Esther Vijftigschild

Esther's atelier

Esther Vijftigschild (24) was born and raised in Arnhem, but moved to Utrecht to study at the Utrecht School of the Arts (HKU), a place from where more Puha-designers origin. Now, Esther has developed an ever-evolving collection, in her atelier at Kanaleneiland in Utrecht, where I visit her today.


Passing fabrics

As a little girl in Arnhem, Esther already couldn’t stop moving her hands. She was always busy sewing clothes for herself and for her dolls. When she was in high school, she decided to become a fashion designer. Esther’s aunt used to have a fashion boutique for her own fashion label, when Esther was little. Now that Esther has her own label, she uses the fabrics that are left from her aunt’s boutique; an original way of durable production.


After graduating the HKU, Esther started working in a store, to find out what it was that she really wanted to do. One day, she and her colleague were fantasising about what it would look like to make a lace collar out of leather.  And so she started working with leather and making accessories like leather bows and collars. Later on, she also started making clothes. Silk dresses with leather details, jackets and there are probably some trousers coming up too, Esther tells me.


The collection Esther is currently working on, is an ever-evolving collection. This means that she does not make a new collection every season, as designers mostly do in our fast paced society, but that she will always be working on this collection. This way we keep seeing new varieties on existing designs and maybe the collection will eventually be completely different. It all depends on Esther’s inspiration and on the spirit of the age. “Although I don’t follow trends on purpose, I am influenced by the spirit of the age. I came up with the idea of making bows and collars myself, but since I launched them in 2011, I suddenly saw them everywhere. We might not imitate each other on purpose; maybe trends are hanging in the air as we follow, make and wear them instinctively.”


Something I am always curious about and which is important for Puha, is where designers get their fabrics from. This is something Esther finds important too and she tries to make everything as durable as possible. As I mentioned before, Esther uses a lot of leftover fabrics from her aunt, some of them are thirty years old. Others she buys on so-called stock days, on websites with leftover fabrics from other designers and from people who have leftovers themselves.
For now, Esther has enough fabrics, but in the future she would like to start using fair-trade materials and keep the collection evolving in a durable way too.

Stoffen en stansen



All the little holes in Esther’s leather designs are handmade. In the beginning, she made them with a pair of pliers, but because it hurt her hands badly, she started to hammer little metal pipes into the leather. Now, she owns an actual spindle machine, which still makes her use her hands, but it works more efficient. “People often think I make the little holes by using lasercut, so I always tell them I make every hole by hand. Sometimes the punching goes wrong, because I make everything without drawing a pattern. Then I have to chance it and mostly it comes out only better than the pattern I had in mind.”


Besides working on her collection, Esther also makes custom-made clothes on request. Right now she is giving a lady’s wedding dress a make-over, because she didn’t want to leave it hanging in her wardrobe and wants to wear it as a casual dress. In the future, Esther would like to combine her collection and custom-made work.  “I feel like I’ve just started, so I hope to be able to continue with this collection for a long time. But if I may dream for a moment; I would love to open my own boutique someday, where you can have your clothes be custom-made on the spot. When a customer wants to have one of my pieces in another colour or size, I am in the back of the store, ready with my sewing machine.“

Until that time, you can follow the evolution of her collection at Puha, where Esther Vijftigschild’s handmade items are available.


Interview: Carmen Kloosterhuis