Minimalistic designs and pure raw materials blend together in the elegant and functional collection of Dutch label Vij5. Nevertheless, what sets Vij5 products apart is the sincere connection and the strong collaboration between its people – curators, designers, manufacturers, and customers.
Interview by Federica Marie Carenini
Photo by Daphne Kuilman
Arjan van Raadshooven and Anieke Branderhorst are the founders of interior design label Vij5. The two lived in the same house during their studies in architecture and at Design Academy Eindhoven, respectively. They already had a constructive connection in those early days – if one failed, the other stepped forward.
Anieke’s graduation project became a turning point and the beginning of their collaboration. When the young designer considered putting her detailed work into production, she found herself at a crossroads. On one hand, asking a company to manufacture her designs would have been in total opposition to the concept behind her work. On the other, manufacturing them herself would be a great challenge that she could not face alone. Fortunately, the tangible aspect of design fascinated Arjan and, because the relationship with the sense of touch was a main feature in Anieke’s work, the collaboration between the two started naturally. Since 2006, they have been carefully curating their collection. They actively seek out collaborations with other young designers in order to integrate new products that are in line with their own signature, and they are in control of all steps of production.
Teamwork between Anieke and Arjan is possible and fruitful because of the great connection between them – both in private and in their working life. The qualities and skills of one complete those of the other. For example, Anieke is very precise and has a great eye for detail, whereas Arjan is more about giving broader overviews. On the other hand, he is very pragmatic and systematic in terms of production and organization, whereas Anieke focuses on long-term strategies from an emotional point of view. However, the core element of their successful collaboration is communication: ‘A big part of our creative process is talking to each other’, explains Anieke. ‘Our personalities are completely different and this can lead to contradictions. Through communication we start a dialogue aimed at reconciling the differences. This interaction enables us to raise the quality of our work.’
The couple also applies this approach when expanding their collaboration to external parties. Vij5 is a label and, as such, its aim is to be a platform that displays products, not people. However, having a click connection with the other person is fundamental to curators. It is a determining factor in the selection process of new products for the Vij5 collection, for instance. After Arjan and Anieke consider whether the concept fits within the collection and how the product can be produced, they both need to get acquainted with the designer. ‘Our intention is to trigger an open and sincere dialogue with the third party, exactly as it takes between the two of us’, Arjan claims. ‘We might disagree at times, but that is what it is all about – being honest in order to enhance the quality of our work.’
According to the couple, collaboration is an extremely valuable advantage and a source of inspiration – collaboration with designers, customers, and manufacturers. Arjan and Anieke usually look for suppliers close to their Eindhoven-based location in order to personally interact with them and control production. Nevertheless, occasionally the couple also collaborates with suppliers out of their reach. ‘We have travelled far and wide looking for materials that would perfectly suit what we had in mind’, they both explain. ‘The quality and skills of a manufacturer are most important to us. However, we first need to feel that natural connection that is essential to collaboration – if we don’t have it, we don’t go through with it.’ They believe the objective is to arrive at a win-win situation for both parties. ‘It has to be a business friendship, not an aggressive competition’, Arjan adds.
The couple does not trust competition. ‘Life is not a rat race’, explains Anieke. ‘We are delighted to collaborate with ambitious, go-getting people. But the aim is to inspire others, share experiences, and progressively raise the quality of our work.’
Again, vibrant and dynamic interaction is necessary to enhance the creative process at work. However, the great connection between Anieke and Arjan can also represent a threat to both their private and professional lives. ‘Working as a couple, it is always tempting to immediately share your ideas regardless of whether you are at home or at the office,’ says Anieke. ‘However, we’ve noticed that we work better if we clearly separate the two and regularly take a break. At home and during the weekend, there are no more emails and no phonecalls’, she continues.
‘Any brainwaves we might have need to be written down a piece of paper and discussed during the working day’. In contrast to other years the label will not be displaying its products at the coming edition of the Salone del Mobile. However, both Arjan and Anieke will be taking part as visitors. ‘The Salone is an important social visit as well’, they explain. ‘We enjoy exploring what other companies and designers are working on and becoming inspired by it.’ The label wants to remain compact and versatile. As they both underline, successful ideas may rise from someplace completely unexpected. Looking to the future, Vij5’s goal is to expand towards the wide range of possibilities around them.
By ‘Connecting the Dots’, www.thedots.nl
Connecting the Dots publishes and presents Dutch designers and design culture on an international stage during key design events and fairs. Their activities are always content-driven, with a focus on revealing the latest developments in design culture. Connecting the Dots also organises trade shows, exhibitions, debates and networking events.