Erik Frenken is the new creative director of Zoe Karssen

Designer Erik Frenken’s CV is not a concise one. He has his own fashion house Frenken, received the Fashion Stipendium in 2019, was led by Avelon, designed for Blue Blood, Alberta Ferretti and Viktor & Rolf to name but a few. His resume has recently added an extra addition: Frenken exclusively reveals to FashionUnited that he is the new creative director of Zoe Karssen. We talk to him about the step, his mission at the brand and the combination with his own fashion house.

Frenken has now been with Zoe Karssen for almost two months when FashionUnited speaks to him by phone. His influence is first seen in the licorice now available from the brand. “I was approached to become a creative director. We had a number of conversations and then I said yes, ”he says. “I have always had respect and appreciation for every Dutch brand that develops and knows how to create etching. So I have always felt attracted to the look and feel.”

But why the choice to lead two brands at the same time? “I have always done freelance work alongside my own brand, whether it was Avelon at the time or now with Frenken. For my own development, creative enrichment, network enrichment, actually for all kinds of reasons why it is good not to end up in a tunnel, ”explains Frenken. “My freelance work, however, was often under the radar with a contract about which you cannot communicate. It is now the first time that a piece of the press is involved. ” When he was asked for the job, a briefing was added. Zoe Karssen had to focus on creativity, sustainability, quality and innovation. “When I saw the briefing, I understood why they asked me. It felt good, so I said yes. ”

Creative director at two brands: Erik Frenken leads Zoe Karssen and Frenken

Zoe Karssen already experienced a relaunch without Frenken last September, so it is not the intention to suddenly change the course that has been set in motion, the designer says. “I did not come in with: everything is going black and you will only see the first results in three months.” Frenken indicates in the conversation that the briefing he received, and the communication to the press at the relaunch in September, can be interpreted in several ways. “Adult, cool, fun, innovative, feminine sustainability – all important things. For me, the essence and the things that are recognizable with Zoe Karssen is the graphics and creativity. I take that as a starting point. ” Anyone who still has the old Zoe Karssen in mind may immediately think of the well-known bat print, but also of other slogan T-shirts and all-over prints. “I want to add a high level of creativity to the graphics,” explains Frenken. “I always enjoy working with a process. You come up with a theme and within that theme you do research, try it out and discover coincidences. Step by step you develop the starting point for the season and create layers in it. We will therefore work very thematically with the graphics, but with a kind of edge, coolness, but also fun. ” The designer indicates that his previous work was more serious, but that he also finds playing with a fun edge very interesting. “That can be in color, in use of materials, but also in styling.” Ultimately, Zoe Karssen’s collection should be a ‘full wardrobe’, he indicates. “From chic to street and from sweater to cocktail dress.”

Frenken has a clear picture of his job at Zoe Karssen, but how does his new position go together with the work for his own fashion house. “It’s not that complicated, it’s a matter of management,” he says calmly. The designer indicates that thanks to the Fashion Grant that he received in 2019, he was able to implement changes at his own fashion house, freeing up space. He switched from four collections to two per year and scaled down the number of showrooms he worked with. Because he switched in 2019 and plays 90 percent of fashion house Frenken in Portugal (everything except design and marketing), he got 70 percent more time. In the space that has arisen, the assignment for Zoe Karssen was just given, but he still has time to ‘look, think, recalibrate and enjoy the process’. He also ensures that both Frenken and Zoe Karssen have as little work as possible on the implementation. “I expand the collection and am about quality, guarantee creativity and set out the lines. I can focus purely on communication, image creativity and the brand and its positioning. I put that very clearly and the rest will follow. ”

Exclusive: Erik Frenken is the new creative director of Zoe KarssenExclusive: Erik Frenken is the new creative director of Zoe Karssen

When asked about the vision he has for Zoe Karssen, Frenken is very clear. “My task is to portray Zoe Karssen in the way that has been discussed from the management. Within those frameworks I am going to put it as good as possible. ” The conversation turns to Frenken’s working method and then the designer’s passion almost radiates through the telephone. “I focus on the process and on creativity. If you are only focused on purpose, you really only take away the sparkle. You have to make sure that you work with love and attention within a process and that there is room for mistakes, the experiment, and if you are on the right track everyone gets a kind of twinkle, and that is what I want to bring. ” It is knowledge that Frenken has discovered through all his years of experience. “The real magic happens when you are relaxed. If you are only busy: ‘It has to work’, then it will not work. Then you forget the relaxation and the sparkle. You cannot create the sparkle, it must arise. You can create an environment to create a sparkle. ” According to Frenken, the difference between a really good brand and a brand that tries to establish itself well lies in the core. “The core must be right and it must arise from love and passion. When everything is done with love, passion and attention, a true following is created. If that’s right, marketing can start to pop, sales can start to pop, everything will become smooth and it will also work. ”

At the end of the conversation, it cannot be otherwise concluded that Frenken is bursting with energy and passion and he leaves the undersigned with one more tile-worthy statement: “Quality and love speak for themselves, then you no longer need marketing.”

Image: Zoe Karssen by Paul Bellaart, main image: Frank de Graaf

Exclusive: Erik Frenken is the new creative director of Zoe Karssen

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