May 26, 2017 | By Samuel Trotman
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Guido Kerssens has rock star status. No, that’s not an understatement. He is incredibly revered in the world of denim, and in Amsterdam (the jeans capital). The reason? His role as Denim Master at Amsterdam Fashion Institute. In this role he has managed to inspire and aid in the development of countless fashion student prodigies, and he’s also had time to nurture a successful kids denim brand, inspired by his daughter Oyunaa who was always looking for jeans to wear that were as cool as her fathers.
Guido Kerssens‘ commanding presence, accentuated by his vintage inspired denim style (tattoos and all) leaves a lasting impression not easily forgotten (I studied with him, so I should know). His presence certainly helped rectify any question about the direction of my life and what I wanted to represent. I wanted to be a part of anything that would allow me to where dope jeans, dawn killer tattoos while effortlessly command the admiration of years of AMFI students and respect of peers and faculty.
Guido is fortunate enough to lead Coordination & Production for AMFI’s Denim Minor programme where he shares responsibilities with Sean Chiles, leading Coordination & Design, Fiona Cullen leading Denim Design & Team Lead and Jo Watson leading Denim Branding & Team Lead.
AMFI offers third and fourth-year students from Design, Management and Branding the opportunity to attend a 20-week in-depth programme focused on the world of denim. Graduates of AMFI have gone on to do amazing things including creating their own denim brand, big up Tony Tonnaeur founder of Kings of Indigo K.O.I.
And, when Guido is not inspiring the next generation of denim talent he is working on his kidswear line. So the story goes, on a visit to Japan in the denim city of Kojima, Oyunaa (his daughter) fell in love with a raw pair of selvedge jeans that, unfortunately, Guido found too expensive for kids jeans, although the fit was quite good. Well, like most good parents, Guido eased her disappointment and further offered to construct her a few pair of selvedge jeans himself. Why not? If anyone can pull this off it would certainly be Guido. After achieving success with a few pairs, Guido decided to go a few steps further and develop a brand. Eureka. Oyuki Denim was born. Oyuki is a combination of Oyunna and Kitty, Guido’s wife’s name. Oh, and by the way, Oyuki just so happens to be a Japanese fairytale about a snow spirit.
So, feeling nostalgic and all, I decided to pop over and visit the Master himself at my old stomping grounds. Located in the former Amstel Brewery, The main building is simply beautiful, the facade remained the same intimidating splendor, but much of the interior has been beautifully updated. The same is true for Guido’s office space, where he welcomed me in and we perched in the sheik faculty area with views of the city as a backdrop. We caught up and talked more about the course:
How does AMFI differ from other schools offering degrees with a focus on denim?
AMFI stands for Creativity First. That is one of our key pillars. On top of that, one of our strongest points is that we have Branding, Design and Management courses. Our students are used to multi-disciplinary working. This is very useful in the Minor Denim course since the students do the research, create the new concept and Line extension for the existing brands together. It reflects the way smaller to medium Denim companies operate.
How do you prepare for each semester?
It is quite a long process since we need to make new agreements with our Industry partners. That means that the teachers need to travel to the companies and different denim fairs months before we actually start the next round. This is of course on top of the usual educational planning.
What can students expect during the course?
I think quite a lot, it is hard to say in a few words. To give students a better insight in what we do in the Minor, we have created a Facebook page, in which we post presentations, study trips with the students, workshops, but also short movies that the students made to present their collection to the Brand.
Who do you collaborate with on order to offer a well rounded course? We work with different partners in different rounds. For instance Candiani Denim, ISKO, Eroglu Giyim, IMjiT35020 Manufactus, Penny Jeans, Martelli, YKK, Prym, but also brands as Denham, Kings of Indigo, Gstar and previously LVC XX.
Is this course a great stepping stone to a career in denim?
It will give students a head start. The denim world is quite specific and it will take years before you can call yourself a denim expert. If you have already some knowledge about Denim fabrics, washes and finishes, on top of the broad knowledge you already have about fashion, production and design, textiles, business and marketing, for sure this will help.
And finally, personally has working in Amsterdam influenced your passion for denim?
Absolutely. The last few years so many great initiatives started in Amsterdam. The Kingpins show, the Amsterdam Denim Days, but also Denim City is very valuable for our students. We are happy that we can make use of a great facility like that. There is so much inspiration for the students, but also great opportunities like internships at major Amsterdam denim brands.
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