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Rider Stories

Rider Stories: Spike - Perspectives on a city

Fashionista. Sartorialist. Man-about-town. Spike Spijker finds inspiration in Amsterdam’s abundance of thrift stores, design boutiques and innovative fashion concepts. Launching a menswear label in 2018 became a dream outlet for his sustainable creative ethos, built around giving unloved materials new purpose, as well as proud new owners. Spike’s focus on sustainability also turns to city life – where Amsterdam’s shifting faces must be viewed with caution, and where biking mounts a challenge to urban pollution.

Although it often feels as if the creative impulse is inherited, Spike Spijker – now a fashion designer – didn’t come from a particularly artistic background. “My parents weren’t very creative people,” he reflects. “But my dad was always someone who wanted to make stuff. If something broke, he liked to repair it – not throw it away. That’s something I think I got from my childhood: I guess it’s not even second nature for me, it just is my nature to do this sort of thing.”

Having taken on a knack for giving all manner of objects a second life, Spike spent much of his youth crafting new toys from whichever items he had at his disposal: “If there was something I wanted, I would take what I already had and make something else out of it…I was always busy with that kind of stuff.” It was through these early experiments that Spike’s creative philosophy took root – of finding potential in the discarded and tired, seeing possibilities beneath surface-level impressions, and in embracing the limitations that come with repurposing used materials.

Quite a few years later – when studying at art school – a casual collaboration with his now-wife, Mies, helped jumpstart Spike’s appreciation for textiles. “She was studying fashion design, and I was initially more into spatial design,” he remembers. “But I assisted her when she was busy – searching for the fabrics that she wanted to use in her collection.” The pair realised they shared an eye for spotting great materials – based on the desired properties of each finished garment.

Today, Spike and Mies remain a strong partnership. Established three years ago, their menswear brand JOUEZ LES ENFANTS is the manifestation of a joint creative ethos: with each collection comprising various handmade pieces and limited edition designs, formed largely from left-over fabrics and deadstock garments. Offering contemporary classics for “less ordinary” clientele – produced and altered exclusively in Amsterdam – their label posits a sustainable response to a world of fast fashion.

“For me, the launch in 2018 was the moment that everything fell into place. All the ideas I’ve had, all the samples we made through the years, and all my experiences with styling for other brands came together in that first collection.” As well as his consciousness for responsible production methods, Spike values his interactions with clients, and looks to challenge their expectations when the chance arises. “When you have a customer who wants a certain design, I like to work on this edge between what he wants and what I think is better for him. It's a challenge…but the little fringes or possibilities of products and materials always make the nicest solutions.”

“Sometimes, going somewhere just for the sake of it is more inspiring than going to a place you really know. It’s all about the detour,”

Cheered on by their son, Piet; French bulldog, Kees; and cat, Fred Perry, Spike and Mies couldn’t imagine a more fitting place for their fledgling business to take flight. In Spike’s terms, “Amsterdam is a stylish city, but its residents are also known for their casual style of dressing.” From sustainable fabric pioneers and contemporary dutch designers to street markets, curated vintage concepts and the city’s wealth of kringlopen – or thrift stores – Spike takes creative cues from the whole spectrum. But when creative juices are in short supply, he finds few better ways to refresh and rejuvenate than to wander the city by bike.

“Sometimes, going somewhere just for the sake of it is more inspiring than going to a place you really know. It’s all about the detour,” he asserts. "It's a cliché, but it's actually true. You enjoy the things you see in the moment. It's also about getting out of your comfort zone. A bit like meeting new people: it can be scary or frightening but it's always special, and it gives you insights you didn't have before. To go out and get lost is a kind of luxury I hope I have for many years to come.”

Growing up in a small village near Alkmaar, there was "only ever one city” for Spike – who made regular visits to the Dutch capital. And whilst the thought of relocating too far from Amsterdam remains unthinkable, Spike is well used to being on the move, and has found himself orbiting the city limits with each new home. He currently resides and works in Duivendrecht: a neighbourhood with easy access to both the city centre and the rich cultural offerings of the nearby Bijlmermeer.

Like many Amsterdammers, Spike appreciates the city’s considered provisions for safe cycling – which are brought further into focus when he visits other European cities. It’s also fair to say his favourite journeys are more adventurous than most: the Ronde Hoep – a famous 18km route passing reed marshes, swamps, woodland and open water – has recently become a firm favourite. “I also love riding back to Amsterdam Noord via IJburg and Zeeburgereiland,” he adds. “The view from the bridge over the IJ river and the city is spectacular.”

With his preoccupation for sustainable living, cycling would appear to be a logical part of Spike’s wider lifestyle, but the reality is somewhat different: “It would be easy to say, ‘yeah, I do it for the environment,’ but it’s also kind of a habit. We’re so used to cycling here from our youth, plus the city is of a size that’s very doable by bike.”

Sustainability is, though, among Spike’s key concerns for the city’s future trajectory, and its changing demographics. “I see a lot of positive developments in the city’s efforts to get pollution down and all that kind of stuff. But on the other hand, it comes at a price, and the price is something that not everybody is able to pay: houses and rent are already ridiculously expensive here. When you only have a city for the rich, it's going to be a very dull place.”

I'm quite sure that everybody sees the need for this contrast in people – this combination of different lifestyles. You need it all to make one city.”

Sustainability is, though, among Spike’s key concerns for the city’s future trajectory, and its changing demographics. “I see a lot of positive developments in the city’s efforts to get pollution down and all that kind of stuff. But on the other hand, it comes at a price, and the price is something that not everybody is able to pay: houses and rent are already ridiculously expensive here. When you only have a city for the rich, it's going to be a very dull place.”

For Spike, the answers lie in striving for a healthy balance, and in aspiring for diversity in all its forms: “Generally speaking, I think that all good things depend on contrasts. That’s what makes stuff interesting! In that sense, an object is no different from a place. I'm quite sure that everybody sees the need for this contrast in people – this combination of different lifestyles. You need it all to make one city.”

In the series Rider Stories, we explore perspectives on living and working in cities and beyond through the eyes of our riders.

Words by George H. King


GEORGE H. KING is an Amsterdam-based writer and editor with a focus on art, culture and society. A previous Editor-in-Chief of Unseen Magazine, his writing has appeared in the likes of Yet Magazine, Foam Magazine and The British Journal of Photography.


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