Today I am a guest of Premsela, which is the Dutch Government's platform for design. While the BNO is the association for Dutch designers, Premsela represents the government. Today is a day of eclectic encounters. I am about to meet people who are a part of the broad definition of design but not in the strict sense that readers of Campaign India would be prone to read. Safe to say, you've been warned.
First stop is the studio of designer Satyendra Pakhalé, an Indian who has been settled in Amsterdam for the last four odd years. An industrial designer who likes to call himself a cultural nomad, Pakhalé is a man who plays it strictly by his rules. No photographs, ("My assistant will provide you with anything that you require") and very less time ("I have an exhibition in Germany tomorrow and a meetings to wrap up before I leave") We are late ourselves due to a miscommunication so we can't really complain. On the Indian design scene, Pakhalé muses, "The Japanese are fantastic in the field of design. Twenty odd years ago, that was not the case. There were a lot of copycats. The Japanese are aware of their design heritage in a positive way, not a nationalistic way. That's the approach that should exist. India tends to go nationalistic sometimes, which is not the correct way to do it, to put it loosely. On the other hand, to understand something in a profound way and do something about it, that's something people respect. That's the groundwork that needs to exist. That needs to happen in India too."
Next stop is the Amsterdam Fashion Institute where I am to meet Leslie Holden, the head of the fashion design department. A Scot who settled in Amsterdam for love, Holden speaks in a measured and low tone which makes me strain to listen to every carefully enunciated word. Holden talks about the ongoing India festival in Amsterdam in which they participated and where they created a collection of India inspired clothes. They collaborated with NIFT, Delhi for the project with Indian designer Manish Arora and Holden says they thoroughly enjoyed the process. He is fascinated with Indian fabrics and textures and says he will be travelling to India next year to create fabric.
We drop in at Droog Design next, which is one of the most well respected Dutch design shops with clients across the globe in the area of industrial and product design. Droog's Renny Ramakers says that at the time when they started Droog, there was a shift in what designers wanted to do alongwith a change in the design environment. Designers were looking for a new form of aesthetics at the time. She says the change had a lot to do with education, with teachers encouraging designers to work in a more conceptual way.
After Droog, it's a one hour long train ride to Rotterdam. Somewhere during the train trip, lunch happens, consisting of juice, ham and cheese sandwich. Meetings at Rotterdam include designers Sebastiaan Straatsma, Onno Donkers and Bert- Jan Pot, all with studios in the same compound. After a whirlwind tour of the three studios, we head to what turns out to be my favourite stop of the day- a visit to Studio Leon&Loes.
Leon and Loes are partners at the studio which they founded after graduating from design school together. I got such good energy from that one studio alone and I am guessing it had nothing to do with Leon's bright silver jacket and matching shoes. The two have a great work energy going and it reflects in their work, most of which is in the interactive and publishing space. They have a fascination for retro concepts conceptualized in a more contemporary setting, as reflected in their work for 'Do the Right Bling'and 'A decade of web design.'
Dinner is a blur, and takes place on the train again because we are running really short of time. It's ham and cheese again. Voila. I am quite sure I won't be able to look at any meat for the next one month.
Finally, a vote of thanks for all the folks who made this Amsterdam trip happen…
To Peter Kirsten and Rita van Hallum of the BNO for being such wonderful and patient hosts.
To all the folks at BNO, whose names I can't repeat here due to the lack of space.
To the Indian delegation that bore each other for the whole week without any grouses and complaints…(almost! Kidding)
To Esther Munoz, Mariet and Aart Helder at Premsela for arranging everything.
To Brian Elliot and Richard Gorodecky at Amsterdam Worldwide for taking out time for me and for serving the best chocolate cookies.
To Eric Kessels of Kesselskramer for showing us around his city and for being a great host.
And to my team in Mumbai who put this diary up diligently every day.