Koos Van den Akker, Painted with Fabrics

20 Dec

Koos van den AkkerKoos Van Den Akker (March 16, 1939 – February 3, 2015) was a Dutch-born fashion designer based in New York. He was famed for his unique collaged ‘Koos’ designed clothing and notably the creator of the ‘Bill Cosby’ Sweaters.

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I think of myself as very basic . I am a craftsperson and I sew like that. I sew beautiful clothes. I am nothing more than a worker sitting behind a sewing machine. That’s where I feel most comfortable, that’s where I am the best. That’s what I do best and it’s very basic.    

 Koos Van den Akker

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Short Biography

koosin front of his store, beginning 80ties

Koos Van Den Akker was born on March 16, 1939 in the Hague, Netherlands. He taught himself to sew using a simple sewing machine and his first creation was a dress made from a white bed sheet for his sister. With a broad portfolio at just age 15 he bypassed the 18-year-old requirement age to attend the Royal Academy of Art where he studied fashion and made window displays for a department store until he was 18. He then had to spend two years in the Dutch army where his skills were recognized and a workroom in a basement was set up for him where he made clothes for the officers wives and daughters.

After the two years Koos voyaged to Paris to design window displays for the famous Galeries Lafayette but realizing he needed more formal training, in 1961 he enrolled in L’Ecole Guerre Lavigne which was located in the same building as the Christian Dior workrooms. Every year Christian Dior picked the most gifted students for an apprenticeship and in 1963 Koos was selected. After three years at Dior and learning every detail about crafting beautiful clothes he moved back to the Netherlands and started his own business opened up his first store in The Hague. But the Netherlands wasn’t ready for his designs and anything glamorous or fashionable was shunned by Dutch women so after his father’s death in 1968 Koos took off to New York.

met museum, Koos Van Den Akker

Koos Van Den Akker

1988From a sewing machine on a hotel bed and only $180 in the pocket Koos set up a string of stores including ones on Madison Avenue, Columbus Avenue, Thomson Street Soho, 10th on Bleeker and even one in Beverley Hills, LA. In the mid seventies he even had a wholesale line with a showroom where major upscale stores bought their supplies of Koos’. Overspending and stagnating sales by Koos’ business eventually led it to obtain a tax-debt of a half a million dollars.

In 1998 Koos started a label for television retailer QVC called ‘Koos of Course!’ and presented his own show with the collection selling out in 27 minutes. The line continued on QVC until his final show in February 2006.

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1974, Koos Van Den Akker

Koos Van Den Akker

Koos Van Den AkkerKoos was known for his painterly in mixing colors, patterns, and textures in unusual, often one of a kind, garments. Conservatively styled suits consisting of cardigan jackets and gored skirts might be covered with textured mixtures of fur, quilted fabric, leather strips, or pieces of wool. A dress of lace might be dramatized by bold appliqué.

Until his death Koos had a store at 1263 Madison Avenue, New York, his former location for decades and a studio in the Garment District. Koos maintained a high-profile in New York and LA. He collected a following among celebrities and much press from Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel, Vice Magazine and I-D.

1985, Koos Van Den Akker

Koos Van Den Akker

 

Koos Van Den Akker

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The Bill Cosby Sweater

bill-cosby-show-sweaters

Josephine Premice, a singer in the 1980s and a good friend of Koos’s, asked him to make a sweater as present for Bill Cosby. She took it to the set of The Cosby Show where Bill immediately put it on and wore it for the taping. It was an instantaneous hit

The attention gained by Cosby’s wearing of Van Den Akker’s wild collaged sweaters on television established the designer’s reputation with the rich and famous.

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 Book

Book cover

This biography and illustrated guide highlights the work of master designer Koos van den Akker and provides inspiration for bold, unique sewing creations. Chronicling the designer’s 30 years in haute couture, this book follows van den Akker from his start in the Paris workrooms of Christian Dior to his rise in the fashion world and the establishment of his own Madison Avenue boutique. Included are demonstrations for duplicating several of his construction and design techniques that offer illustrated sewing instructions and intricate details for home sewers to imitate. The designs, with their richness of texture, generosity of color, and dynamic mix of fabrics, share the full scope of van den Akker’s masterful creations.

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Koos Van Den AkkerKoos Van Den Akker at home in New York

 

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