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At Order Collective, creativity starts with collaboration

Order Collective is a multi-talented group of friends who run a fashion brand, a tattoo shop, a DJ collective, and a Sichuan restaurant. Together with VICE, we had an inspiring chat with two of the founders, Etienne Memon and Joshua Hoogeboom, about how to maintain a healthy work-life balance while sharing passions and work with friends at the same time.

To say that the Amsterdam based Order Collective is versatile, would be an understatement. Order Collective is a fashion brand, DJ collective, tattoo shop and Sichuan restaurant all-in-one, run by a group of friends. Together they form a whole that’s bigger than the sum of its parts, but at the same time they all work autonomously.

As DJ’s they’re known as Order Mothership, mixing various styles originating from black culture. Order Sichuan is their restaurant in Sexyland World, where you can taste the very best of what the Chinese Sichuan province has to offer. From their brand-new tattoo shop, overlooking the Oudekerksplein in the heart of the Amsterdam Red Light District, they set their customers up with colorful tattoos. And then there’s the fashion brand that helps define Amsterdam’s streetscape.

Together with VICE, we spent an afternoon at The Social Hub Amsterdam City with Order Collective’s founders, Etienne Memon and Joshua Hoogeboom, who took us on a tour of their tattoo shop and the new studio at Het Veem. Along the way, they told us more about what Order Collective really means to them and the unique experience of working with friends.

VICE: Let’s jump back in time. How did Order start?

Joshua: The idea for Order actually came from our desire to collaborate. We shared an anti-squat studio on the Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal. Because we all had different disciplines – Etienne was painting, there was a director, a photographer – we got the idea we should collaborate with each other more.  

What does being part of a collective mean to you?

Etienne: To me it means you can be autonomous, but at the same time everything you do can be enhanced by others. It means trusting the expertise of other members of the collective. If there’s anything I want to do, I can ask Joshua for help.

Is that true, Joshua?

Joshua: Yes, sharing knowledge is a huge part of it. Of course that happens naturally now, because of our multidisciplinary projects.

Who are you, as a collective?

Joshua: It's difficult to answer that question about ourselves, but based on what others have said, it often comes down to our dynamic as a group. A lot of times it’s not even about what we do; people just say: ‘Oh, it must be so much fun to be part of a collective like that.’ Maybe that’s why over the last years more and more collectives have popped up. People started freelancing, and as a freelancer you don’t always want to sit at a desk on your own all day, so people started setting up these communities.

Etienne: Exactly. Together you stand stronger.

What makes The Social Hub a good spot to meet up for collectives like yours?

Etienne: What I really like about The Social Hub, is that it’s a place where people can connect. If you’re visiting Amsterdam from abroad, it’s very easy to meet locals at The Social Hub. In that sense it’s a really beautiful spot. When you’re here, even just sitting at the bar, you can sense the community.

What’s the most important common ground in your collective?

Etienne: That must be our taste in music and fashion, and everything else we share. We all listen to the same bass music, hip-hop, soul and electro, all music rooted in black culture. Our visual style is inspired by this culture as well, for instance through graffiti.

Right now, we’re at your new tattoo shop, but you also have a space in Het Veem and your own restaurant. How do you divide your time between all these places?

Etienne: That’s actually not that hard, everything happens all at once. In the past weeks we were building the tattoo shop, so I didn’t plan any tattoo appointments. Or for instance, if I know I have to work on clothing, I make sure I'm available for that. Tattooing is quite easy to plan, I never plan too far ahead, so that I’m flexible. Ideally, I do one or two tattoos a day, so I can spend the rest of my time doing other stuff. Work never stops: if you do everything yourself, there’s just no end to it.

Is it hard to maintain a healthy work-life balance?

Etienne: For me there’s no such thing. I work with all my friends. Sometimes that’s tough, but I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. It can be hard to work with friends, but most of the time it’s a lot of fun. As friends, you can just start working on something, not knowing where exactly you’re going. Joshua and I knew nothing about working in a restaurant, and now we own one.

Was owning a restaurant a dream you had for a long time, or did this happen by chance?

Etienne: I got to know Jennifer Tenjing, daughter of the family that runs the Sichuan restaurants in the Red Light District. We knew each other from clubbing, but also because I came for dinner at their restaurants every week. At a certain point I started tattooing her as well. We talked a lot about music and fashion, all things she liked but couldn’t really talk about in the restaurant. Later Aukje Dekker from Sexyland asked me if I wanted to do something at their new space, Sexyland World. That’s when the idea of Order Sichuan came to life. We run this place with the people from the Sichuan restaurants, so it’s authentic food with an Order vibe.

Looking back at the time the collective came to be, what stands out as typical for Order?

Etienne: The first thing I’m thinking of is our first big party, at Skatecafe, to celebrate the launch of our first big merch drop, a collaboration with Ben-G. That’s something we’re enormously proud of still.

Joshua: It's funny how much comes to mind once you start thinking about it. But yes, this collaboration with Ben-G really took our fashion to a higher level.

What does it take to reach an even higher level?

Etienne: I think we’re on the right track. We have always taken things slowly, step by step, without rushing. The next step would be releasing new clothes multiple times a year. Maybe we can collaborate with even more brands, or maybe we can find a way to give our fashion an extra push. That way we could also create new jobs for our friends.

What will 2023 bring Order?

Joshua: It will be a busy year. We’re still very busy with the studio and gallery at Het Veem. There we want to make books and magazines in an accessible way, together with other people. We’re also going to make new clothes, in collaboration with Patta and Pop Trading Company, among others.

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