Scotch & Soda's Marlou van Engelen on Journeying to the Most Remote Amsterdam in the World

Scotch and Soda AW17 | © Scotch and Soda
Scotch and Soda AW17 | © Scotch and Soda
How many Amsterdams are there in the world? We’re betting your initial response was ten less than the actual number… For, while the Dutch capital might be the most renowned in the world, there’s many more places which bare the same name, and offer equal promise of adventure.

The discovery that there are actually 12 Amsterdams across the world captured the imagination of Dutch brand Scotch & Soda, who decided to harness the adventurous spirit of their brand and set sail to discover these places themselves. The Scotch & Soda FW17 campaign, saw a team journey to the Arctic to shoot on the remote and unknown Amsterdam Island. Culture Trip caught up with creative director of the Dutch fashion house Marlou van Engelen to find out more about the experience and to talk Amsterdam style.

Culture Trip: How would you describe the Amsterdam aesthetic?

Marlou van Engelen: I would describe it as much like the spirit of the city in general. We have this saying in Dutch ‘leven en laten leven’, which means ‘live and let live’; Amsterdam embraces all cultures and freedom of expression, so when it comes to personal style it’s the same. Although we adore creativity and fashion, we also need to get around the city so that means style has to work on a bike!

CT: How did the idea for the campaign come about?

MvE: The idea behind the campaign closely follows the explorer inspiration found in the collection itself. The same explorer spirit that sparked the first two seasons of our ‘From Amsterdam, From Everywhere’ campaign. The FW17 collection is inspired by the earliest days of shipping and the grand Shipping House (Het Scheepvaarthuis) at the entrance to Amsterdam. We took inspiration from the building’s ‘Amsterdam School’ architectural design and from the characters that would have wandered the building’s corridors all those years ago. It’s always been our way – to get out there, explore, collect, and pour the world into our garments. That’s what makes them unique. We wanted to create a campaign that calls out this spirit and celebrates all the like-minds – the Amsterdammers everywhere.

Scotch and Soda AW17 © Scotch and Soda

CT: What did you feel when you found out about Amsterdam Island?

MvE: It’s one of eleven other Amsterdams in the world – what an amazing (re)discovery – a whole Atlas of Amsterdams! Amsterdam Island in the Arctic is the most northern place you can set foot in the world. So, it felt a little like we had to travel like our predecessors to get there. Planes, boats, trains, more boats and by foot. Nothing about the shoot was particularly practical – but that’s also very Scotch & Soda. We always go that extra mile to get the perfectly beautiful result.

CT: What were your aesthetic influences around this campaign?

MvE: From a collection point of view – the shipping influence led us to nautical design aesthetics such as explorer blankets, captain’s jackets, double-breasted designs and new ways to do nautical, for example in colour-blocking and nautical stripes. Ocean-inspired pattern was extremely dominant in the exterior and interior design of the shipping house – so we worked with that too – print and pattern is inspired by the seas and symbols of sea-exploration.

From a brand point of view – an Amsterdam far from our own is a very symbolic aesthetic. The voice-over in the campaign parallels the beauty of the original Amsterdam – our canals, the vast Dam square, the house along the Keizersgracht (canal) – with the frozen fjords and snow-capped mountains seen in the Amsterdam in the Arctic. It’s amazing to think that our Amsterdam predecessors ventured to the Arctic and named it after the original as tribute. Our explorer-themed layers look beautiful against the world’s most beautiful layers.

Scotch and Soda AW17 © Scotch and Soda

CT: Was it challenging to communicate the Scotch & Soda identity in such a remote setting?

MvE: Short answer: yes. At times, it was freezing cold! And very windy and we had a lot to do in a short space of time. We were shooting for film and stills at the same time too. But as I mentioned, we take the hard route if it means we achieve something more beautiful and unique.

CT: Do you think that the idea of journey is an important part of the Scotch & Soda brand?

MvE: Yes the journey is the beginning of all our brand stories. Other brands may travel the world for inspiration. But, as Amsterdammers, for Scotch & Soda it goes deeper. We are almost born knowing there is a bigger world out there to explore. Always embracing authentic pattern and craft into our designs and remixes. We are happiest collaging, patchworking and clashing elements and designs from different eras and cultures. As our tagline goes, we are ‘From Amsterdam, From Everywhere’.

Scotch and Soda AW17 © Scotch and Soda

CT: What has been the most exciting part of working on the campaign so far?

MvE: For me, the conception of the original story leads everything we do. The most exciting part is entrusting the story to the whole company, as well as the moment we see the collection hanging after so many rounds spent perfecting it. The latest brand campaign is our most ambitious to date and so many people, from all parts of the world, are already sharing it on their social channels – that’s pretty exciting too.

CT: Which other locations were you most excited about finding and visiting?

MvE: All the Amsterdams are so very different – that is a wonderful find or rediscovery. Our Amsterdammer predecessors didn’t make it easy for us: we found one Amsterdam in eastern South Africa, a tiny village in Ohio, USA, and an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The drone crew we dispatched to these other Amsterdams needed to island hop by several planes, then by boat – needing a translator and a local guide to secure footage in the uninhabited one we unearthed in West Guinea. The main stage for the campaign was the Arctic one – that’s where my crew were busy. Who knows – maybe I’ll make it to more Amsterdams one day!