I’ve always been a huge fan of Rotterdam. I think it’s a city with more innovation power than Amsterdam, and they have less to prove to the world. It’s also the only Dutch town with a real skyline, 2 big rivers coming together and some exciting(but let’s be honest, not all buildings are beautiful) architecture.
A few weeks ago, I got an invitation to join travel bag expert Eastpak who organized a so called ‘wildlife’ Tour in Rotterdam, to discover some new, independent small retailers, hair salons, designers and food concepts.
The fact that the tour was guided and animated by Rotterdam locals was an asset, made me take a day off. So 2 weeks ago, I joined 20 female journalists, influencers & bloggers from Belgium & The Netherlands for a bike ride (with some great interesting stops) trough the city. Ah, maybe fun to mention: this tour was woman only. Besides us, city trippers, all the fashion, design, food, music en architecture venues we visited were initiated, hosted or powered by leading entrepreneurial woman.
City tripping on a Dutch bike: this asks for a handy bag, a kind of survival kit of the day. Everyone received one of the brand new tote bags from the Aminimal Collection ( mix animal with minimal and you get the picture. Pure ‘fashion meets functionality’ style. Nature leather straps, a light water-resistant fabric in 3 minimal animal/nature prints ( panther/feathers/leaves) on a perfect sized bag to store a lot of stuff_ essentials that we bloggers (and woman tout court) cary always with us: our camera, a smartphone, a bottle of water, sunglasses, notebook, a (healthy) snack and a creditcard_and a very handy zipper to close the bag in case of running, biking or even boating.Some remarkable extra’s in our city travel bag? Fresh aromatic coffee beans from roastry Man met Bril, handmade chocolates from Chocoholic, and not forget the cute, clean and fresh tennis socks in case of wet feet. I didn’t need any of them during the tour, but at home they’ll serve well!What about The Wild Life Tour itself?Hiphop Huis, the idiosyncratic traveling bar BAR and concept store and young designer/artists platform Groos. As I missed my train and the above listed outlets (damn!), I joined the group later at Picnick for an outdoor lunch.
Good, honest and very fresh food, with a typical creative ‘Berlin meets Rotterdam’ feel. The story? Picknick seemed to be a successful collaboration with Proef Rotterdam, an initiative by Marije Vogelzang and Piet Hekker. Marije, the first food concept designer started PROEF in 2004 and everything in the cosy shop was specially made: the cutlery, the crockery, aprons, tea-bags etc. It became a famous spot in Rotterdam. In 2009 it changed owners and made a new concept called Picknick. Marije Vogelzang is not a food designer. She is a Dutch product designer who graduated from Design Academy Eindhoven and chose to use food as her main material because of her love for it. (the ones who read my blog frequently, know her work already)
Great to hear the enthusiastic introductions by all the young (female) entrepreneurs we visited: they all were totally into their stories, full of energy with an addictive collaborative spirit overcoming negativism and economic realities. Everyone of them worked hard to be successful, they were proud but modest about their realizations and above all, they knew each other, promoted each other and started crossover projects with each other. Inspirational!
My favorites of the day?First of all Barrelproof & Bobby’s Gin. A small shop(in fact a tiny small shop, they even call themselves ‘The world smallest cocktail boutique’)were you can buy, taste and experience unique spirits. We started with a shot of a very high alcohol gin, and to flush all lunch remainings away, we were offered a ‘Bobby’s Schiedam Dry Gin, Dutch Courage and Indonesian Spice’. A complex gin, full of exotic botanicals mixed with local Dutch herbs. Imagine: us drinking in front of the store, our bikes in one hand and this special blend gin tonic with juniper, oranges, lemongrass, cubeb peppers and I guess 10 other ingredients, in the other. Hell yeah!http://bobbysdrygin.com
Another memorable hotspot was a venue that looked like a hair salon (wat is actually was)with a reading table and a small but very crisp fashion collection. But the real surprise we found in the basement of the shop. We met on level minus one the fascinating designer, Sam Cruden. Sam is the strong lady behind the denim label C.Cruden. She was there to talk about her story, background, exciting previous jobs (designer for Kuyichi en Diesel) and her latest project: the very exclusive limited and nearly handmade collection C.01 with Japanese denim. Unisex jeans, with at the end of the legs a kind of sock in nappa leather. Paris already picked it up and is madly in love with the label.
Good to mention is that Eastpak, our beloved host and initiator of this trip, had for their famous ‘fashion collabs’ (think Raf Simons, Wood Wood, Kris Van Assche and Rick Owens)also a capsule collaboration with C. Cruden. Sam designed female backpacks and some elegant shoppers.http://ccruden.comOur last stop was at Motel Mozaique, a theatre, dance, art and music city festival, where we got our entrance wristbands, a street concert and we were good to go.
Bikes on the side and after a short walk to our watertaxi stop, we crossed the river, full speed to the Nhow hotel. Yeah, I’m not kidding: after a quick guided tour in the brand new, just opened Nhow hotel we got our own roomkeys to spend the night! After a fun night with good food (I could not help it to end up in Hotel New York again for a diner with new met Belgian bloggers Julie and Margot from whynotmonday. We had some lovely chats, a rock concert in our hotel bar, and after that, a good night sleep was all I needed.
A special thanks to Nhow Hotel* for the much needed rest(*later this week, a Squid Stories blog post on my stay at Nhow Rotterdam) and Motel Mozaique for the evening & night entertainment.
But the biggest ‘thank you is for Jos and the entire team from Eastpak. It was fun.(and yes, I used my ‘flask Leaves’bag after the tour already a few times and it will become one of my ‘regulars’) http://www.eastpak.com/eu-fr/flask-leaves.html
More about the Eastpak Aminimal Collection? Just good to know it comes in 5 bag variations, from the mentioned tote bag, to a handy sized weekender and (off course) as a ‘back-in-fashion’ backpack. 3 prints color variations. Great.