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Comment 14 SEPTEMBER 2012

'It's funny to see Beyonce in my clothes': Maarten Van der Horst on success

It feels surreal to be chatting to the fashion world’s newest darling on a concrete step behind a building site off East London’s uber trendy Brick Lane.

But it's Maarten Van der Horst  "favourite place to do interviews" and he doesn’t strike me as the typical fashion designer. Shy and unassuming, he puts careful thought into each of his responses and is polite to a tee.

We start at the beginning. Born in the Netherlands to parents he describes as "quite yuppie and really not very creative", he had his sights set on the bright lights of the world’s coolest capitals.


"I always wanted to go to London or New York," he says, smiling. "I was always bored with everything around me and I really wanted to have an exciting life." 

Mission accomplished then. Maarten has certainly experienced a whirlwind year.

Just over a year ago, he was still finishing up his Masters at prestigious design college Central St Martins.

Almost immediately after the Dutch man's graduate show, he was picked up by Lulu Kennedy, the founder of Fashion East – a show that is touted as a platform for up and coming designers.

His first collection, with its funky girl aesthetic and whacky prints, made waves and the Hawaiian shirt soon became his signature.

Now, he has two – soon to be three – London Fashion Week shows, a Topshop collaboration and an endorsement from megastar Beyonce under his belt.

I get the impression he still can’t quite believe it.

"It was always my…" he starts, before pausing to think. "No , it wasn’t even my dream," he continues. "Because I just never thought it was even possible."



Maarten’s overnight success has, however, come at a price.

"It was also quite tough," he says. "I lost a lot of friends because of it."

"It’s something that everyone is desperate for and when you get picked, it’s kind of isolating. It was strange – I definitely found out who my real friends were."

Nevertheless, he is delighted with how things have panned out. And it must have been an incredible honour to know that somebody as big as Beyonce owns one of his designs?

"Yes, it was cute," he says with a modest laugh.

"It was nice to know that she herself picked it out, not her stylist. And it was funny to then see her wearing the blazer in some family photos."

But Maarten doesn’t have his sights set on celebrities. He is more interested in dressing the girl-next-door.

"I’m always more honoured if I see my neighbour wearing something I designed. The girl down the street or the 40-year-old neighbour – that’s who I want to dress."

So how is he feeling about unveiling his latest confections to the unforgiving fashion world on Saturday?

"I’m very nervous about it because it’s very personal," he said. "But I am equally excited."


And he has found that his personal life is helping him to stay calm.

"It’s the first time I’ve done a collection while I’m seeing someone, and I’ve realised that having a distraction in your personal life is great," he says.

"It divides the two worlds and spending time with my boyfriend helps me create distance from my working life, which is definitely healthy."

It’s obvious that he puts his heart and soul into what he does, spending "hours and hours in the library doing research", which is his favourite part of the whole design process.

I am keen to find out whether receiving the finished product also ranks highly, but Maarten is a perfectionist.

"No, you see the finished product for me is never perfect, which I find really frustrating. I always find things that are wrong."

But seeing his prints on fabric is "so, so beautiful. And I really love the moment when we’re dressing the girls for the show and everything is coming together".

Though he is too polite to acknowledge it, I am aware that his Blackberry is buzzing non-stop. So I wish him good luck and let him dash off back to his studio to put the finishing touches to his collection.

A collection I am excited to see; Remember his name, Maarten Van der Horst is one to watch.

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