The job of … Niels Mulder

The fashion industry is seen as a glamorous sector, but behind many jobs is certainly hard work. What exactly is involved in a career in fashion? FashionUnited takes a look behind the scenes in the ‘job of’ section. FashionUnited makes a video call with Niels Mulder, denim designer at denim brand Edwin, who currently lives in Japan.

Niels Mulder in brief:
  • Age: 29 years
  • Education: MBO Retail
    Sales specialist and Jean School
  • Lives: Changes every 3 months
    of between Europe and Japan

How did you come to this job?

“I just applied. The fun part was – for our graduation assignment at Jean School, we had to choose a fictitious brand. I was always fascinated by the Edwin brand and then used it for the assignment. Once I graduated I thought: Why don’t I apply for a job at Edwin and see if I can come to Edwin with the portfolio I have and the graduation assignment. That worked.”

So after graduating you immediately went on to become a denim designer at a major denim brand?

“That was lucky, because the denim designer who was there for me left a month after I got there. So they were already looking for someone. That was more luck than wisdom.”

Have you always had a love for denim?

I think I only allowed the creative later. I used to have a lot of part-time jobs in denim shops. I thought that was so fantastic and I also thought selling was so cool, until I thought: How cool would it be if you also learn to make it. Jeans have always fascinated me.

What falls under your duties?

“Basically everything related to jeans and denim. We make a complete collection of both non-denim and denim. I am responsible for all designs related to denim. I do that for Edwin Europe and also a part for Edwin Japan.”

What does a typical day in your work life look like?

“It very much depends on the period of the year. To paint a picture: now we are closing the fall winter 23 season. That collection is already completely ready in Europe, but in Japan we start a little later and finish so we’re a little later. That means I’ll be reviewing samples in the next few days, and have to approve everything like the last finishes. I’m also working on the numbers now, an estimate for the pre-order. Soon this collection will be sold and we have to estimate how many units we will produce of each item once the books are closed for pre-order. It’s actually more administrative work – but that’s part of the job.”

“In everyday life it comes down to a lot of designs. Constantly developing new designs, staying up-to-date with the latest techniques in the jeans industry and making sure we stay relevant with our designs.”

Denim designer Niels Mulder. Image via Niels Mulder

How do you best stay up-to-date?

“Among other things, going to fairs a lot – fashion-related fairs such as the trade shows, but also a few steps before that, to the denim fairs. We regularly go to these when the season has started. I also talk a lot with the suppliers themselves. they prefer to leave the office, so that you really have time to talk, because at such an exhibition it is always fast-fast and a lot is happening around you. We are also affiliated with WSGN, which is really a huge help. I do a lot of research on the internet, on fashion websites but also on instagram – to get inspired.”

I can imagine that looking for inspiration as a designer was a bit more difficult during the pandemic. Did you experience this too?

“Yes, it was a bit more difficult. Fashion shows normally give you a lot of inspiration. WSGN was always up-to-date, but you can’t get everything from there. So then it’s a lot of talking with colleagues. Happy work me with an incredibly nice team of young people who are super motivated and who have a lot of knowledge about clothing and style. The creative director always has many ideas. And then I have to say that Instagram was really the big outcome for me.”

What skills do you need as a denim designer? In addition to the technical skills.

“Besides the technical skills I would say – it may sound obvious – but your interest must really be in fashion and clothing. We are a brand that wants to keep up with the trends, although we do have our own signature, and it does help if you are motivated yourself and want to constantly improve yourself in it. That you want to find out how far you can go in that. Not everything may be suitable for the brand you work for, but it is better to take a few steps back, then thinking afterwards ‘if only I had done this or known’.”

“Besides: It’s not a nine to five job – it’s really something you live. That also makes it fun.”

What do you like most about your profession?

“Creating things. I really like that with a small idea, or a very big idea, a small concept or no concept at all, you end up with that collection. Because of course that has to be done, that collection has to be delivered. That I think it’s fantastic. Starting with nothing and then building an entire collection, that’s the ultimate.”

What do you dislike about your job?

“Immediately linked to that: it is never one hundred percent finished. And the difficult thing is that you never know how it will be received. Coincidentally, I just had a telephone conversation with my sales director and he said: ‘You are going to buy the collection on November 21. presenting it to all sales agents in London’, and I think that’s super exciting. There have been a few times that it wasn’t quite well received… I know what I signed up for, but it’s not the best.”

Do you consciously include these feedback moments in the next collection you design? How do you find a balance in that?

“I do take a healthy dose with me. At the head office we work on the collection every day and in terms of knowledge of the collection we have the most in that area. But the sales agents are the ones who have to sell the collection. If we don’t sell, we can’t work at all. So I really do incorporate some of the feedback into the design process. And we’re a commercial brand at the end of the day.”

Do you have any tips for people who want to become a denim designer? In addition to technical training.

“Today I would definitely use social media as a stage to show yourself. There are a lot of young creative people who start making something themselves, purely out of interest. It can also be something simple. I know someone who repairs jeans – he’s doing it so stylishly and he’s promoting it so well – that it’s become a fashion thing too, so I’d definitely use Instagram to showcase yourself.”

“I would also use Instagram for inspiration and to talk to people. ‘How can you definitely become a fashion designer without an education?’ It’s not something you have to go to school for anyway, the creativity is what you were born with and you like it. Apart from the techniques, you can learn those, because that’s useful – Adobe Illustrator and pattern drawing. But if you you have about the whole creative thing, you can’t learn that.”

Also read:
For more episodes of FashionUnited’s ‘De Baan Van’ section click here.
Work in fashion
Illustration by Jackie Mallon for FashionUnited.
In August, FashionUnited is all about working in the fashion industry. For all articles about Working in fashion, click here.

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