Looking for a beautiful pair of statement earrings? A unique necklace or bracelet? Jewellery designer Iris Nijenhuis is who you’ve been looking for! This Amsterdam-based designer creates modular jewellery from jigsaw pieces of fabric.
Iris combines modern laser technology with traditional craftsmanship. In 2011, she graduated from the Amsterdam Fashion Institute with a collection of textile designs and garments where she really sought to explore the potential of textiles through a variety of techniques.
By experimenting with laser cutting, she developed a technique where she cuts fabric into jigsaw pieces, which she then assembles into inspired forms and structures that could become a wide range of products. And all of this without the use of a sewing machine, stitches or glue!
A year later, Iris developed a dress for a museum using this same puzzle technique. This dress, composed of 14 000 jigsaw pieces, is a beautiful piece of art but is not wearable. She started then to look for wearable ways to use her techniques and decided to make jewellery!
Making this jewellery is very labour intensive but Iris Nijenhuis does it all in her own workshop, together with interns from the Creative Craftsmen course, among others! She laser cuts the pieces of textile into her jigsaw pieces then assembles them by hand into beautiful creations. She even makes the acrylic ankers which serve as clasps, the kraft paper packaging she uses and the wooden displays to display her creations! The production of Iris’ jewellery is therefore completely ethical as it involves her own two hands, and is 100% local.
Iris Nijenhuis uses a range of different textiles to make her jewellery: scuba fabric, spacer fabric (neoprene) and high quality artificial leathers. She deliberately chose these materials because they are particularly well suited to the laser cutter and her jigsaw technique meaning her final products are of the best quality possible. The fabric also needs to be relatively tough as it is worn so close to skin.
These are all the reasons why Iris Nijenhuis chooses synthetic materials. Although here at COSH! we usually are not big fans of this (they are not biodegradable and release plastic into the environment), in this case using synthetic materials makes the products last longer, so it is still a sustainable choice.
Iris does sometimes also use second-hand fabrics such as denim, but finds that these tend to fray much more quickly. Using second-hand synthetic fabrics is an option as well, as long as they are of the right quality and thickness. It can be quite time-consuming though looking for good quality and colourful textile scraps and old clothes. These ‘limited editions’ are not available in other shops, only from her own studio and online shop. She made this conscious choice so that people will not mistakenly assume all the pieces in her shop are made from second-hand fabrics.
Scuba and spacer fabrics are different varieties of neoprene. Neoprene (polychloroprene) is a synthetic fabric made from petroleum. Spacer fabric is a foam-like airy material that consists of a top and bottom layer with thin filaments in between them through which the air can flow. This makes the resulting jewellery very lightweight and comfortable to wear.
Iris Neijenhuis pays attention to the circularity of her jewellery by ensuring her creations have long lifespans and by working carefully with her materials.
For example, efficient laser cutting creates very little waste. Iris also buys fabric in small quantities, which she can use for years as she doesn’t need much for her modular designs.
She has also developed her packaging so that it can have a second life. For example, the packaging can be folded into a jewellery stand or hanger which could be used by the shops. These can also find a nice spot on your dresser or on a clothes hanger in your home.
Although the designer always has pieces in stock for trade fairs and exhibitions, part of her collection is only available on demand. This means the jewellery is only made once it has been ordered, to avoid having too much stock.
Iris Nijenhuis’ jewellery may look like it’s made of leather but no animals were harmed in its making! Instead, she chooses to work with very good imitations of leather meaning the brand is completely vegan-friendly.
Iris Nijenhuis’ jewellery is made to last. This is obvious from the choice of materials but also through the repair options and the modularity of her jewellery.
Iris considers it very important that consumers also take on this responsibility. Just as you would go to the cobbler with your favourite pair of shoes, Iris hopes you will go back to her with your jewellery when it’s in need of a refresh.
For the first year after your purchase, Iris’ jewellery is guaranteed meaning she will repair it for free. After that first year, you can still get your jewellery repaired for the small sum of 5 to 15 euros. Thanks to the modular design of her creations, each piece can easily be replaced if needed. You can also modify or upgrade your Iris Nijenhuis pieces with additional jigsaw pieces so it can evolve with your style!
Iris Nijenhuis has got to the point where she has created a really strong basic collection that does not change with the fashion seasons. Sometimes, she adds new designs, and in addition to the permanent collection, she does alternate some colours and prints with the seasons. The designer has her own very distinctive style that never goes out of style, totally slow fashion!
Iris Nijenhuis is very open about her work methods and choices of materials, which here at COSH! we really admire. The only information that we’re missing is the provenance of the materials. Iris tries to find out as much as possible from the fabric shops but they don’t always provide much transparency on the origins of the fabrics to avoid competition issues with suppliers.
Would you like to check out Iris Nijenhuis’ unique designs in real life? Her studio on Prinseneiland in the centre of Amsterdam is open by appointment. Choose a beautiful piece of jewellery for yourself or get a loved one an original gift!
Looking for a creative activity in Amsterdam? Book a DIY workshop with Iris Nijenhuis and learn how to create your own personalised piece of jewellery from a puzzle of fabric pieces.