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

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Minimalist designs and pure materials go together in the elegant and functional collection of the Dutch label Vij5. However, Vij5 products are distinguished by the sincere connection and strong cooperation 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 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 - if one failed, the other came to the rescue.

Anieke's graduation project was 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 the one hand, placing her design with a company would probably detract from the concept behind her work. On the other hand, it would be a great challenge to make the product herself, whether or not in collaboration with a producer. Fortunately, the tangible aspect of design fascinated Arjan and because the relationship with the sense of touch was an important feature in Anieke's work, their collaboration started naturally. Since 2006 they carefully put together their own collection. In doing so, they actively seek to collaborate 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 organisation, 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 large 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 enter into a dialogue to bring the differences to each other. This interaction enables us to increase the quality of our work'.

The couple also applies this approach when extending their cooperation 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 get to know the designer. It is our intention to initiate an open and sincere dialogue with them, exactly as it works between the two of us,' says Arjan. We won't always agree with each other, but that's what it's all about: honesty to improve the quality of our work'.

According to the couple, cooperation is an extremely valuable advantage and a source of inspiration - in cooperation with designers, customers and manufacturers alike. Arjan and Anieke usually look for suppliers near their Eindhoven studio in order to be able to communicate with them personally and to control the production. Nevertheless, from time to time the couple also collaborate with suppliers outside their reach. We have travelled a lot in search of materials that fit perfectly with 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 working together - if we don't have one, we won't go through with it'. Their goal is to create 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, to share experiences at Share and to 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 relationship between Anieke and Arjan can also pose a risk to both their private and professional lives. As a collaborating couple it is always tempting to share your ideas directly Share, whether you are at home or at the office', says Anieke. However, we have noticed that we function better when we clearly separate the two and take regular breaks. At home and in the weekend we prefer no e-mails and no phone calls', she continues.

Any insights we have in our spare time, we write down on paper or e-mail to ourselves so that we can discuss them during the working day. Contrary to 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 get inspired by it'. The label wants to remain compact and flexible. As they both underline, successful ideas can pop up somewhere completely unexpected. Looking to the future, the goal of Vij5 is to grow to the wide range of possibilities around them.

Interview by Federica Marie Carenini(translated by Vij5).

Connecting the Dots

www.thedots.nl

Connecting the Dots publishes and presents Dutch designers and design culture on an international stage during important 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 organises fairs, exhibitions, debates and networking events.