Three years ago, stylist, event producer and entrepreneur Julia Khan Anselmo made Amsterdam home. Raised in Alberta followed by a move to Canada’s West Coast, crossing the continent—and the Atlantic—to Amsterdam was a fitting move for the budding entrepreneur and world traveler. Julia is the founder of Feisty Feast, a global dinner series that showcases and celebrates women (a concept born out of her Vancouver apartment in 2013) and later founded LAASSO, creating clothing and accessories for a slower pace of life including beautiful made-to-measure garments that take you from day to night and everywhere in between. Julia’s wanderlusting, entrepreneurial spirit and mindful approach to business could not resonate more with The Drift and we are so excited to share our interview with her. Read on for the inside scoop on exploring Amsterdam like a local, how living in Europe has inspired her creatively, her everyday rituals and more.
Describe Amsterdam in three words or less.
Charming, quirky and vibrant.
What makes living in Amsterdam so special?
Amsterdam is a small city with so much to explore. It has canals and small hidden streets with lots of green space making the energy and pace of the city quiet, slow and balanced. For these reasons, Amsterdam is a perfect city to start a family in. You see so many sweet young families and children everywhere confidently cycling going about their day. The Jordaan area of the city—where I live with my fiancé—has a small community feeling, we know all of our neighbours and support the local businesses. Everyone says hello to one another.
Almost every weekend we head to the Noordermarkt farmer’s market to buy fresh flowers and local produce from the same vendors. The Netherlands is well known for its flowers and buying an abundance of fresh flowers is one of the luxuries of living here.
How does living in Amsterdam help you to embrace slower living?
Dutch culture is slower paced than North America. Things take more time here because the Dutch are considered in their approach. This has inherently slowed down my pace of life. Working to live is prioritized over living to work. This is most obviously reflected in the 5+ weeks of vacation that Dutch people typically have in comparison to two weeks a year in British Columbia. When we moved here, we traded in our car for bicycles and public transport. I spend much more time outside and no matter what the weather, I hop on my bike.
“Dutch culture is slower paced than North America. Things take more time here because the Dutch are considered in their approach. This has inherently slowed down my pace of life. Working to live is prioritized over living to work. ”
How has moving from Canada to Europe inspired you creatively?
As an entrepreneur and freelancer, moving so far away from home has meant that I have had to re-establish myself in a completely new place, with no connections. I think as challenging as it was, starting from scratch has truly helped me gain a clearer sense of who I am. Living in Amsterdam has allowed me to travel more extensively in Europe and Africa and expand my sense of taste in all aspects. Colour is something that I have been particularly inspired by since living in Europe. When I lived in Vancouver, I used to wear a lot of neutral tones that speak beautifully to Canada’s great wilderness. In Europe, I feel more experimental with how I dress and what I want to wear. I find endless inspiration in museums, restaurants, markets and nature. To me, meeting new people is like opening windows to the world and living in Amsterdam I have met people from all over the world. I feel so blessed to have the freedom to explore living in a different country by choice.
Tell us about the inspiration behind LAASSO.
LAASSO is a brand inspired by living well, travel and versatility. For the past four years, I have been designing my clothing and having them made and I wanted to add some of these beautiful handmade pieces to my existing LAASSO line of lariats and tassels. I love the process of creating something from scratch. I am looking to make clothing that that suits my lifestyle and that people feel great in. Whether it’s hopping on my bike, heading to the market, going to an art opening or drinking tea at home, the goal is to make high quality clothing from natural fabrics that fit perfectly. So far there are four styles: the Market Dress, Lilac Cloud Dress, Spanish Rose Set and the Twiske Picnic Set. The Twiske Picnic Set can be worn as a summer uniform or easily mix and matched. Next, I am planning to get into sleepwear—linen and cotton nightgowns and two pieces sets with optional personalized monograms.
How is sustainability and mindfulness woven throughout the LAASSO brand?
LAASSO creates accessories, clothing and objects for a slow pace of life. Everything is beautifully handmade to measure. Our goal is to slow down and approach the way we produce and consume thoughtfully. As a stylist, I understand how important well-fitting clothes are to feeling confident in how you look. Everything is made-to-order and made-to-measure which means everybody can wear LAASSO. It isn’t size exclusive. Since everything is made-to-order, we don’t overproduce and create waste. I want to encourage my customers to slow down take the time to consider and invest in a piece of clothing that will become an heirloom in their wardrobes. Restraint and patience are a part of the process of having a custom-made item of clothing and I think this is a healthy change for the environment, to have people slow down and change the way they consume.
