painters Edward Hopper’s use of colour and light and, on a darker note, painter Goya’s use of blacks, browns and reds in his darker paintings, like Saturn Devouring His Son. Patterns and colour combinations have a physical effect on me, it makes my heart sing. As does pink. Pink is always very inspiring.
Can you name three designers that you find inspiring?
Kiwi girl Karen Walker, who manages to make chic yet quirky designs and never fails to include a heather grey sweatshirt in her runway collection, which happens to be one of my biggest loves. Also I find most stuff designed by Fong Leng in the seventies inspiring, outrageous dresses with appliqué as worn by socialite and muse Mathilde Willink. Not only in terms of colour, pattern and craft but also in boldness – it seemed the sky was the limit for her designs. And lately I’m drawn to the frothy clouds of tulle by designer Molly. She’s great in making the most ethereal dresses look cool and sturdy.
What do you find lacking/bothering/frustrating about the fashion, art and design industry?
There is little I find frustrating – it seems most people are able to create a stage for themselves and their work and get the acknowledgement they’re after. There is enough special work to fade out non-descript fashion, art and design.
Name three countries you think were most special to travel to and why?
The States, especially New York, for the sheer size and diversity of it. And because it feels like you’re walking in every movie you’ve ever seen in your life. A lot of the icons and counterculture everyone grew up with comes from America, and seeing, tasting and listening to all of those things in their natural habitat – so to say – is kind of magical to me. As a child I loved rural France and Paris, I still do, because it’s so idyllic, romantic and – well – French. It seems people really savor their culture and are generally proud of it.
The fashion fest is about creating awareness. What does awareness mean to you?
Creating a countermovement against ignorance and narrow-mindedness. Starting small is key, I think. Change yourself, first and foremost. Being aware of who you are and how you perceive the world seems like a fair starting point.
With this blog we want to create awareness around topics like identity and diversity. Do you take these topics in account in your work, if so can you tell us how?
Well, yes. Written words, especially on paper, can come across really harsh. (Don’t know why; maybe the lack of smileys with every sentence or pun?) You don’t use some words when addressing people – anyone can imagine which ones. I always try to be accurate about how people identify themselves. For me it’s just fact checking.
How would you describe your relationship with style/clothing?
My relationship with style and clothing is tense. I have this fantasy wardrobe and dress sense in my head, but tend to wear just a uniform of basics, like black jeans and heather grey sweater. Although I love both items of clothing, it can be a little drab sometimes. Since I work for several magazines I’m well aware of fashion trends in the early starting stage and so by the time items hit stores I’m usually quite bored with them. So I keep buying things I know look good on me. Still, I’m drawn to various sub-cultural references, so I try to incorporate classic punk, hiphop, metal and teddy girl elements in my day-to-day outfits, with various success.
How has your attitude towards fashion, art and design changed as you've aged? How so?
I used to love fast fashion, the adrenaline of a cheap high street score. As I’m getting older I feel disappointed with the lack of quality and creativity of a lot of brands. It’s just a pile of rubbish mostly and something that adds up to accumulating loads of unwanted stuff. And who benefits from me buying all this stuff? Probably not the people who need it most. So, I buy less these days. Better quality items, more second hand stuff. As regards to art and design, there is no change. You just dig and delve deeper and you come across special work every so often.
Who/what do you look to for style cues and why?
What does your work mean to you?
As said, I look to sub-cultural style cues. I think the dress sense of individuals within a group of people who think alike or listen to the same music – beatniks and nozems for instance – is much more interesting than that of fashion victims. There are so many codes and references within an outfit from which you can deduct a certain preference or way of thinking. It’s loaded with meaning. Just look at the pictures of Dutch photographer Max Natkiel, shot in the eighties in the temple of pop music, Paradiso, those punk outfits are filled with meaning. So much to see and you grasp an understanding of what was going on at that time. Same goes for the patch jackets within the metal scene: they tell a whole story of musical taste and concerts visited. Every sub-culture worldwide has certain codes and styles one can draw from – to me this is very interesting.
Tell us about your journey from where you were born to where you live now. Looking back on this journey, do any significant lessons stand out?
I was born in Utrecht, but raised in the countryside, in a little village near Deventer. Most people there were simple folks, content with life. Once I reached puberty, I was bored out of my mind, couldn’t stand the lack of life in the streets. I always felt different, not suited to country life. I was relieved that I was able to move to a big city when I was sixteen. Your eyes can wander there, you have a whole world of possibilities and diverseness around you. My feelings towards growing up in the country are ambivalent. I hate the widespread small-mindedness in the people there, but I do tend to live by their golden rule: ‘Doe maar normaal, dan doe je al gek genoeg’, which translates to ‘acting normal is crazy enough’. I know: it can be very belittling, not acknowledging people’s need to thrive, but it’s very down-to-earth as well. I’m not easily impressed by big words and a loud mouth – get down to business first and show your worth. No need for bragging and boasting.
It’s probably part of my identity. I write, therefore I am.
What tends to keep you up at night?
My thoughts, much to my annoyance. A constant train of thoughts occupies my mind and it’s not helping anybody, frankly. Hush now.