People around him would probably describe him as “quite the character.” Olaf Hussein is always on, always distracted, but somehow manages to get things done that others don’t. In this episode of Citizens, we talk with the Founder and Creative Director of his namesake label, owner of this platform: Olaf Hussein.

11 Mar 2020

Tiffany Chung

Olaf, I know you as someone who’s always doing everything at once, where do you find time to relax?

“I do, and I don’t. As the owner of the company, I am actually never not working but I always make sure that I make the most of my downtime."

Is it possible for you to relax?

“Not right now, I am always on my toes waiting to take the next leap. Doing nothing makes me uncomfortable. It makes me feel as if I’m doing something wrong as I am convinced that being stagnant means no progress. I’m always hard on myself to do better or to do more. I blame it on my ego. I have yet to find an answer to that.”

Is there a goal you’re working towards?

“I would love to be the new G-Star. Not aesthetically, but the size and international name they’ve built is unprecedented in the Netherlands. I aspire to reach similar status."


Olaf Hussein, a Dutch menswear designer has created a brand that is quickly becoming coveted in this market. After doing a short run of jeans which he tested out in a store in Amsterdam, and then being spotted by none other than the team at Tommy Hilfiger, he realized perhaps he had the skills to launch his own line. What really gave him a boost when it comes to the growth of his brand is his keen ability to use the internet to his advantage: using a website as the ultimate story telling tool for each season.

Where does this drive come from, you think?

“Growing up I was told that only hard work gets you far in life. Nothing else. My family and I moved from Somalia to a small village in the Netherlands and I had to adapt rather quickly. With how the education system is set up here, I knew that I didn’t want anyone else to determine my future for me like the majority of the kids that I grew up with. I needed to prove to myself and my family that the move was worth it.”

What sparked your interest in owning your own fashion business?

“Growing up I have worked part-time in various fashion retail stores. I vividly remember the day I realized that I had all the tools to create my own brand. Keep in mind, this is pre-internet and the only resources you had were the ones you heard via friends or saw with your own eyes. I was obsessed with everything and anything to do with fashion.”

I think you know more than just fashion.

“Yes, my actual studies had nothing to do with fashion. In fact, I graduated from the University of Amsterdam with a master degree in Communication Science. During my studies I was working part-time at a shop called 1store in Amsterdam, where I came in contact with the VP of Menswear at Tommy Hilfiger. I had a good connection with him so upon graduating I applied for a job at the Marketing department. He advised that design would be a better fit than marketing knowing a bit of my background. I ended up working there for almost 3 years. ”

You started Olaf Hussein in 2014 as a denim brand. Right now, the brand seems to be have evolved to something more than just a local denim brand. What changed?

“When I started the company the market was already saturated with commercial denim brands with heavy vintage influence. I wanted to bring to the market something more modern and different. Within the last decade the market had shifted from being denim focused to a mix and match of different fabrics. We also realized that to gain a bigger audience you need recognizable graphics. It so happens to be that graphics work better in non-denim products.”

Is that also why you don’t like to be categorized as streetwear?

“Streetwear is such a generalized term now. I am under the influence that it means something else than what I stand for as it is so vague.”

But you do make caps and hoodies.

“Yeah, but nowadays that doesn’t necessarily make it streetwear, does it?. It all depends on how you execute it.”

Besides the shift from denim to “non-streetwear”, the last year has brought some other changes for you and the company with a new store, website, co-owner, and platform. What was that like for you?

“Hard! I’m very difficult to work with. When I have an idea ( even in the middle of the night), I often want it executed immediately. I often forget that not everyone’s brain is on work mode, even in their sleep. I am fortunate to have a dedicated team and business partner who still enjoys working with me (hahah let's hope this is still true).”

Fashion is an industry that is known to be extremely fast paced, how do you keep up?

“I make sure my internal battery is charged (mind and body) at all times making sure that I don’t lose sight of the end goal and whatever it takes to get there.”

You just released a collaboration with Ace & Tate that sold out immediately. When is a collaboration successful in your eyes?

“It is a good collaboration if both parties are able to utilize their strengths to create a cohesive product. It is fun to see unexpected combinations come together.”

Why did you start with that monthly newsletter?

“I was in talks with someone from Het Parool, a local Dutch newspaper, about having a monthly column discussing relevant topics. That didn’t happen, so we decided to do it on our own platform instead.”

What were the reactions so far?

“Surprisingly awesome! It sparked interesting conversations between the consumer and myself and it even allowed us to built a personal relationship with our audience.”

What has inspired you lately?

“PEOPLE aka CITIZENS. With everything that is going on in the world, people from all different ages and backgrounds are coming together for equality and fighting for a better future.”

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