YOUR AMSTERDAM ESSENTIALS:
Lot 61, Toki and Café de Pels.
Dignita (the Hoftuin location) and Bambino.
Twiske, or anywhere along one of the many beautiful canals or bridges in the city.
Dinner with friends:
Bambino, Binnen Visser or BAK.
Café de Klepel.
I love the traditional brown bars in the Jordaan. Ceconni’s has a really beautiful room and it’s fun if you feel like dressing up. The Vault Bar in the Waldorf Astoria is perfect for a classic cocktail.
Hotels / AirBnb’s:
Favorite shops—what should we take home with us?
I love shopping for vintage and antiques in Amsterdam. The Haarlemerstraat has a great selection of vintage and second-hand boutiques. There are great antique shops dotted all over the city, keep your eyes open for them. Monday Market at the Noordermarkt (8:00 -13:00) for amazing antiques and vintage. Time & Style for beautifully crafted Japanese furniture and homeware. Tenue de Nime: Amsterdam also has a great denim culture and this is one of their home-grown shops. Love Stories, an Amsterdam-based lingerie and swimwear brand.
I love walking in Amsterdam. There are so many beautiful details in the in the buildings and sweet nooks and crannies to explore. I love peeking into windows, or finding a bench to sit down and people watch.
Playlist / artist / album that best captures the Amsterdam vibe:
My playlist, Tranquillo!
The city’s best kept secret:
Cycling late at night when the streets are quiet and the lights of the canal bridges are on is magical.
I love rituals. To start the day, I play Indian classical music, and drink a few bowls of PuErh tea, meditate and read. Followed by making a green juice, going running or doing yoga and then follow-up on emails, meetings and visit a local market if there’s one on.
Your perfect Sunday.
Make love and enjoy a slow brunch. Sourdough pancakes or avocado toast with freshly squeezed orange juice and black coffee are my favourite at the moment. If the weather permits, I love to go for a bicycle ride and picnic out of the city. Come home and get into bed early and read.
Describe your daily uniform.
Something classic and effortless that allows me to move freely and most importantly something I can bike in. Usually it’s an oversized white cotton shirt and jeans with my favourite Miista heels and a trench coat. Since it’s summer, I have been wearing the LAASSO Twiske Picnic Set. I love wearing jewelry and wear lipstick for a more dressed up look.
“I love walking in Amsterdam. There are so many beautiful details in the in the buildings and sweet nooks and crannies to explore. I love peeking into windows, or finding a bench to sit down and people watch.”
Where are you dreaming of traveling next?
There are so many places I am dreaming of visiting and the more I travel, the more I want to see. In Europe, I am in love with Italy and Sicily is high on my list. Further abroad, I would love do a road trip through Namibia and explore more of West Africa. Off the beaten track travels that truly allow me to feel somewhere completely foreign and unknown are what I am looking for.
How do you travel a little lighter and more consciously?
In Europe, when I can, I travel by train instead of flying. When I travel I try to be a mindful and considerate visitor who leaves a positive impact. I like to travel for longer periods of time and get to know a place rather than just for a weekend. I try to connect with the locals wherever I go; learn about the culture and food and support local business and artisans.
Philosophy to live by.
Know yourself. How you do anything is how you do everything. Be a good person. Perservere through uncertain and difficult times and use the achievements in life to propel you to the next chapter. Be patient, never give up. Great things take time. Create a morning routine for yourself and stick to it. Exercise is medicine. Make yourself sweat. Learn to nourish yourself by cooking food that you love to eat. Heal your family relationships and your childhood traumas. Don’t believe everything you think, read or hear. Be skeptical. Get out of your comfort zone and get comfortable there. Take risks and if your dreams don’t scare you then they aren’t big enough. Be honest with yourself. Challenge the way you think by listening to others especially when you disagree with their perspective. Talk to the locals and eat what the locals eat. Drink beer when it’s hot outside! Make love to yourself. Celebrate yourself when you achieve a goal and celebrate others with the same enthusiasm when they’re achieving theirs. Look at yourself in the mirror and say I love you. Everything in life costs something, nothing is for free. Read as many books as you can.
WHAT TO PACK // AMSTERDAM
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