Dutch designer Helen de Kluiver is, perhaps, a modern day soothsayer. In autumn 2019, she debuted her new line, Caes: elegant tailoring, cleverly made in soft jersey for comfort; slubby oversized sweaters in virgin wool; ballerina body suits in stretch cotton; machine-washable boyish button downs. Within six months the world would have turned on its head and the environment for launching a new brand, as she had just done, would have seemingly plummeted. But de Kluvier had pitched it just right: it was everything we wanted before we knew we needed it.

‘If anything, this time has reaffirmed that we needed to slow down, and for my focus to be on quality over quantity,’ she says, speaking from her studio in Amsterdam. ‘I think there has been an awakening as to what we actually need versus what we want. A person really doesn’t need that many material things; instead, prioritising social interactions – when we can have them – and caring for each other seems so much more important nowadays. This is very much the idea behind my brand.’

Three models wearing Caes Edition 2
Caes Edition 2

Growing weary of the relentlessness of fashion’s calendar, jobbing designer De Kluiver’s desire to launch her brand was gaining momentum. ‘It didn’t match my own set of values,’ she says of the repetitive pattern of collections and shows. ‘I had a strong desire to focus on quality, a perfect fit, and working with fabrics that would not have a negative effect on the environment.’ In spring 2019, she began work on her line that would be based on smaller ‘editions’ rather than large seasonal collections, ‘with qualities and colours that would remain timeless and wearable year-round.’ The intention was to create a portfolio of designs that work harmoniously, year after year. ‘Over time, you will see existing styles, sometimes offered in a new colorway and styled with new pieces. I want to design a wardrobe of perfect staples that can be updated in a new fabric or colour.’

Model wearing Caes Edition 3
Caes Edition 3

Recently, it has been a challenge not to be able to visit her suppliers and factories - many being family-run businesses in Portugal selected by de Kluvier for their high quality of work and proximity to the Netherlands. ‘They are all very dedicated and truly care about the people that work for them - to me, this is as important as the quality of their work.’ Designing and collaborating via Zoom and Skype has become second nature. Considering sustainable production central to her ethos, she works with a 3D pattern cutter to avoid waste and her pieces are shipped to customers in compostable bags.

The name Caes, which means to wear things close to your skin, like a case, is also an ode to her father, Kees, a scientist who passed away when she was a young girl. ‘This is my way of honoring him.’ §

Model wearing Caes Edition 3
Caes Edition 3