Carmen van der Vecht on the Unlock Your Talent PRO programme

The path to the future can be bumpy. Due to a variety of challenges, some young people in big cities do not manage to finish school or find jobs. Rambler Studios helps these searching young adults get back on track. In the talent-development programme, passion for fashion and streetwear is the common thread. Welcome to the Amsterdam Zeedijk, where we hear more about Unlock Your Talent PRO, one of the 14 programmes selected in the Creative Industries Fund NL’s Open Call Platforms for design-based learning.

In recent years, the Zeedijk has become a hotspot for fashion lovers. More and more unconventional designers and fashion labels are settling there. Carmen van der Vecht, founder of Rambler Studios, opened the doors of the concept store at number 54 herself back in 2010. The socially-minded designer and photographer calls it ‘a cool, small place and a safe space for young people between the ages of 18 and 28’. You can read on panels on the wall in English what the collective for streetwise fashion – by now also active in Berlin and New York – stands for: Rambler Studios empowers young talents to design their lives through fashion. And we call them Ramblers: walking, searching, but one day finding their path in life.

Some of them are here every day – they are totally into it.

Creative and lifestyle coaches are on hand every weekday at Rambler Studios. Today, they are studio coach Romy and Corinne from welfare organization perMens. Carmen: ‘There is room for up to thirty Ramblers, eight per morning or afternoon. They come for at least two or three half-days a week. Some of them are here every day – they are totally into it. Like Melanie, you will meet her shortly.’

imperfection = perfection
Carmen walks over to clothes racks, where sweaters are hanging for sale. They are made from old jumpers and other discarded textiles. ‘We call this line the Fundamentals. They have different sleeves and small irregularities, which we use to indicate that imperfection is actually perfection. The garments are all unique, but together they are a collection. Just like the Ramblers themselves, as a group. The logo refers to the path the Ramblers have taken.’

All the other garments the Ramblers are working on are samples, which will be presented at the annual Unlock Your Talent Experience. Carmen says enthusiastically: ‘They invent and make such amazing things!’ She tells more about the professional coaches who support them in their endeavours. ‘In addition to the studio and fashion design coaches, we work with an inspiration coach, a photographer who focuses on the initial stage of designing such as making mood boards, a graphic designer and a communication and a film coach. Because there is often a story behind the idea for clothes. With the help of these coaches, the Ramblers can express this story in a strong, creative way. On our site MeetTheRamblers.com, they all have their own page and create professional content for it. They do the same for Instagram. An earlier grant from the Fund’s Open Call for Professionalization of the design practice allowed us to start developing this storytelling from 2017.’

ready for the next step
As a selected applicant of the Open Call Platforms for design-based learning, Rambler Studios will be able to expand the basic programme of the Unlock Your Talent programme in 2023 with a PRO version. Central to this is deepening subject knowledge and professionalization. Every Rambler can sign up for the part that fits within their personal development and interest area. Carmen: ‘There will be several master classes. Soon, for example, a series of six workshops will start concerning moulage, a specific discipline where you make your design directly on a doll with fabric. The teacher comes from the Viktor&Rolf stable. There will also be master classes on sustainability and fashion.’

Creative mentoring is another arm of the Unlock Your Talent PRO programme. ‘This is the three-phase programme in which Melanie, among others, is participating. She is ready to take the step to work. Through orientation, research (visiting companies) and a pilot of her own and hopefully an internship, she is exploring which direction she wants to take. For a year, she will be mentored by Luca Kemkes, who has her own sustainable streetwear clothing brand KEMKES and previously worked at Calvin Klein.

I now know more about the work of a stylist

deepening by experts
In comes 26-year-old Melanie, wearing an orange sweater with flowers. ‘I like to wear colourful clothes – the more striking, the better.’ About Luca, she says: ‘I find it enjoyable and instructive to be coached by someone who has experience and a great deal to tell.’ She shows a book in which she has made collages, and listed her skills and interests in rows. ‘Styling attracts me the most. We went to an agency the other day. As a result, I now know more about the work of a stylist. The creative aspect in particular appeals to me. But it is also a lot of organizing, and chaotic. Digital drawing also seems interesting to me.’

Carmen concludes: ‘The everyday Unlock Your Talent programme is already strong, but the PRO version, with deepening by external experts, really adds value. It strikes a chord with the Ramblers – they are eager, they pick up on the energy, and we can see they are learning. That pleases us. The programme is rolling now, but it is not yet something that runs itself. Next year, the experience we gain now will undoubtedly be embedded further. So for us, too, it is design-based learning.'

new edition open call
Are you also involved in a platform that encourages young people and starting designers to gain or further develop practical and strategic design skills? Until 15 September 2023, the Open Call Platforms for design-based learning is once again open for programmes with a duration of up to one year, taking place in 2024.