Unpacking the 3Package Deal: Tess van Zalinge

January 27, 2017

In the upcoming months, we’ll be catching up with the fifteen eclectic, genre-bending participants of the 3Package Deal 2016 as they work on their craft and prepare themselves for their final presentations in the wide-ranging fields of visual arts, fashion, film, theatre, urban dance, social design and even olfactory art.

This time, we visited fashion designer Tess Zalinge (Utrecht, 1988) in her studio on Mauritskade. She was in the midst of preparing the prototypes her new collection Tess van Zalinge ft Royal Delft. This Friday 27 January, during FashionWeek Amsterdam, the collection will be presented in the Gashouder at Westergasfabriek.

Pure fun

Van Zalinge’s star has been rising since she graduated from AMFI in 2012. This is her third FashionWeek in a row. Her new collection, like the others, was inspired by a random situation: a chance encounter on the train. “I always ‘stumble’ upon the best stories when I’m forced to take a breather.” During this particular train ride, a strange man entered Van Zalinge’s compartment. He was tall and skinny, a little scary even, with fake leather shoes and a huge linen suit. “The suit made him larger than life. It was meant to make him look imposing, but it looked ridiculous. My childish imagination just took off.” She incorporated the rendezvous into a collection which harks back to the oversized Italian-American gangstersuits of the 40s, the Zoot Suits, which were both classy and cartoonesque. Van Zalinge consciously went with a lighthearted approach. “I’m done with being serious. At the academy, you constantly need to prove what you’re made of. It was pretty intense. I want it to be pure fun.”  

Fun is exactly how one would describe Van Zalinge: she’s wonderfully frank (“I'm neurotic. I would get really confused whenever my mom would move the plants to a different corner”) and full of energy. Her approach to fashion is refreshingly down to earth. Although she was raised in a creative environment – her grandmother even designed patterns for Libelle – she never wanted to be a designer. “Grandma would make me these woolly jumpers and I just thought it was so boring. I would read comics, and I really wanted to be a dolphin trainer. If you would have told me then that I’d be presenting in the Gashouder this year I would’ve thought you were insane.”  

Cultural craftmanship 

That’s not to say she doesn’t take her profession seriously. Her work - characterized by a combination of playfulness and craftsmanship – is inspired by traditional techniques, lingerie and cultural heritage. For her graduation collection The Same Old Lines, Van Zalinge immersed herself in African designs, but also in Dutch folklore. She likes to investigate traditional craftsmanship, taking apart ancient patterns and putting them back together. This time, she focused on children’s crafts. “You remember those origami fortune tellers, or making those little furry balls? And those tiny paper springs?” Van Zalinge relishes in the unknown. For last year’s Global Denim Awards, she designed a small collection together with denim specialist Knitdigo, which showcased her own romantic style despite her lack of experience in working with the fabric. “I wanted it to look like it wasn’t necessarily denim.”  

What's in my heart

Van Zalinge wants to freely explore what’s in store. The 3Package Deal has been a huge help - whether it’s preparing for FashionWeek, or the talks she’s initiated with international companies. Despite her level-headedness, she’s allowing herself to secretly dream about Paris or New York, too. But the most important thing, right now, is that she wants to stay close to her intuition. “I want to be free to create beautiful things. Everything I do is a reflection of who I am, of what's in my heart. I don’t need to be outrageous or innovative as long as I can get that feeling across.” That should surely make grandma very proud. 

About the 3Package Deal

The 3Package Deal talent scheme - a collaboration between the AFK and Bureau Broedplaatsen (BBp) - assists and encourages exceptional young artists through affordable live/work spaces, a development budget of € 22.500 and professional encouragement from a coalition of renowned Amsterdam art institutions. Tess van Zalinge is part of this year’s Fashion Coalition, with HTNKGerrit Rietveld AcademieMOAMFashionweek Nederland and Fashion Council.