Made for/with each other, interview in 'Connecting the Dots,' Milan 2017

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Minimalist designs and pure materials merge in the elegant and functional collection of the Dutch label Vij5. Vij5 products, however, are distinguished by the genuine connection and strong collaboration between the people behind the label - curators, designers, manufacturers and customers.

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 at TU/e architecture and Design Academy Eindhoven, respectively. In those early days, they already had a constructive connection - when one failed, the other came to the rescue.

Anieke's graduation project became a turning point and the beginning of their collaboration. As the young designer considered putting her detailed work into production, she found herself at a crossroads. On the one hand, placing her design with a company would likely detract from the concept behind her work. On the other hand, making the product herself, whether in collaboration with a manufacturer or not, would be a great challenge. Fortunately, the tactile aspect of design fascinated Arjan and since the relationship with the sense of touch was an important feature in Anieke's work, their collaboration began naturally. Since 2006, they have been carefully putting together their own collection. In doing so, they actively seek collaborations with other young designers to integrate new products into the collection that are in line with their own handwriting, while keeping control of all production steps.

Teamwork between Anieke and Arjan is possible and fruitful because of their good mutual connection - both privately and in their work. The qualities and skills of one complement those of the other. For example, Anieke is very precise and has a great eye for detail, while Arjan is more about giving broader overviews. On the other hand, he is very pragmatic and systematic in terms of production and organization, while Anieke focuses on long-term strategies from an emotional point of view. However, the most important element of their successful collaboration is communication: 'A big part of our creative process is talking to each other,' Anieke explains. 'Our personalities are completely different and this can lead to contradictions. Through communication, we engage in a dialogue to bring the differences together. This interaction allows us to increase the quality of our work.'

The couple also applies this approach when expanding their collaboration to external parties. Vij5 is a label and aims to be a platform where the product comes first. However, having the right "click" with other people is essential for the curators. It is a determining factor in the selection process of, for example, new products for the Vij5 collection. After Arjan and Anieke have thought about whether the concept fits into the collection and how the product can be produced, they also want to meet the designer. 'Our intention is to start an open and sincere dialogue with, just the way it works between the two of us,' says Arjan. 'We won't always agree, but that's exactly what it's about: honesty to improve the quality of our work.'

According to the couple, collaboration is an extremely valuable benefit and source of inspiration - in collaboration with designers, clients and manufacturers alike. Arjan and Anieke usually seek out suppliers near their Eindhoven studio in order to communicate with them personally and control production. Nonetheless, the couple occasionally collaborates with suppliers beyond their reach. 'We traveled a lot in search of materials that fit perfectly with what we had in mind,' they both explain. 'A manufacturer's quality and skills are most important to us. However, we must first feel that natural connection that is essential for collaboration - if we don't have it, we won't go through with it.' Their goal is to achieve a win-win situation for both parties. 'It should be a business friendship, not aggressive competition,' Arjan adds.

The couple does not believe in competition. 'Life is not a rat race,' Anieke explains. 'We enjoy working with ambitious, driven people. But the goal is to inspire others, Share experiences and gradually increase the quality of our work.'

A lively and dynamic interaction is thus necessary to improve the creative process at work. However, the good bond between Anieke and Arjan can also pose a risk to both their private and professional lives. 'As a collaborative couple, it is always tempting to immediately share your ideas Share, whether you are at home or in the office,' says Anieke. 'However, we have found that we function better when we clearly separate the two and take regular breaks. At home and on weekends, preferably no e-mails and no phone calls,' she continues.

"Any insights we have in our spare time, we write down on paper or email to ourselves so we can discuss them during the workday. Unlike other years, the label will not present its products at the upcoming edition of the Salone del Mobile. However, both Arjan and Anieke will participate as visitors. 'The Salone is also an important social moment,' they explain. 'We like to discover what other companies and designers are doing and be inspired by that.' The label wants to remain compact and flexible. As they both emphasize, successful ideas can pop up somewhere completely unexpected. Looking to the future, Vij5 's goal is to grow toward the wide range of possibilities around them.

Interview by Federica Marie Carenini(Translated by Vij5).

Connecting the Dots

Connecting the Dots publishes and presents Dutch designers and design culture on an international stage during major design events and trade fairs. Their activities are always content-driven, with a focus on revealing the latest developments in design culture. Connecting the Dots also organizes fairs, exhibitions, debates and networking events.