Imagine this. You’ve decided you’re moving to another country. You don’t exactly know why you’ve chosen that land, other than it’s widespread reputation for being a good place to live in. You think it’s better to start writing to people prior to your departure. Those people are already living in the country of your choosing, and could hypothetically help you settle. Some of them are friends of friends, others write blogs you like reading. You never met them in person, so it’s basically a shot in the dark. There’s this girl who writes for a fashion platform you came across, and she is based in Amsterdam. You give it a try.
Hi there! I am Ana, the person behind (the name of my blog at the time). I got to know (name of the site the used to contribute to) through a fellow blogger and I really liked it! When I was reading more about you there was something that rang my bell: you live in Amsterdam! I decided to write you right away because the coming January I’m moving there too, and I would love to have someone who could present me to the city and maybe give me some support or advice upon my arrival.
This was the introduction. For my greatest surprise, she replied. Text me when you’re here. You bet I will, girl. Come January, some e-mailing back and forth took place. At first, she was sick, afterward, it was a busy time for her because of, just guess, Amsterdam Fashion Week. I had a fashion blog back then so I felt I had an excuse for exposing my interest in the event without sounding like I was a poser. I’m like, I never went to a fashion week, blah blah, it would be a great opportunity, blah blah, do you think there is a way for me to attend some shows? (there were no paid tickets to AFW back in 2012). She goes like, you could join me in case my friend isn’t able to attend tonight’s show – would you be interested in that? I reply with a very polite version of a hell yeah!, and I ask her where were the shows taking place (what a novice!)
By now you’ve already sensed that I did replace my new friend’s friend that evening. But not without facing some domestic drama: having into account my entire life was packed into one big piece of luggage, I was obviously uncovered for as improbable an event in my then-life as fashion week. Luckily I had a furry coat in my possession (not a real one, don’t hyperventilate), one recently acquired at the Waterlooplein flea market for the beautiful amount of ten euros. At least a furry coat, I thought. Next drama: finding the way to this restaurant (was it a restaurant?) where we had planned to meet, somewhere which went by the brilliant name of Pacific Parc. ‘Pacific Parc‘ sounded exotic and spoke directly to my hippie instincts. It was like a promise of extraordinary things. I was far from imagining, by then, the role this venue would come to play in my Amsterdam existence.
(I’m holding my breath, and showing you pictures of the furry coat now – the quality of the pictures being very 1999, as well as that facial expression)
I hopped on my bike, left the Indische Buurt behind, and ventured all the way to the west side of town. I had no smartphone at the time, therefore no google maps for me, either. That meant stopping twice on the way to ask passers-by about the exact direction to the Pacific thing. One of them had never heard of such a venue, the other frowned for a bit. “You mean, that bar at the Westergasfabriek?”. Wasn’t it supposed to be a restaurant?, I thought. And this was the first time I ever heard of the Westergasfabriek. Yes, I was in the right direction – all I had to do was keep on going straight until I found a park, and an old gas factory right in the middle of it. Park and factory found, and I was already impressed. What a location. I had got into the park through a very picturesque bridge almost in front of the building, which was stunning. It looked like it was extremely old but the whole industrial complex was perfectly preserved – the red bricks contrasting with the vivid green of the fields. Glorious.
And then, Pacific Parc. It was a huge venue, all in warm tones, lots of whimsical lights around, and there was a fireplace right in the middle of it. I remember sitting at a high table while waiting for our dinner, staring at this enormous and extravagant chandelier in the ceiling, absorbing the rock’n’roll bohemian vibe around, and thinking: I’m at the right place. My host to that evening, Manuela, a Swiss girl studying fashion in Amsterdam, was unbelievable kind and sweet. Extra points for being the one to tell me Pacific turned into a sort of nightclub in the evenings, djs and everything.
The relaxed vibe around us made me wonder if that was how fashion weeks went in The Netherlands. By then, I didn’t know yet we were about to attend a Cast Iron‘s show – an Amsterdam’s denim brand. Five and a half years later I have to smile at this recollection. Ha! Denim, the King of Dutch Fashion. Plus it was the first time I saw long beards on the runway. And an older gray haired man! I was on my knees.
At the end of the show, Manuela made a selfie of us and posted it on facebook. It was the first and the last time I had a selfie posted on facebook, and I love that picture. I was happy. I had just gone to AFW. I was having a good hair day. I had seen a bunch of men with gorgeous facial hair parade before me. I had a furry coat. I had made a new friend. That was the only time I saw Manuela, though. She was a working bird, and I was a social butterfly, and we had busy schedules. We kept in touch via social media, and eventually, she moved back to Switzerland. But I keep on following her adventures. In the meanwhile, she launched her own website, The Organic Fashion Utopia (or TOFU for the friends), a platform intended to combine the fields she loves the most: fashion, and sustainability. And you know what? Via TOFU I recently learned Manuela is becoming a mommy! Great excuse for telling you the story of this peculiar and unforgettable evening, and thank her, for having been so kind and warmhearted to a random girl who had sent her a random e-mail asking for stuff.