Our little black dress is a man’s ‘Perfect white shirt’

Dutch costume designer Arien de Vries, a theatre costume designer for 25 years, invented “the perfect white shirt” and with success. The design is inspired by a photograph of her father and uncle in post-war attire. A time that there was so delicious little to choose from, according to the designer. The shirts, made by cees n co, are probably the first with a numbered label and a deposit. Perfectly made with craftsmanship in a quality fabric and with wonderful details. The crispy and fresh shirt has a stiff collar and cuffs. The buttons and even the box in which it is sent, are all designed not to be fashionable,  but with a good old sense of classic value. The shirts are numbered and when you return the shirt within 3 years of purchase,  the deposit will be paid back to you. If you do not return the shirt within these three years, your deposit will go to a charity, Terre des Hommes… The shirts which are still in a good condition will go secondhand stores, if not  they will go to a recycling company to be made into new raw material.

Arien de Vries owner cees n co
Arien de Vries owner cees n co

In this time of abundance and excesses, there are companies which make us aware that we need to start thinking of the future. About the sustainability of products. Not only is the nature of our resources of importance, but the lifetime of a product as well , thus stated by cees n co. The environmentally friendly and geniun concept of cees n co, is without a doubt a good example for this new way of working with durable products. Good examples are BleuLab an American company or the kiloknaller who sell clothes per kilo and not individual. But what is the reason for the sidestep for Arien de Vries after 25 years working for the theatre and winning, “the Wijnberger Award”. The prestigious prize for theatre productions.

Reason to ask more about this new concept and the woman behind it, whose work revolves around theatre, fashion and her atelier. I met this amazing woman in Amsterdam to find out more. When I congratulated her with the success of cees n co. She answered that she is dazzled by all the attention. I found it quit charming and sweet, her being surprised by the enormous interest. And the enthusiastic reactions she got from clients and professionals as well. She found it most fulfilling to work on this project and where it all lead to.

The perfect white shirt by cees n co
The perfect white shirt by cees n co

Inspiration: The first question is about your inspiration; why did you decide to make “the perfect shirt”?

Working as a costume designer you have the responsibility to help the actors to feel good in their costume on stage or in front of the camera. Fnding a classic shirt not always a simple task. There were always details which weren’t quite right, the collar, the cuffs, the buttons, the stitching, the finishing and above all the fabric. This made me realise that I wanted to make the perfect shirt. A shirt, when freshly ironed, becomes soft whilst wearing and will still keep it’s fresh and crisp look. Classic, not ‘fashionable’. Back to simplicity, but made with great expertise. A shirt for every occasion, for business (under a suit, with or without tie) as well as casual. “It is not my intention to be adding a trendy shirt but one which will become your most favorite shirt”, she stated.

"The perfect white shirt" by cees n co
“The perfect white shirt” by cees n co

Idea: But how to translate all that to a shirt was quite a challenge. For me the design came together when I found a picture of my father and my uncle in white crisp shirts. Looking at the Photo I could almost feel the fabric and recall the smell of the ironed shirt. Then I knew that this was the type of shirt I wanted to make. The concept model was designed in collaboration with Henry Perdon and Edu Martens from atelier EL TALLER in Amsterdam. I have been working with them for many years and find them always very precise and they have a great eye for detail in making costumes for theater, opera and film. A manufacturer for the shirt I found together with the help and knowledge of friends who have the company ,MPD accessories. The productioncompny is situated in Mumbai, India, the place where I lived with my parents and know very well. The PR was in association with TopiQ a PR and communication consultancy in Amsterdam. It all seems to come together.


I started with with a website for cees n co and introducied the concept and shirt to friends and family. And asked them to buy the shirt and so through crowdfunding I started the business. It seem logical to thank this people for their trust and support, so what more to do than invite them for the grand launch of cees n co in the Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam in the presence of my father Co and the family of my late uncle Cees after whome the company is named. It couldn’t have been better to make the circle complete in this way.

Deposit label cees n co
Deposit label cees n co

Theatre: I started working in theatres when I was sixteen, I loved the atmosphere and the creativity that was always buzzing around, and was immediately drawn to this work. I love to work in a team and share the creativity. I decided to go to the Rietveld academic for theatre education and to make this my choice of carrier.. “In the beginning I did everything in the theatre, décors, costumes, styling. But whilst working during the first years I realised, that I was more interested in doing costumes. Theatrecostumes is close to fashion but also to art and you can do so much on stage. After a number of successful years I was mostly asked to do costumes. Therefore I started my own atelier and builded up a extensive collection of vintage and classic costumes. Of course I have my favourites designers. I find Martin Margiela very inspiring and really innvantory , Westwood, McQueen for their knowledge of the curring, history and theatrical approach, Lanvin and Jill Sander for their classical quality, Prada is also always good… etc. But also small innovated companies have my attention. I have no intention to leave the theatre as a designer, I will continue working on projects next to cees n co she smiles and says; “My roots and love are too deep to disconnect” and I have several new project for this and next year to work on.


Box with flyer cees n co
Box with flyer cees n co

Will there be more products in the future? We already extended the model with one; with extra long sleeves and a really big size shirt. Next year we will be introducing “the perfect blue shirt” and in the near future a perfect white shirt for women. Like the men’s shirt , with the same quality details. I don’t want to go to the perfect suit or socks, or to open shops. I want to keep it in line with the concept. The idea of Pop Up store is something cees n co can relate to and offers possibility for the future.


Some facts: Arien de Vries, was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil. When she was four her parents moved to Bombay where she lived for 6 years. Since 1980 she lives in Amsterdam. There she successfully finished her study theatre design at the Rietveld Academy in 1986. Since then she has been working as a costume designer (also internationally) for different theatre companies, opera houses and films. Arien won the Wijnberg Scenography Prize for the production of ‘a view from a bridge” by theatre company Oostpool. together with setdesigner Marc Warning and lighting designer Gé Wegman.


Theatre productions, national and international.

TUP Essen, Entführung aus dem Serail, 2012
National Theatre, De Driestuiversopera, 2011
Comish Oper, Don Pasquale, 2010
Theatre Basel, Madama Butterfly, 2009
Opera South, The Barbier from Sevilla 2008

Story by: Gabriëlle Voogt