Contemporary Dutch design first made a splash internationally in the early nineties with the emergence of the Droog Design collective. Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld declared that “Droog is the spirit of modernity. It is non-design and unpretentious.”
Three decades later, attention is directed once more towards the country of Rembrandt and Rietveld for September 2022’s Rising Talent Awards. Each edition of Maison&Objet―the Paris-based international trade fair of design, decoration and lifestyle―offers a special focus on a new generation of designers from a specific country.
After Japan in March, the spotlight turns to the Netherlands, a country with one of the most vibrant design scenes in Europe.
So, what is ‘Dutch design’? For one of the awards jury members, Hella Jongerius, Dutch has become synonymous with ‘experimental, critical, conceptual’ in the design world.
“While its increasingly global outlook makes it perhaps more difficult to define than back in the nineties, it remains remarkably free-spirited and less defined by commercial restraints,” she says.
And what sets the young generation apart from its predecessors? Among other things, a greater sense of collaboration and a more critical view of our systems of consumption.
As jury member, Wieki Somers, says, “there is more attention to the environmental aspect of the industry and the social aspect in design”.
The notion of sustainability is to the fore, which leads many of the seven rising talents to work with offcuts and waste material, whether it be heaps of sawdust, harvested plastic, shredded leather or good old-fashioned sports shoes. Also, many of their objects are either handmade or employ craft techniques.
Sure, not all of them may be practical. Porcelain soles and PVC coffins are unlikely to take off any time soon. But that also reflects the fact that Dutch design is not just about making products, it’s also very much about researching concepts.
Make sure you check out the Rising Talents at Maison&Objet Paris from 8 to 12 September.