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Fashion designer Marlies Dekkers built her lingerie empire, received several awards as an entrepreneur and will never stop learning. As a little girl she was amazed by the lingerie store in Oosterhout in Brabant and has been an inspiration to many for many years. Who inspired Marlies during her career? Text: Mical Joseph
Image: Ellen von Unwerth and Mark Uyl

What was your very first job?

“My parents were working class; my mother was a housewife and my father worked as a civilian banker. During my high school years, I focused on my schoolwork and looked up to my aunt, who was a beautician. In my family, my aunt was the only woman who had a job, so I wanted to pursue the same profession because I thought, 'oh, as a woman I can be something too'.”

How did you end up in your current job?

“My father built the barn and added another floor to the house himself. My mother made our clothes and worked with her hands. It was basically instilled in me at a young age and I learned from my parents that if I had an idea in my imagination, I could create it in real life.

The fact that I started designing lingerie was a no-brainer surprise, because there used to be a lingerie shop near us in Oosterhout where I always looked at the window with fascination. I absolutely loved it! When, after home economics school and HAVO at the Art Academy, I started studying Fashion, everything came together: my interest in craftsmanship, the body and equal rights for women. It was always clear to me that lingerie could be better and with that in mind I started designing for my brand Marlies Dekkers. "

Who was your wheelbarrow in that?

“Throughout my life there have been several people from whom I received advice and looked up to. It started with my aunt. She showed me that women also work. At one point I was very impressed by Neelie Kroes when I saw her on television, I thought it was impressive that a woman was a minister. At the academy there were a number of teachers who inspired and helped me in some way.

Creatively, philosophers like Plato or Socrates are great resources for me. I then ask myself: 'How would they solve certain problems in life? So I don't reach for a management book, but for philosophy books.”

What is your greatest passion in your profession?

“I get up every day to make a difference for women, that is my passion. I want to inspire women to look in the mirror and appreciate themselves. Craftsmanship makes me happy every day, to make something from my hands. My parents were professionals and they passed that craftsmanship on to me. I think that's crazy, because so many people no longer know how a craft works.”

What has been the biggest learning moment in your career?

“I have a learning approach to life, because I really learn every day. That makes life beautiful. Entrepreneurship is continuous learning, gaining new insights and sharing experiences. When I come up with new ideas and have to explain them in the factory, I have to understand the culture of each country and what kind of equipment they work with. So I need to share my vision before I can explain how I like to see it. I also learn from this process.”

What advice would you give to your 18 year old self?

“Looking back, I am very proud of myself and the advice I would give is that I am going to work hard, I am going to push my nose and it is not going to be easy. My parents were also proud of me, because I was taught at home that I would become a housewife. So everything I achieved on top of that was already extremely impressive for them. My home was a warm bath and there was always a positive attitude.”

Have you been a wheelbarrow for someone?

“I hope to inspire other women with my vision and thus be a support to them. Every woman should be able to be herself, where dreaming, growing and daring are central.”