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Question & Answer

Sandra Harmsen and Hans Boelens, Humanoid

9 Oct 2015
Dutch cult label Humanoid has remained faithful to its DNA since it first emerged in 1981. Here, Founders Sandra Harmsen and Hans Boelens shed light on their approach to design and how they continue to nurture the brand.
Model wearing Humanoid
What are the cornerstones of your creativity and how would you describe the Humanoid aesthetic?

The Humanoid look is expressive, creative, authentic, but always functional and contemporary. The label can almost be likened to a wonderful person – a character with both feet firmly on the ground who feels comfortable in her own skin. She gets on with things but above all has a good time. Humanoid is about freedom, quality and the “here and now”. Every collection originates from our perception of freedom and the feel of the materials we choose; the way they drape, move and behave when treated and how they feel when caressing the skin. Every collection is a continuation of the previous one. A large luxurious wrap scarf has come to symbolize the Humanoid feel. It’s been a staple in in every collection since the very start.

Tell us a little bit more about the materials you use and how you treat them to achieve the distinctive Humanoid look.

They’re typically earthly, feminine, comfortable and contemporary. We often use soft, lush fabrics in fine qualities such as fine wool, tactile cotton, crisp linen, soft poplin, suede and leather. Each garment and its chosen fabric are treated to achieve a unique look. We use special washing techniques and dyeing methods such as garment dyes and cold dyes to create materials that often appear to be worn and washed. The shades and finishes all match well and the pieces benefit from layering – which in itself is integral to the Humanoid aesthetic.

The industry has changed dramatically since the early 1980s when you first started out. How have you adapted the way you run humanoid to align with current consumer expectations and general industry developments?

The way we run the brand hasn’t changed at all. We’ve always remained true to our own philosophy and DNA, continuing to work hard, adjusting and improving as we go along. Even in difficult times, we’ve refused to change direction, while we’ll always stick to the quality we like – the one our customers keep coming back for. The quality and comfort factor are the key reasons why we have a loyal following. We’ve never promoted the brand with marketing or advertising campaigns; instead, we let the clothes do the talking and word of mouth is a big part of attracting new customers.

Who is the Humanoid consumer?
A confident, independent woman who is powerful and curious with a distinctive sense of style. That said, the customer base is very diverse, though they are in the know and share an appreciation of authenticity and cherish the feeling of freedom.

Humanoid’s Arnhem flagship store serves up external brands for both men and women as well as Humanoid’s lines for women and children. What defines the overall concept and the buying strategy?

We don’t have a particular buying concept – we always shop and search for new brands with an open mind. If a brand comes along that we like, we buy it and then keep it for several seasons. We mostly buy labels and pieces that we’d like to wear ourselves.

Store pic

Would you consider opening other standalone stores in the future, and if so where?
Yes, we’d love to add more stores like our Arnhem flagship. We’d start opening new ones in the international cities of Europe and then continue to seek out locations all over the world.

As for wholesale accounts, which territories are currently key, and which countries/continents do you wish to enter next?
The key accounts are based in The Netherlands, Belgium, USA and Italy. We’d love to conquer new markets such as Asia but also expand further within Scandinavia, a territory we have a particular affinity to as its inherent style matches that of Humanoid’s in terms of fit and general feel.

Store picture
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