For me this website is as up, close & personal as you can get (okay, besides actually shaking my hand in real life) and I can’t WAIT to share it with you. This site features my designs, as well as my biography, philosophy, the creative process and everything that inspires me. I now have my own blog –yay-! So take my hand and get ready to step into my world…
Since the beginning of my brand in 2003, I have let my intuition lead the way and never followed trends or forecasts. My approach is very tactile: feeling and smelling the leather and making sure the combination of different materials and colours work for me. More like a sculpturist than a product designer actually. I never draw: each bag is created behind the sewing machine, molding the leather into its new form.
I think my key-signatures are: timelessness, sobriety and simplicity. Most bags are stripped down to their bare essentials, yet the detailing is well thought through, although that also evolved during the years. At first, they were more rough and had no lining. Through the years I added details to increase their functionality. Like the zippers for instance, it took me years to find the perfect one, leaving the standard YKK behind. ‘Standard’ can never be my standard, I try to upgrade the understated luxury feeling with little details. I love a muted colour palette, so you can pair your bag with any outfit. I also like to play with inside and outside seams and create multiple wearing options by using different straps on a bag. Naming the bags is a pure intuitive and witty process, sometimes the bags reminds me of a certain shape, a feeling or function or a person that is dear to me.
I am very proud of the fact that the complete collection is produced in the Netherlands. We only work with small family businesses and know exactly who worked on which bag. This is how we can guarantee our high quality levels and sleep well at night. We provide local businesses with work and keep in honour what is left, of a beautiful, once blooming Dutch craft. If particular leather is not available at Dutch tanneries we look for it in Italy but we never stray outside Europe. From thread to lining to the best running zippers of the world.
Ellen Truijen (Stramproy, 1976) has always been a creator. First in elementary school, arguing with her teacher about the shape of her clay pot. Creating her own world by sewing and dreaming about being a showdance star. In high school, she actually trained for Dance Academy every day of the week but decided to switch to get a degree in fashion and textile design instead. During an internship, unable to express her development throughout this three-year education in a written report, Ellen decided to do her first performance. A fairytale-like coming of age dance, putting together her own costume, choreography, stage props and music under the supervision of ballet teacher Liliane van Heteren.
Age 18, at the Academy of Fine Arts in Maastricht, Ellen struggled through her first general year that felt mandatory to her. In 1997, she choose sculpting where she could develop her predilection for materials, use her love for tactility and delicacy and was able to do more performances. Meeting soulmate Audrey van der Krogt really defined that time. They adapted a form of Japanese dance theatre called Butoh. With white body makeup, white costumes and slow hyper-controlled motion, they performed and danced from within, letting emotions lead the way. Often they both did not recall who thought of what, they collaborated in complete synergy. Apart from the joined performances, she graduated with her individual work, consisting of porcelain molars and different vertebrars, always continuously trying to explore her own frame of reference. Later stating: ‘Everything had to be white-white-white. Actually all I did was styling, but that was still a dirty word back then. I loved that time and I always thought of my work as poetic, but it stayed vague and I kept on lingering.’ Smiling: ‘I’m glad it’s behind me now.’
Meeting future husband Rob Truijen in her last academic year was certainly a turning. Ellen: ‘Without him, there would not have been ellen:truijen, on so many levels. I owe him my name and my fame!’ The couple decided to move in together in 2000, shortly after they both graduated. But overcoming the post-academic void wasn’t an easy thing. She and Audrey found joy in doing a workshop led by Yvette van der Slik in 2001. Contemporary dance inspired by Oriental martial arts with it’s own idiom and lots of improvisation. After that, Ellen appeared in a fifty minute performance called ‘Kamstjatka’, together with Yvette, moving coincident of each other to one continuous soundscape.
image by Marc Kniphorst
While trying to initiate a dance company, riding the train everyday on her own in between mind numbing jobs like wrapping chocolate bars and stitching banners, dancing became more and more of a fysicial and mental burden. Meanwhile, she was given several assignments through the design agency Rob was working at, like producing cushions, curtains and fashion props. Those jobs were concrete and Ellen could be her own boss, taking care of everything: from designing and managing costs to producing a satisfying end product. Making her and the client very happy. This triggered her decision to quit at her dancing peek. She found a part-time job working at a high-end living and textile store while developing ideas and products in her spare time. One of her first successful creations was a (wine) bottle holder, both in leather and felt. Choosing subtlety, not using a big logo, just a little stitched leather label at the bottom defined the design as hers. This soon became one of the ellen:truijen trademarks, as well as using outside seams and rectangular shapes, always excelling in minimalism, simplicity and sobriety. She soon found friends and aquaintances eager to get their hands on one of her designs. This prompted her to start thinking about a collection and she founded her own label, simply called ellen:truijen in 2002.