Vij5. Don't get confused by the name because there are two creative minds behind it. "Five refers to our lucky number and the '5' instead of 'f' gives the word a similar twist as the products from our collection." Arjan van Raadshooven and Anieke Branderhorst form the successful duo behind the Dutch design label Vij5. Meanwhile, they work together with 11 designers. After winning the Dutch Design Awards it went fast forward with the quirky label. We meet in their office, located in a giant hangar in Eindhoven.
Arjan: It’s a special complex where many studios are gathered. There are several designers present, but also an architect, a carpenter and an artist. Basically, the hangar was one empty hall. Now the workspaces are all separated by containers, with everyone responsible for his own place. We built an extra floor, giving us twice as much space. We now have a workspace, a space for photo shoots, a warehouse, an office and a kitchenette. During the weekend it’s quiet, but everyone here is busy on weekdays and then the hangar transforms into a real factory.
Anieke: In Amsterdam and Rotterdam there are hundreds of creative designers and there is a more dog eat dog attitude. The climate is somewhat calmer here in Eindhoven. Here you have a lot of possibilities and the fact that we could rent a space like this has convinced us to settle here.
Anieke: Of course. We had seen the design duo behind the Llus lamps duo at the Dutch Design Week and by coincidence they came to rent the space opposite from us. We’ve now included the Llus lamps in our collection. It's nice here. You can discuss things and have lunch together.
Arjan: Mieke Meijer who invented Newspaper Wood, has her atelier a little further up. The same goes for Rens (Renee Mennen and Stefanie of Keijsteren) who designed the Newspaper Wood Jewelry - Sample Series.
Newspaper Wood got a lot of media interest. What's the story behind the process?
Anieke: It is a technique that Mieke discovered during her studies at the Design Academy. Many people develop a great idea, such as a new material, but then they are not able to take further steps in developing it. I think Newspaper Wood is getting so much attention because we focus on the process of development by asking a team of designers to experiment with this new material.
Arjan: We invest in our products because we don’t want to linger in the prototype phase. Innovations are quickly picked up by the media, they are exhibited in museums, but the next step is equally important. The concept is one thing, but you should also make it profitable. We want to make sure that it is genuine. We didn’t really expect it, but Newspaper Wood is very well received.
Arjan: Only if it fits in our collection. We search for talents which we truly believe in. Commercialization means bringing products to people and ensuring that the products get sold, so that we can make a living out of it. Many designers here are reluctant to this idea, but how do they pay the rent? Designers who don’t think commercially, they all jobs on the side; otherwise they can’t pay the bills. I don’t believe you just design for yourself. We are a label with a business plan. We help designers to bring products on the market and they help us expanding our collection. This way we both earn money. We have generous royalties, because we know what it is like to be a designer.
Anieke: We like to join forces with other designers, because we approach production from a designer perspective. Arjan and I also design together and we’ve designed the basis of the collection with the Flex Vase as our bestseller.
Arjan: The process behind Newspaper Wood took three years, but that was really an exceptional project.
Anieke: Each project brings complications. The Flex Vase is produced at a small family business in China. But in China there’s a very different culture and they have different standards.
Arjan: At one point it didn’t really work out and we had to head to China ourselves. We really believe in outsourcing, because that way we can actually work more on other projects. Meanwhile we are working with 11 designers and many production partners. And each new project brings with it a new challenge and a new quest. Anything is possible, but the only question is 'how'. If we would get one Euro for each 'no' we receive, we would be very rich by now! (laughs) There are so many different parties, so many price ranges and it's really a mix and match with the most suitable partner. If the production of one design doesn’t succeed, then we have to move on. If we didn’t stick to that plan, we wouldn’t have a business now.
Anieke: But the manufacturing process can also go very fast
Arjan: Bas van Raay came to us with his water jug, which is all about movement. Bass is both left and right-handed and we had a discussion about where the handles should be placed. We’ve attached one on each side.
Anieke: He had a design, we’ve made technical drawings and sent them to a glass blower we knew. Ten days later we had the prototypes ready that we could present at the Dutch Design Week. A glass factory in the Czech Republic that couldn’t make our Flex Vase at our standards, took this production series in their account.
Arjan: We have the contacts and know-how and that is a big advantage. If the designer has to search everything himself, then he would have start from zero.
Anieke: We started the label just the two of us and we originally wanted to create a platform for ourselves, through which we could bring our own products on the market. This principle also worked very well for other designers and we enjoy working closer together with other creative people and sharing our experiences with them. In the last years we’ve grown tremendously because of this. Suddenly there was no time left for our side job and we were able to work on our own label on a fulltime basis.
Arjan: In 2009 we won the Dutch Design Awards with the Flex Vase and in three years time we could greatly expand our collection with works by other designers. Besides the actual design, the person we work with is at least as important. We have to like each other; otherwise the project will not succeed. You will need one another and often have to rely on each other.
Anieke: A nice atmosphere is very important. Now we work together with many different people and every day is different. We don’t like to do the same thing for too long. And now we have a lot of variation. That keeps it exciting.
Coffeeklatch is a creative chitchat, an original and personal way for Magali Elali and Bart Kiggen to go and look for inspiring personalities and intriguing stories. The online magazine showcases pictures and interviews with creative entrepreneurs in their homes, addressing various disciplines. Coffeeklatch stands for slow journalism using a fast medium. Read More
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