When Angelina Jolie married Brad Pitt wearing a gown decorated with drawings created by their children, the bold design made news headlines and reintroduced the world to the concept of personalised clothing.
But for Dutch artist and designer Eva Meenhorst, transferring a brush from paintings to clothing is a practise she is very much used to, because Eva has spent the last three years bringing her very own paintings to life by reproducing her creations on different items of clothing to create wearable art.
Inspired by her favourite Dutch artist, Liesbeth Rahder, mother of four Eva, 45, spent her spare time replicating one of Rahder’s paintings to get around the expense of the original piece. As her confidence developed, Eva started to produce her own designs. But it wasn’t until she posted a picture of her paintings online that she realised a future career may be possible.
“I started to paint just as a hobby for myself while the children were at school. When I finished my second painting, I posted a picture on Facebook and somebody wanted to buy it so I sold it. After that I thought maybe I could do this for a living.”
With her artwork attracting attention, Eva received commissions and was soon hosting intimate exhibitions in her home in Yarm. It was through this that she embarked on her next endeavour.
“I knew a lot of parents so I would invite them round to see if they were interested in what I had made. One evening, a friend said she liked my work but admitted it would not suit her style of home furnishings. So, she asked me whether I could paint the design on her dress and I thought sure, why not? Let’s see if I can do that.
“With a little bit of research into paints and how you must treat the fabric afterwards, I picked a style of dress I could make and I created the artwear. The friend that asked for the dress became part of the business as she had good ideas about the different styles and garments I could make. I also hired a seamstress to make the clothing to my liking. As soon as the product is made, I paint it and then sell it.”
Despite the rise of her career, Eva admits that living in the UK is hard. Originally from the Netherlands, she reminisces about the days of her childhood and how she misses her parents: “I grew up in the north of Holland, in a rural area near the beach. I was very close to my younger brother; we would spend time riding motorbikes and horses together. We had a lot in common.
“When my partner was offered a job here in the UK, we decided to leave the Netherlands. My mum used to come and visit us every six weeks but now that my dad is getting much older and weaker, she doesn’t visit as often. So, I call them a lot, especially my mum, she and I have a very good relationship.”
Despite living in Yarm, Eva’s clothing sells all over Europe, in an exclusive DC Couture boutique and is also displayed alongside collections by Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana.
“Knowing my work is out there is fantastic. I feel very privileged and flattered. I think it’s great that people like what I create. It’s a really nice feeling.”
But in spite of all this success, Eva remains grounded and career focused: “I’m not focused on becoming famous or anything. I am only ambitious about making beautiful things, that’s what I love doing.”
Spurred on by the support of her parents and the response of her customers, Eva uses natural fabrics to expand her collection and create each individual garment before painting the material and ironing it to hold the design in place. With her ponchos costing £150, the blouses £110 and the gilets ranging between £150 if painted on two sides, or £95, if painted on one, Eva admits the process can be tricky.
“I have to paint the design without making any mistakes, of course that’s always the hardest part because I have already paid for the fabric so if I do mess it up it’s a waste of money. I have made mistakes but not very many because I am always aware of how important it is to get it right. When it does happen, I do try to incorporate it into the design but often it does not work and I do have to start again.”
In terms of inspiration, Eva is influenced through a range of music, magazines and the internet. In particular, she is inspired by Pharrell, Beyoncé and the “rebellious part” of Rihanna.
While Eva is yet to sell her clothing to a famous client, she has set her sights on who she would like it to be: “I have a friend here in Yarm who is a close friend of Doutzen Kroes who is a very famous Dutch Victoria’s Secret model. Another friend of mine also lives next to her so I am trying to think of ways I can get her to wear one of my pieces. I think it would be very cool if that happened. It’s on the list, I’m definitely thinking about.”
Her life as an artist and designer keeps her very busy, but Eva ensures she spends all her spare time with her family: “On the weekends, we like to explore the UK. We’ve travelled to places like Durham and Scarborough. I think the North East is beautiful. When we’re not travelling, the children go to football matches and athletics. We are all very active.”
Declaring her children as her greatest achievement so far, Eva is happy with the way her life is going. Her next step? “We’re going away for a year; we’re going travelling which I think will be really good for my creativity and inspiration. I can rely on the sales of my work to tide me over and then when we come back I will pick up where I left off.
“I don’t think we will return to the UK though, it’s too cold. I’m not sure where we will go yet I just feel our time is up here, but we will miss the people.”
Eva’s Fashion Top Tip:
“Everybody has their own style. I think it’s important to stick to your own style.”
To find out more about Eva and her artwear check out her website: