Portrait no. 29 features Heleen Hulsmann, 1963. Born just outside Amsterdam and despite being raised in a new housing development close to the city, she actually feels like a true ‘Amsterdammer’, though. As from the age of 12 Heleen was allowed to visit the Big City by herself by bus. Which she did from then on as often as she could.
Her true love for shoes started with her first job: Saturdays at a shoe store. After high school an internship at Wilma Wakker styling fueled the idea to become a window dresser. To only discover already during her training that her future wouldn’t be behind the glass. Heleen changed course and opened her agency for advertising creatives, Roughmen Creative Talent Agency.
After 15 years, a director husband and three kids – one daugther and twin sons – further, the time was there to sell the company. With a husband travelling for work, fulltime motherhood became her next project.
No need for her extended collection of designer clothes anymore and when she approached second-hand stores, none of them were interested in high-end vintage designers. She decided to sell to friends, a small rack was all it took. For starters. Soon others brought their clothes to Heleen and one floor of their house became background to famous private selling days. By appointment only, the Salon Heleen Hulsmann was born.
Now, six years later, there is a store in Amsterdam.
How do you feel about being over fifty?
Age really is just a number for me. I kind of feel the same as I did when I was in my twenties. Waking up happy every morning and feeling energic to start today. Love my work – and Pilates – and consider myself a lucky woman.
Which age is your favourite time? Would you like to go back?
I like to look back but do not want to go back. Looking back I realise that every decennium has its highlights. Around twelve I really felt on top of the world because hey, I was finally growing up. Experienced that same feeling when I was around twenty-one. Everything was possible, world at my feet and about make a big career.
In my thirties I felt like I owned the world, my business was thriving and in a relationship with the cutest man on earth. And when I turned fifty, I discovered another chapter. Started my new company Salon Heleen Hulsmann. Based on my passion for fashion and styling. My dream job has landed.
What would your ideal day look like? No restrictions in time, money, people or whatever.
My ideal day would definitely be in a city, I love the energy of cities. Every season of the year. From the very cold wind that you encounter you when you turn a corner in the winter time in New York the heat on the Piazza San Francesco in Arezzo mid Summer. So we wake up in New York where we enjoy a lavish breakfast at The Beekman Hotel. After that it is coffee at Le Pain Quotidien in Antwerp, very conveniently around the corner of my favourite shop Modepaleis by Belgium designer Dries van Noten.
With packed shopping bags we sit down for lunch and meet our friends at restaurant Chiave d’Oro in Tuscany where it all adds up. For afternoon tea we head over to London, where else. At Chiltern Firehouse, to be precisely.
We the sun sets it’s time for a beer on a terrace, we bike through Paris with Cafe de la Nouvelle Marie as desired destination. Located in the fifth arrondissement.
We leave the bikes behind and hop on the boat to Majorca – my favorite island – where we will have dinner outside on the sidewalk at Patron Lunares in Palma. But not before we roamed the city streets of Palma on the hunt for a vintage market treasure. Looking back on the perfect day we lay our heads down at a seaside room in hotel Esplendido in Soller.
What is your golden beauty trick or favourite product?
I am not sure I am the right person to ask for a golden beauty trick. I for sure drink not enough water and I never go to bed before two o’clock at night. And on top of that I love my coffee, so all things that aren’t too good for women over fifty.
Furthermore I like no-nonsense stuff. My make-up is by Laura Mercier, skin care from Jetske Ultee and any product of Le Labo with Hinoki in it. That really is my favourite.
Which book and/or film and/or music shaped/changed you and why should we read it?
As a teenager I devoured all books by Dutch writer Jan Wolkers. But not only that, I judged his books by their cover. All beautifully designed by graphic designer Jan Vermeulen. I love Dutch writers, today I won’t skip any book by Maarten ‘t Hart. He really makes me laugh out loud.
My tip for an international book would definitely be The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, fascinating from the first sentence.
Who should we follow on Instagram?
- @celestebarber she really puts Instagram in perspective, so funny!
- @kimvankootenista Dutch actress/writer who knows her Photoshop
- @suzymenkesvogue chief of fashion journalism, 74 years old and always on the move
- @bobjonkers well, because he is my super talented son
- @the_attico Giorgia and Gilda have true style
What’s your favourite destination/hotel/museum/restaurant in the world? example:
- Destination : New York, great in every season
- Hotel : wish list material is the Beekman Hotel, luxe in lower Manhattan
- Museum : The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen, with the steel-blue sea as background decor
- Restaurant : Le Chiave d’Oro in Arezzo Toscane
What’s your signature dish? The one that makes your friends demand a seat at your dinner table.
I do not cook often but I do know how to style a table… My mom used to make a mean spaghetti Bolognese, that’s also the favorite in our family.
Trivia time, make a choice and share your favourite brand
- Nail polish or Lipstick? nail polish, love Alchimie by Chanel. No. 591.
- Heels or Flats? both. No choice here for me
- Dress or Trousers I am definitely one for trousers
- Coffee or Tea? coffee, loads of coffee. These days I send one back when it is poorly made. Life is short.
- Swimsuit or Bikini? Bikini! Always Eres
Follow Heleen Hulsmann on Instagram
For more interviews of inspiring fifty somethings, see our Portraits series.
Want to share your life and style in these series or recommend an inspiring friend in her fifties? We love to hear from you. Please send us an email.