Glass talks to Helen de Kluiver founder of Caes sustainable fashion brand

Glass speaks to Helen de Kluiver, founder of fashion brand Caes which prides itself on timeless, long-lasting garments as it aims to be at the forefront of sustainable fashion

IN A time where sustainability is becoming ever-more important, it may be time to consider investing in clothes that are long-lasting and can be worn all year round. Luckily, fashion brand Caes provides just this. Recently established in 2019 and based in Amsterdam, Caes is already making a huge mark on the fashion industry with its unique pieces.

Believing that fashion does not have to be fast or seasonal, Caes creates clothing that focuses on quality, where the pieces are timeless and the brand remains conscious of its impact on the earth. Glass speaks to the founder of Caes, Helen de Kluiver, who lets us in on how Caes was established, as well as its values and ambitions.

CAES interview

Dress by Caes

Can you tell us about the founding values of Caes and what motivated you to establish the company?
I had been working in fashion for twelve years and I used to work for a really huge commercial brand. I was making a lot of collections – four collections with approximately 200 styles per collection, six times a year. In a way it didn’t feel right to do it like this anymore, in an old-fashioned way. I thought maybe I should do something different and really focus on quality – not make a lot of styles but focus on each style, using a quality that will last so you can still wear it in five year’s time.

That’s why I was really motivated to do something different. Working in a commercial brand clashed with my feelings so I decided to start up Caes and to do it the completely other way around; to make smaller additions two times a year and to make styles where you can mix all the collections with each other.
I also felt that it was strange to be making a summer collection which then came out in January when it was still winter here, and to then make winter jackets for delivery in August when its 30C outside. So I’m now making ready-to-wear collections which you can wear all year round.

Caes pieces are mostly of a neutral palette to create a “seasonless and timeless wardrobe”. Who or what are your inspirations for the Caes design process?
It’s from a lot of things combined. I look at a lot of art because I find it really interesting – the vision behind it, and also people, women, on the street and what I would wear myself. I used to mix the more oversized and feminine styles so it’s almost like my own wardrobe.

For me, it’s pretty hard now because you cannot travel but normally I like travelling and looking at people everywhere. I find it interesting how people move, what they wear and how they can be a character with their clothes.

CAES fashion

Bodysuit by Caes

CAES fashion

Jumper and trousers by Caes

How does Caes embody and promote sustainability?
I always find it hard to say its 100% sustainable but we are trying to. Looking at the qualities for example, we are using a lot of organic cotton, yarns that are not dyed, and we use mulesing-free – a method used by some sheep farmers to prevent their sheep from being killed by infections caused by insects.
In Angora, for example, they use the mulesing procedure where skin is cut from around a lamb’s breech to create an area of bare, stretched skin. So I work with big companies that treat people right, treat animals right and work with the environment.

That’s really important for me. I also have Vegea leather that’s made from waste, from the wine industry. They add the shell of the grapes and press it, making old materials into leather. It’s such a cool process. We use qualities that have a lesser impact on the environment, but I also feel that you need to take care of people and work with the right factories.

We work with a lot of family-owned small companies and factories who are really taking care by doing audits and asking the people who work there; do you get overtime, paid, and how do you feel working there? They really care about their people. For me it’s the same; everyone who I work with, I will treat people the same way I want to be treated.

Additionally, for the labels we use organic cotton and recycled paper for hangtags work samples. In the fashion industry, you use a lot of plastic for poly bags, but we have compostable bags which disappear in six months. But there are still a lot of things we are working on – we really want to look at every part of our company to do it in the right way.

For the shoot, we are using vintage pieces. We would like to show that you don’t need to have a completely new collection each season, but that you can combine the old with the new to have a super vintage and nice style.

We used the previous edition in the new collection in a campaign so you can see how we combine everything together, because normally you have a totally new collection with all new styles. So we really wanted to show the customer that you can combine everything by using neutral colours and you can add old pieces that you already have.

CAES fashion

Top and trousers by Caes

CAES fashion

Top by Caes

What do you think consumerism trends in clothing and fashion will look like over the next few years? Do you think people will be leaning towards a more sustainable way of shopping? 
I think people are becoming more aware, especially during the Covid crisis, of what they need. It’s like going back to basics and what’s important to you and what you want to focus on. I think it’s super hard for a lot of people but there’s also a new way of thinking and I hope it will stay.

I feel a lot of retailers want to act more sustainable, so if they are willing to, because they are huge and the voices of fashion, it will make a big difference. I really hope people are becoming more aware that they don’t need to buy a lot of clothes and will really invest in something that will last or stay – something vintage or pre-owned.

CAES fashion

Dress by Caes

As you established yourself in 2019 you probably haven’t operated outside the time of COVID but has COVID impacted your business at all? If so, how were you able to overcome these challenges?
It was quite hard because Caes started at the end of 2019 and then Covid came a few months later. Then, I was working on the second edition and I needed to combine the first and second edition but it was hard as all the factories were closed. But in a way for me, I needed to slow down. I was working under a lot of pressure before working on collections. I wanted to work on a more slowed-down brand, but I was still rushing.

So when Covid came I had no choice. It was good to know what was really important to the brand and for me. It’s quite hard because I don’t know how to work on a brand in a world without Covid.

You don’t know when stores are opening, a lot of retailers are closed and it’s hard for a lot of people – it’s super sad. I hope things are getting better from now on. For me, this is it for me. It always feels like this is my way of working, but of course it’s not.

CAES fashion

Top and skirt by Caes

What do you aim to achieve and where do you hope to see Caes in the next couple of years?
I really want to learn more about being a sustainable brand and work to improve each collection as we still want to make smaller editions. I do really hope the consumer is looking different in the fashion industry and trying to buy something that will last for longer.

Next month, we’re going to sell to Net-A-Porter, a big retailer. We’re super excited about it. Also, because they’re working on a bigger sustainable initiative really championing brands with the right ethics which is the new launch of Net Sustain, they’re really trying to make the fashion industry more sustainable.

I love what I do and want to keep doing what I do. I want to make the consumer more aware of what they buy. I really hope people understand what I’m doing. We’re focusing on going international. We have sales for the fourth edition coming up this week and appointments with international customers. So there’s lots of exciting things coming up.

by Amie Bawa