The Dutch designer Sophie Hardeman is rising at high speed. She graduated just two years ago from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, and after that she launched her label, called Hardeman. Nominated to several awards – like the Gerrit Rietveld Design Award and the Young Designer Award –, currently showing her collections at New York Fashion Week, and with celebrities like Rihanna wearing her pieces, she’s on the right path to success.
The twenty-six year old designer is fascinated by the boundary between beautiful and vulgar. You have to see the humour in her collections to understand where it comes from. Hardeman is mainly focussed on denim, and they want “jeans to play the role of the ultimate example of social conformism”. With her collections, Hardeman tries to break free from conventions.

Hardeman is working hard to cause social change and to transcend social norms. With her cast of models she hopes to challenge what is perceived to be beautiful, “by tackling traditional stereotypes so the standards of the fashion industry will change”. We had the opportunity to ask Sophie all about her collections, her vision and her success.
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Your brand is called Hardeman; can you tell us more about it? Like for instance, for whom do you design your collections?
Focusing mainly on denim, Hardeman chooses for jeans to play the role of the ultimate example of social conformism; denim pants have evolved from a workman's attire to the symbol of freedom, to an everyday wardrobe staple for the mass. However, with the collections, Hardeman tries to break free from these kinds of conventions.
By playing with existing relationships and structures that make up a recognizable garment, reality and perspective are put out of their place. Thereby Hardeman praises individuality and cheers to ‘flaws’ as the ‘new perfection’.
You just graduated two years ago from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and you already have your own fashion brand, an e-shop and you were invited to show your collection at New York Fashion Week last season. Is that what you’ve dreamt of since you were a little kid?
To be able to present my work to such a large audience has been absolutely incredible. What excites me most about fashion is the language it speaks. Besides referencing sub cultures or empower of self-expression, clothing can tell how we interact in current time frame in much smaller gestures.
How was it for you to show your collection at New York Fashion Week? How did the people react on your collection? Is New York ready for Hardeman? Or is Hardeman ready for New York?
New York has been overwhelming but, oh, so welcoming! For our shows we work closely together with models and participating artists. Collaborations have brought us into contact with some amazing people. It is actually the people that energise the big city, and I could sit on a bench at the underground station for days just to soak it in.
“What matters is aiming to cause social change and transcending social norms by challenging what is perceived to be beautiful.”
What is the most important lesson you learned while studying at Rietveld? And what kind of advice would you like to give to other young designers with the same hopes and dreams?
Never compromise. Know what you want. Rietveld teaches you to investigate and to develop your vision; there is not a path laid out. In the end there is no one who can push your boundaries better than yourself.
You have your own way of showing your collection. One of them is through fashion videos in collaboration with director Emma Westenberg. Like Burning Oceans into Deserts and Blue & You. The last one was awarded as the Best New Fashion Film of 2016 by the Fashion Film Festival Milano and was even premiered on Nick Knight’s SHOWstudio. We can say that your collaboration with Westenberg is a match made in heaven, but why do you choose to show your collections through videos
Working with film has given us the opportunity to entwine the stories with the collections; they immortalise the collections and embody the story. We met during art school at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. It was a strong wish for me to capture my graduation collection on film, to immortalize the pieces in their full story, and to capture all the different characters and the absurd bluntness of day-to-day reality. I was drawn to Emma's work because of her interest in unusual things within daily life, detailing out beautiful moments of awkward human escapes. Emma naturally understood how the collection – the story of my unconventional jeans collection – could fit into a story line, which is underlined by Valerie's dreamy lyrics.
Your jeans brand is genderless, what is your vision about genderless clothing lines? Should all brands be gender-label-free?
Hardeman is not gender specific nor does it have any limitations to who wants to wear it or how they wish to dress it.
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Your work and the models you choose are eccentric, is there something you want to tell the people through this aesthetic?
It is key to focus on different interactions, show things from different angles, empower diversity and bring different realities together. Some people think it’s rally or protest. This is not punk; this is real. This is quirky, sexy and the clothes don't even matter. What matters is aiming to cause social change and transcending social norms by challenging what is perceived to be beautiful, tackling traditional stereotypes and changing the standards of the fashion industry.
It seems that you are inspired by the western. What is your connection with the Wild West? Is that theme something you want to go on with in your next collections?
The collection Where The Grass is Greener is made for everyday heroes. The main denim pieces take form from different workwear shapes. A handyman is the muse as well as a pregnant woman and sun-kissed kids kicking round in the hay. The models are some sort of everyday life heroes taking shape in a diverse cast. The narrative of the film focuses on a group of teens who follow a cowboy and dream of his wild escapes. The cowboy has moved to town and tries to capture the new reality with his lasso.
But the seasons are all entwined, the collections embrace different topics evolving around social interactions and how awkward it is to be ‘normal’, how we dream of being someone else versus trying to be ourselves. Denim conveys rules of daily wear and attire. The collection Rouge 66 swings between everyday commodity and high-end dress rehearsals. It was born from a fascination for dressing up, being dressed well, behaving well (proms, dates, invites, red stairways and VIPs). In Rouge 66, pants adopted the aesthetics of eveningwear by being completely uncomfortable but unknowingly elegant, and they were meant not to be worn again after attending complete surrogate social events. Awkward elegance at its best!
You are still very young, of course. What are your dreams and goals for the future of Hardeman?
Hardeman aims not to change standards but to defy them completely, thereby changing the way we treat one another.
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