Art,  Fashion

Beauty Shall Save the World Honors Dutch Couturier Ronald van der Kemp With The ‘Superhero Award’

Well, it seems like the whole world is on fire and we’re running out of things to burn. Luckily, here in America we have a new President with a very different White House that’s emerged since our recent election — one with a message of diversity, a plea for unity, and a spirit of hope.

In that spirit I’m so excited to share with you what’s on my agenda, and that is a new favorite fashion find and the winner of the very-first Beauty Shall Save the World Superhero Award!

The Superhero Award was created for global fashion and beauty industry insiders who are dedicated to saving the world through beauty. It’s for fashion professionals who strive and sacrifice and fight for a better Earth, and a better quality of life for humans, through beauty and the arts.

This award embodies the movement that’s so near and dear to our hearts at Beauty Shall Save the World. It’s a commitment we have made to both our fellow humans as well as the planet, with the core values of social relevance, creativity, intelligence, honesty, altruism and courage, among other noble virtues.

We are going Dutch, literally, as we present this award to a familiar face on BSSTW: Ronald van der Kemp and his eponymous label from The Netherlands, RVDK.

RVDK is the world’s first sustainable couture fashion label and at its helm is the passionate, earnest, justice-driven Ronald, above. He bleeds the most curious of couture and is on a moral mission to redefine fashion, enlighten the couture industry, and challenge women on how they perceive wardrobe, clothing and style. “It’s my calling really,” he explained flatly.

“We all talk about how terrible ‘fast fashion’ is for the planet, but can we talk about luxury fashion? A form of art can change behavior which leads to a bigger change in the industry,” Ronald stated optimistically.

Founded in 2014 with the promise of a “new ethics in luxury fashion,” RVDK shuns the wasteful ways of the traditional haute couture world. Here, in Ronald’s native Holland, couture is ethically-made out of 100 percent found or reclaimed materials. Yes, scraps. Leftovers and scraps from previous collections or from Ronald’s clever acquisitions scouring the world for incredible, existing and vintage textiles and laces.

He’s something of a scavenger, if you really think about it. It’s just that, the sum of the parts that Ronald poaches are infinitely more desirable after he’s reimagined them than most of the banal fashions you see in the mainstream.

Ronald is attempting to reduce waste by foraging existing supplies. In addition to his perpetual collecting of materials, Ronald also accepts donations from archivists and high-end resellers. Once, he unabashedly crafted couture from a donor’s pleated gauze which was actually surplus from a lampshade project. Another time, he fashioned a rocker rubber dress, which was, in fact, made out of garden-furniture fabric!

However, no one would ever have guessed it. Remarkably, the remnant actually gave the appearance of a nice pony leather. To me, this is the pinnacle of creativity. But — and I’m only going to say this once — I don’t give a damn who you are: talent is no good without heart. Ronald uses his enormous inner gifts of sensitivity and humanity to essentially create something beautiful out of nothing. And so begins his cause.

Materials are crafted by hand, by small ateliers and artisans, in Ronald’s intimate Amsterdam studio. You can almost visualize the painstaking process, which is akin to working a large 3-D jigsaw puzzle as pieces seem to intuitively gravitate towards the greater good of a gorgeous garment under the astute tutelage of Ronald van der Kemp. No sliver is too small. As long as it’s beautiful, it’s worthy and therefore, usable.

“We capture unused beautiful fragments and turn them into unique works of art for the sake of beauty, for the sake of our planet,” Ronald said. Long-forgotten patches of beaded embroidery, wayward pearls and lost/found buttons gleefully embellish oblivious garments, garments unaware of their own beauty, like a pretty small-town girl who never left home.

Piebald patchworks of sheer scarves and exquisite fabric scraps clash harmoniously, above, and the effect is a blatantly blithe bevy of blossoms. Ronald smartly crafts petals out of remnants to create a juicy, richly-pigmented gown, fun, flirtatious and full of movement. Incredibly, this piece, as well as every last limited-edition garment that is produced in Ronald’s atelier, is hand-signed by the artist himself.

