On my latest trip to The Netherlands, I had expectations of what I thought I would come home with, they included a full stomach, an increased urge to emigrate there and a Fitbit with an extremely high step count, potentially also a lighter bankcard from the shopping we were planning on doing. What I did not expect to come home with was a warm heart and a head filled with inspiration.
Our visit to the third largest city in The Netherlands was to take us to explore the city’s shopping quarter and sample a variety of food. What I did not realise is The Hague is a plethora of independent retailers and has become quite the hub of creativity of the past few years. You may or may not know, that apart from this side hustle of a blog, I am also a business owner and I also come from a family of small business owners. I have been brought up to support small businesses and champion entrepreneurial spirit. I am won’t lie and say I am not a high street girl, but where I can I will shop small and buy from independent stores, my small way of helping to support someone’s dream.
So when we were offered a chance to visit these stores as well as meet their owners the day after our visit to Den Bosch, I was more than intrigued and borderline excited. In The Hague it is not uncommon to find the store owner in their store daily, meeting the customers, ensuring things are running as they should and generally building a sense of community.
Our first stop found us at the Namaste Cafe in the Art Noveau area Zeehelden Kwartier. Having just come back from India, this place instantly made my heart warm. Filled with quotes evoking a positive mindset, the Namaste Cafe has become a place for all things well being. Guests come to catch up over coffee, take part in a Yoga class or relax with a massage, all while taking in the view of the Peace Palace from the front facing window. The owner made her home in the city after travelling the world, her travels experiences inspired her journey to bring a slice of India and well being to the residents of The Hague.
The store Everything and More, an Aladdin’s cave of unique fashion and homeware, was set up by a young fashion designer who found her self unemployed after graduation, so she decided to create her own success. Now she owns a successful store which showcases more young graduates and creatives in the city.
In Kledinbibliotheek, we met a wonderful lady who created a fashion library. In the same way, as you would rent out books, in here you rent clothes either on a one-off or subscription basis, the owner, Wendy, aims to challenge the over-consumption of fashion and attempts to bring sustainability to the industry. Again, young designers are encouraged to submit their designs in order to create a name for themselves.
From Kledinbibliotheek you can stroll down to Collectiv, perhaps my favourite business concept in The Hague. Again filled with fashion ware alongside bits and bobs for the home, as well as the perfect unique present, for any family member or friend, Collectiv works in a unique way, as they have no staff. Instead, every artist or creative who sells their work in the store, take a turn to work in the shop, selling their own plus everyone else’s creations. While in the store, we met a guy who emigrated from Chicago with his bow tie designs, after feeling the sparks of creativity while visiting on holiday.
My love of Africa is shared by an infectiously joyful lady named Irene, who runs the store, Lady Africa. Her dream was to bring the bright bold patterns of the continent to The Hague, integrating colour into the every day Dutch fashion scene, as well as again showcasing young designers, but this time designers actually from Africa who would not otherwise have a platform to show their work.
Every conversation we had with each store owner followed a similar theme. A theme of passion and inspiration, a desire to thrive and bring community, that special kind of magic you get when talking to the small business owner, a sparkle in their eye as they beam with pride at what they have created. For me, it is something that makes me incredibly happy, and one of the reasons I believe the Dutch are so happy.
The city of The Hague, with its tree-lined streets and modern architecture, is much more like Rotterdam than the more traditional views you may find in Amsterdam, but it is not a place to dismiss. For a relaxed and slow short break, find yourself in The Hague, take time to talk to the people who call the city their home, I guarantee you will come home full of inspiration.
I visited The Hague as part of a press trip with Visit Holland.