If there’s one place you can count on for denim shopping, its Amsterdam. The city has earned its name as Europe’s denim capital for good reason thanks to its dense concentration of denim business that inhabit the region. From discovering hidden treasures in the 9 streets, to Kalverstraat’s shop-till-you-drop experience or wishful window-shopping in the Museum Quarter – there is plenty to explore.

One area thats not so frequented for fashion, albeit your typical Amsterdam weed souvenir tee or S&M bondage gear is Amsterdam’s Red Light District. And its not surprising – so you’d think. This old corner of Amsterdam, historically known as De Wallen, was famed in the 80s and 90s as a den of ubiquity but today the area has undergoing quite a transformation. Sure, you still have the sex workers offering their services to passers-by and you can still find seedy bars on most corners, but the city’s efforts to “clean up” the Red Light District have led to the closure of a number of coffeeshops and prostitution windows, while the deluge of tourists strolling around the neighborhood has modified the true essence of the district.

One of the most promising areas of change is the growing number of young creatives who are moving-in amongst this rapid transformation. Harmony Hendrickx of CKX Studio is one of the early adopters to set-up shop here in recent months. Located at Sint Annenstraat 6, on a narrow blink-and-you’ll miss it street, CKX Studio is a indigo haven quite unlike anything else in the city. Harmony, a trained photographer by trade, is also a self-confessed indigo addict herself and the space is a testament to her craft and passion for everything blue.

The former studio space now converted into a store front is packed to the rafters with an eclectic mix of indigo treasures, merchandise and memorabilia from Harmony’s travels around the world. “Wow, I want everything” is a sentence she hears often when customers step foot in the store.

I offer an eclectic mix of vintage and antique items, as well as contemporary brands with a sustainable vision and small batch companies. Craftsmanship and natural materials really are the blue thread that links them all. Every item in the store comes with a story, and people can search for that one blue treasure that matches their own.  

With such a visual feast on offer its not hard to see why. Heirlooms like Japanese hikeshi hanten jackets and boro blankets adorn the walls, while tabletops lay covered with antique Delft Blue porcelain plates, and glass cabinets stacked with Buddy Lee dolls and other vintage Americana memorabilia. A small sign behind the counter reads “Something old, something new, something fair, something blue”. This affection even goes so far as the blue latte they serve up to equally devoted customers.

Whats also special and most personal to Harmony is that the store is located in the ‘Blaauwlakenblok’ (blue cloth block), where traditionally the dyers where located, working with woad and indigo. After all, the Dutch’s affection for the colour blue or ‘Amsterdam Blauw’ as its locally known, goes back way further and much deeper than the cities cult history for sex shops and weed cafe’s. Most famously the colour was used to decorate Dutch porcelain in the Golden Century. Artisans obtained the striking blue shade by mixing indigo from China and Japan with an oil-based paint, and this colour is still widely visible in houses and street signs in the city.

“Indigo really is a personal fascination and fixation almost. I’ve fallen in love with a color, and I get captivated with it where ever I go.”

Harmony keeps the tradition of ‘Amsterdam Blauw’ alive through the collection of Delft Blue porcelain she sells in the store as well as her practising of cyanotype artworks – a 174-year-old photographic printing process recognised for its stunning cyan blue silhouette, or blueprint as is known.

While this historic process has its roots in copying architectural drawings, Harmony gives it a modern twist for today by using kitschy motifs like Botanicals, Buddy Lee dolls or Thunderbirds onto postcards, drink coasters or khadi paper artworks.

“One of my first loves, photography, certainly plays a role in this. I started photography at age 13, when I got my dad’s old analog camera. Ever since then, I’ve loved photography and especially analog and alternative processes. Cyanotype is one of them. For me photography is like magic, it will give you this child like feeling whenever an image is produced.

Another personal appreciation, is that of vintage workwear. I just love the faded blues, and the life that shows through a garment. Almost the same relic properties a photograph has I guess. The two combined are really at the cornerstone of CKX Studio.”

If you were one of the lucky participants at Denim Days to experience her workshops you’ll understand the beauty of this process and no doubt have had a souvenir to take home with you. Harmony is also holding workshops in the studio with a new program of indigo dyeing and lessons in mending your own clothes to be added soon.

When it comes to product, Harmony has a strong ethos that every unique item in the store should have a story. Her love for craftmanship and socially responsible product rounds out a tightly curated list of brands that champion both style and substance.  Slow fashion brands like One Square Meter sit alongside local sustainable shepherds Kings of Indigo as well as select pieces from Levi’s Vintage Clothing – a personal favourite of Harmony.  Bleu de Cocagne and Story MFG are some of the new labels she’s expecting in store soon.

“Consumers are getting more and more aware of the evironmental and social effects of the fashion industry, which is a great transformation. Especially in Amsterdam people are really aware of their consumer behaviour. We’re certainly not there yet, so we’ve got to keep this movement growing. I really love collaborating with small batch companies that produce pieces made to last. I also try to avoid gender and seasons in store.”

Amongst these select labels, you can also discover a selection of hand-picked vintage, antique, reworked and upcycled items from as far as France and Japan as well as handcrafted local goods and contemporary designs focusing on organic fabrics and natural dyes. Harmony works with local talent in the city, including her mother, who has hand-painted a selection of vintage Levi’s jackets.

If you’re planning a trip to Amsterdam make sure to put this hidden treasure on your list. You won’t regret it!

CKX Studio
Address: Sint Annenstraat 6, 1012 HE Amsterdam, Netherlands
Instagram: @ckxstudio / @harmonyhendrickx
Website: www.ckxstudio.com

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Denim trend consultant, owner of @samutaro