Having worked for more than 25 years as designer and creative director for high-end international luxe heavy-hitters such as Bill Blass, Celine/Michael Kors, Guy Laroche and Barneys before launching a label under his own name, Ronald is now on a mission to show the world that ethical fashion can be glamorous and exciting, and believe you me, he does precisely what he sets out to do. This is a man with a purpose. He’s all about marrying mindfulness with fashion, and I, for one, am down for the cause.

Ronald’s work is tremendous! It really transcends trend. His style, although unique and completely original, contains a few familiar elements. Ronald possesses the cool audacity of a Richard Quinn with the wit and whimsy of a Christian Lacroix, all while approaching the vision and range of an Alexander McQueen.

To top it off, Ronald often gives a defiant nod toward a Jean Paul Gaultier in his many rich, cross-cultural connotations that are styled with aplomb and aplenty. Like the tasseled duchesse kaftan with resin and gold leaf embroidery, above, worn with a paisley tapestry pant. His garments are wickedly-imagined, smartly-cut and expertly-executed. Plus……they are also good for the environment!

I’m all about Ronald’s abundant use of really creative millinery too. Above, a turban and below, an exaggerated neon fez! RVDK, you are so eclectic!

RVDK crafts frankly feminine frocks that make a lady feel like a girl again, but make no mistake about it: there’s something playfully dangerous about a Ronald van der Kemp Woman. It’s a duality that is complicated to define.

Part fashion designer, part philosopher, part philanthropist, Ronald reflects with utter poignancy and takes on the intelligent issues, like the concept of fashion shows, for example.

He said, “I think we need to really question ourselves. I mean, do we need all these shows per year? Editors don’t even want them. Do we need to fly all over the world to look at a ten-minute show with a whole new decor? Do people have to sit there for three days, watching them? Can’t we just go back to the core of making really beautiful clothes? Clothes with a soul?” he pondered.

And just look at these clothes, the glorious clothes, clothes with a soul, as Ronald likes to call them, clothes with designs so varied, so imaginative…and each undeniably steeped in haute couture.

“I long for the days when luxury fashion was still a deeply intimate affair,” Ronald mused. “Women would build up wardrobes that accentuated their personal style, carefully selecting designers they liked. They happily saved up for that perfect dress or jacket, knowing it was crafted with love and would last a lifetime,” he concluded nostalgically.

Although Ronald may seem like a rare find or an endangered species, he is living proof that unlike a brilliant gemstone or an exotic animal, creativity is one natural resource that will never be depleted, nor can it ever become extinct. Maya Angelou famously once stated, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” This is evidenced plainly in his exquisite body of work.

Just look at the couture above. These are actually one-of-a-kind, antique silk kimonos that have been reimagined by Ronald, upcycled into an elegant, sculpted jacket on the left and a jagged-hemmed, crimson-lined skirt, right. The resourcefulness astounds. Super chic, contemporary, and interesting. It’s so utterly modern and relevant. That’s the type of pivotal couture that Ronald wants his clients to embrace, as opposed to, say, a cheap transitional throw-away piece or a shoddily-constructed garment.

It’s a kind of wardrobe revolution. And by that I mean he wants the client to join the cause: shun waste and invest in lasting couture that’s made with integrity and time-worn techniques. This as opposed to disposable clothing that’s churned out without conscience, and often in a cruel way or with disregard for the environment. Stop and think before you buy. “It’s just not possible that you can get a dress for the price of a cappuccino,” Ronald stated emphatically. “Clothes have to be priced realistically and people need to think differently when they buy them. We need to change our mentality, on every single level.”

He suggests wardrobes consisting of limited-edition statement pieces that are both seasonless and timeless as you cultivate a wardrobe with a “strong, developed vision.” This is a true expression of a women’s personality, “underlining her strength and character.”

In other words, opt for quality over quantity, and emphasize style over fashion. Thank you Ronald, for pioneering a “new ethics in luxury fashion,” and for teaching all of us how to dress like a true style icon! Now that is an intelligent approach to beauty. Love you.


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