Fashion and music have always been interlinked industries, but for Dutch designer Borre Akkersdijk, merging the two took a more literal meaning, ensuring global recognition for his tech-driven garments.
From a vibration-integrated pillow created to help dementia patients communicate to a music-playing, Wi-Fi and GPS tracker-incorporated onesie for SXSW, and an air-purifying suit designed to combat pollution in Beijing, Amsterdam-based textile designer Borre Akkersdijk created a name for himself experimenting with wearable technology. “I ended up in the tech scene because I was curious,” he says. It’s this enduring sense of curiosity that has been the driving force behind his work since graduating from the Eindhoven Design Academy in 2010; he now works with a team of likeminded individuals to push the boundaries of textile development, one thread at a time.
“I ended up in the tech scene because I was curious.”
At the studio of his namesake brand Byborre in Amsterdam West, the 12-man team is working hard in between rolls of fabric, mannequins and textile samples. Borre weaves in and out of conversations and projects; “I determine where we’re going and I set the goals but give everyone their own space. They’re all specialists who are way better in what they do than I could ever be,” he explains. Borre recently hired these specialists to bring some order to the chaos, including Head of Art Daan Spangenberg and resident knitting expert Annemarie Reedijk. For someone who named a company after himself, Borre is incredibly humble, acknowledging his limitations and understanding the importance of delegation. He says, “I think it’s my role to assemble the right people.”
“I don’t want everyone to always be wearing headphones. We work in silence when there are meetings at the studio but turn the music on when we’re working with our hands-on textile development or collaborating in creative sessions.”
After learning from the best for years, including world-renowned trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort and Dutch furniture designers Piet Hein Eek and Maarten Baas, he has created a convivial working environment that encourages others to excel:“Music plays an important role in that,” he says. “I don’t want everyone to always be wearing headphones. We work in silence when there are meetings at the studio but turn the music on when we’re working with our hands-on textile development or collaborating in creative sessions.” As the hours pass by, the music changes from blues to hip hop and electronic. “Sometimes we just turn it up for a dance break!”
In the same way that creating textile is all about “having a dialogue with the machine”, the team works together towards a common purpose. “We finally have a clear idea of what the core of the company is and what we’re good at, which is textile development.” The machine Borre is referring to is the circular knitting machine, originally built for making mattresses but rewired by Borre to help him create his signature textured knits; at over two meters tall it’s a sight to be seen—and not something you can usually afford but the team has been working with the machine’s manufacturer Santoni for a few years now. His face lights up when he sees the different colored yarns spin and whir into the center only to result in a woven masterpiece; we can’t help but think his mind works in a similar way.
Smooth Studio Tunes
Euphonious sounds from the BYBORRE workshop
“I’m a very chaotic person, but when I see something, I can build a world around it.”
“I’m a very chaotic person,” he says, “but when I see something, I can build a world around it. That’s also how most of our projects go.” Like when he collaborated with the Eindhoven University of Technology to create the aforementioned onesie for musical showcase festival SXSW, blending technological advancements like Wi-Fi and GPS with textile innovations that allowed wires and cables to be concealed in the fibers. “They were asking me for my knowledge of textiles and they were able to help me with the technological side of things.” Whether it can be considered a true technological innovation (Borre notes that “everyone already had Wi-Fi and GPS in their phones”), it definitely caught the attention of festival visitors and opened up a world of dialogues about the future of wearable technology and music.
A selection of Borre's expansive, imaginative design work
“If I see an artist performing on stage who is able to touch so many people with his music, I think, I wish I could do that.”
In his second studio space in a former school building in Amsterdam East, friends come and go almost as quickly as the songs change on the playlist heard overhead. It’s an incredible space, a loft long enough to fit a bowling lane; there are even bowling pins in the corner to prove it. A friend of his gave him the place because Borre was the kind of guy who liked to have people over. “He wanted me to share it with friends,” he says. It’s where he and friends gather for dinner parties and weekend lunches, and where Borre’s friend’s dog Dizzy makes himself comfortable amongst the Piet Hein Eek x Byborre satin pillows that decorate the loft’s sofas. “I invite a lot of people over so I don’t have to think about work. I couldn’t do that a year ago,” he says. “I don’t have a lot of time to chill and rest, but here, on the weekends, I can try to catch my breath.”
Whether it’s waking up in the morning or in the studio on a busy day, music sets the mood and “brings the room together.” And he admits: “Music is one of the only things I’m really jealous of. If I see an artist performing on stage who is able to touch so many people with his music, I think, I wish I could do that. I wish I could reach that kind of connection with my clothing.” Once you get to know Borre, you might even think that this dream might not be too far out of his reach.
For years we have glimpsed into the work and home lives of creatives worldwide. With each visit we have discovered something new, but what we’ve found everywhere is music. The collaboration with our friends at Sonos is special, together we have asked the people around us what the role of music plays in their life—what tunes they grew up with, and what their favorites are now.
With advances in technology, the way that we listen to music changes. Independent of personal taste, Sonos is the home sound system. Learn more here.