The store is located in a modern waterside structure facing the city centre across the meuse river. It’s spacious, with floor-to-ceiling windows that allow in floods of daylight. The store interior is clean and basic but features a range of furnishings and props that are loosely inspired by an actual playground which allows different configurations. The focal point of the interior set-up is a collection of wooden mannequins.
Hi Alex, introduce yourself…
Age 24 and member of time-bomb-ticking-about-to-explode EU distressed DIY generation. Responsible for creative direction of the brand.
Why did you start the shop with your brother?
It wasn’t anything particularly planned. We always kept an open ear to opportunities that might arise. This presented itself and we grabbed it with both hands.
What was is it that made you want to open a store in the first place?
Growth. Being online is simply not enough and possibilities are limited to a certain extent. We wanted to create a hybrid space that offers flexibility and freedom in terms of setup. We wanted to get in touch with actual people and create a meeting space for kindred spirits, whatever that entails. Creating a kind of modern theater with varying programming constantly seeking to draw a crowd. Also, looking at a computer screen 12 hours a day is not a healthy thing to do. However, this still is the case.
When did you develop your love for fashion?
I wouldn’t say it’s just fashion. It’s the interconnectivity of things. So you have these guys and they produce fashion. Then you start digging and find they are in all sort of places, from art direction to music to filmmaking and this opens a fresh perspective on certain artistic fields. It allows you to set up possible spin-off collaborations and provides great content in terms of getting people in the know with alternative stuff and inspiring persons from all types of occupations.
How did you come up with the name Damage Playground?
The name Damage was acquired from a former Rotterdam t-shirt label working primarily with local hip-hop artists. Playground as a synonym for possibilities. The possibility of figuring out how different things work, falling down, getting back up, and giving it another spin. A space for amusement. Similar to an actual playground. Fun coincidence, there’s actually one located in an inner courtyard right behind from where we are located. Through the shafts you can hear kids play during their school breaks. All in all giving a literal dimension to it.
Who / what inspired you to start this store and do you have some examples of other stores you like?
No one person or something in particular. Merely a process of thought of other ways of approaching retail and at the same creating a serene welcoming space. A person drawn lessons from is Tadao Ando, a self taught architect. Taking away from his transparent geometry approach and having also started without prior knowledge of interior design whatsoever. Simply drawing ideas from observing real building spaces and or visual reference thereof, reading about it, and trying to figure out the logic in it. It involves everything from natural light flooding in to even the music subtly playing along in the background.
What made you choose this specific location in Rotterdam to open your store?
It’s all about potential and possibilities. Being at a crossing point in Rotterdam’s ever developing Southbank along the ambitious Kop van Zuid project spanning buildings by Pritzker prize winners, gentrified formerly no-go-district Katendrecht and a transforming Afrikaanderwijk, still known as a deprived area. It has everything from a hidden gem of an apartment hotel offering rooms for two persons at thirty-five euro’s a night to a small apparel atelier doing production for Jean Paul Gaultier, de Bijenkorf, and other designers and private individuals.
'With Damage Playground we aim to create a kind of modern theater with varying programming constantly seeking to draw a crowd'
Damage Playground isn’t only a store, what else do you guys do?
We strive to be a platform for a variety of small-scale activities beside a mini gallery. Think of film screenings, book presentations, lectures, music features, graduation projects and product-related activities.
What kind of people shop at Damage Playground?
We’re still trying to finger point this. We’ve noticed visitors vary from people active in the creative industry like freelancers, writers, artists, graphic designers, photographers, designers and musicians to fathers, politicians, and women who are disappointed that we do not carry womenswear in a similar style. It is a mix of young and old, with young (up to a year or 38) prevailing. Online, our reach is global. Locally and nationally it’s been increasing steadily since our opening in late 2012.
What was the idea behind having a webshop as well?
It was already there before the brick store. Keeping it is essential in terms of survival and being able to reach a broad audience. Globalisation has already taken place. So why ignore it?
There are some collabs between Damage Playground and artists, how important is art to you?
If art is about creativity, then and that’s what we aim to support.
Can you tell us more about your collection?
Primarily, it’s a selection of relatively young European brands with a certain authenticity and ambiguity to it. We mostly try to find a balance between wearability, artistry, tongue in cheek while carefully introducing a particular fit that once was.
What sets Damage Playground apart from other stores?
Setting ourselves apart is not a goal in itself. We simply try to follow our own path and not get carried away by tempting offerings in an industry where you could easily get carried away by the ‘coolness’ of it all.
What reactions do you get from people that have visited the store?
Ranging from ‘you need to do something about that ceiling’ to ‘What’s that smell?’.
What do you want to achieve with Damage Playground?
Not taking ourselves too seriously.
What are your dreams for the future?
That’s like asking what’s the meaning of life. I thoroughly enjoyed Terrence Malick’s ‘The Tree of Life’. I like to believe I haven’t lost that childhood innocence and curiosity yet.
What about the future of Damage Playground? What can we expect?
Kindred satellites, not franchises, in cities like Dusseldorf, Groningen, Ghent, Vancouver, Seattle, and Sao Paolo. At least we hope. Although we wouldn’t mind sticking to just the one store in Rotterdam with on and off pop-ups. It still amazes me that a store like Colette only has kept one location where the credo seems to be. Besides New York, London and Paris, in which Asian city do we open our next flagship store?
Any cool stuff going on you want to tell us we can expect very soon?
We just had a wonderful opening of an exhibition by the talented Jordy van den Nieuwendijk on April 5th, accompanied by the equally masterful duo Boef en de Gelogeerde Aap.
The release of Babar Meets Soulland commemorating 80 years of Babar the Elephant accompanied by Babar all over our windows. Colette will do the kick-off starting April 3rd.
What are you most proud of?
We’re not there yet. We haven’t achieved anything yet. Being satisfied could make you dull. There are always ways of doing things differently.
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