Photographer Jimmy Nelson set out to explore isolated villages – from Indonesia to Papua New Guinea – populated with indigenous people. Capturing the chalky clay covered faces of the Dani tribe in Indonesia, the traditional warrior dress of the Massai tribe in Tanzania and the ornate jewellery of the Dassanech tribe in Ethiopia, Jimmy asked, “Are these tribes the last real identity?” The intimate photographs bound in his book Before They Pass Away, preserve the tribes' culture and are a glimpse at our ancestral past. 

“It was this ‘identity’ theme that first attracted me to the book,” says Erik Frenken, the creative director of Avelon. Mesmerized by the pictures Jimmy took, Erik sourced them as inspiration for his SS15 collection. The Amsterdam based brand believes in the "beautiful different," and this collection marked Avelon's Parisian debut. “I truly felt that this was a collection worth showing.”

Erik's colour palette – black, chalk white and sacrificial red – were matched with fringed, slit and pleated fabrics that reinterpret Jimmy's photos. “The images feature textured skins of either animal skins or human scarification," says Erik, "and my translation of this was the raffia and embossed leather (also the laser-cut leather).”

While, Nelson may or may not have discovered if the tribes were in fact the last real identity, Erik identified the core of Avelon. But it too, required the designer returning to his roots.

I remember at 12-years old repairing and stitching my own jeans on my mum’s sewing machine. I had a thing for fabrics,” say Erik. “When I first thought about what I stood for as a designer I began customising a pair of old black skinnies. The jeans were about mixing luxury materials with a street feel [the jeans]. To this day, I still give luxury an effortless look.”

The foundation of Avalon is Erik's focus on fabrications. Erik began his career at Alberta Ferretti and was Head Designer at Viktor & Rolf before taking claim to Avelon (initially owned by Blue Blood). Five years later and Avelon is opening it's first flagship in Amsterdam. Now with a home base, Erik can begin to build a tribe of his own. 


Text by Janine Leah Bartels