“We rarely have prints or super-bright colours. Everything we stock is simple, eco, elegant and natural.” This is how Irene Mertens describes her Amsterdam lifestyle store Sukha, which she opened nine years ago on boutique-lined Haarlemmerstraat. Flooded with natural light, the white‑walled, bleached-wood space exudes a calm and “very zen” feel and has become a go-to for beautifully crafted minimalist clothing, accessories and homewares, all made with a conscience.
“Before Sukha I worked as creative director and design manager for a large high-street retail group and was responsible for 350 shops in the Netherlands,” explains Mertens. “I’ve seen a lot. I decided to do it in a different way.” Her approach focuses on natural fabrics and dyes and features such pieces as earth-toned linen sweaters (€175) by Belgian company Rue Blanche, recycled-cotton jeans (from €99) by Dutch denim brand Kings of Indigo, and rubberised-cotton raincoats (€225) from Stutterheim in Stockholm. Clothing shapes are mostly “lazy, leisurely and relaxed” with no clear seasons – there’s both wool and cotton for summer and winter.
Key to this offering is the in-house Atelier Sukha label, which began as a line of organic cotton scarves that are now made in collaboration with like-minded Dutch brand Fant (from €129). In plain shades as well as blocks of colour in seasonal palettes, they “double as a sarong or bed cover when travelling”, says Mertens, expertly tying a voluminous 225cm x 230cm version (€169) around her neck, the colours graduating from soft sand and cream to dark blue and pink. “All our designs are handmade ecologically, mostly in Nepal from locally sourced materials, with a supply chain that is Fairtrade and sustainable. We now have 60 women working for us.”
Another collaboration with Fant has yielded crisp blue or white cotton shirts (€229) and shirtdresses (€279) with a moveable pocket. Accessories include backpacks (€299) made from naturally tanned leather by Puc of nearby Haarlem, while jewellery is understated, mostly gold or wood. Balinese hoop earrings (€39) by Swedish designer Julia Otilia are augmented with sandalwood beads, while the gold-plated Plic earrings (€85) by Eva Schreuder are hand-beaten and organic.
Household items, meanwhile, mix sustainability with a sense of fun. An indoor swing (€228) is made in the Netherlands from abachi wood and has a hand-knitted seat, while a low-slung ash chair (€799) is produced with Vogel Design in Cape Town, which also creates iroko-wood wall-mounted objets (from €59) in the shape of Nguni cattle horns. The “raw but refined” ceramics – from subtly speckled plates (€35 each) to a large white serving bowl (€129) – are made variously in Nepal and the Netherlands and are among the store’s bestsellers. “Our customers are worldwide and like natural, quality items for themselves and their homes,” says Mertens, adding that Sukha means “joy of life” in Sanskrit – an ethos that is apparent throughout.