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dan­ish brand vipp is tak­ing a seat at de­sign’s top ta­ble

Wallpaper - - December - Vipp’s new fur­ni­ture col­lec­tion will be avail­able from Fe­bru­ary 2019, vipp.com

Vipp brings its vim to fur­ni­ture

For a brand that prizes longevity over nov­elty, Vipp has had a pro­lific decade. Orig­i­nally a man­u­fac­turer of pedal bins and bath­room ac­ces­sories, the Dan­ish firm made an en­try into the kitchen mar­ket in 2012, with a mod­u­lar, stain­less steel de­sign that can be taken out and travel with the owner if they re­lo­cate (W*157). Along­side came a table­ware col­lab­o­ra­tion with Dan­ish ce­ram­i­cist An­nemette Kis­sow, mark­ing Vipp’s first ex­per­i­ments with ce­ram­ics and glass­ware. Then there was a pre­fab­ri­cated shel­ter, launched in 2015 – a steel cabin with floor-to-ceil­ing glass liv­ing ar­eas, a kitchen, bath­room and loft bed­room (W*191) – fol­lowed by a light­ing col­lec­tion. The same year, Vipp added to its con­cept store on Copenhagen’s Ny Øster­gade with a show­room in Man­hat­tan’s Meat­pack­ing Dis­trict, sig­nalling the brand’s am­bi­tions in the US mar­ket.

‘Con­sumers should have the ben­e­fit of keep­ing a prod­uct for many, many years’

More re­cently, it en­listed ar­chi­tect David Thul­strup to cre­ate the 400 sq m Vipp Loft, on the top floor and mez­za­nine of its Copenhagen HQ. The Loft is billed as a one-room ho­tel, pro­vid­ing clients with a full im­mer­sion into the Vipp uni­verse (the room rate can be cred­ited to­wards the pur­chase of a Vipp kitchen). But in the rare ab­sence of guests, it also dou­bles as a test­ing ground for the brand’s up­com­ing re­leases. Prototypes are paired up with ex­ist­ing Vipp of­fer­ings to en­sure that they will be­come seam­less ad­di­tions to the prod­uct fam­ily.

It is here that we catch a glimpse of Vipp’s next move, its first proper foray into the fur­ni­ture mar­ket. To be sure, the brand has dab­bled in fur­ni­ture be­fore, in­clud­ing shelv­ing, a din­ing ta­ble and a side ta­ble (all in pow­der-coated steel, with ce­ramic tops), as well as a daybed, up­hol­stered in ani­line leather, that sells for DKK99,500 (£11,745). But the up­com­ing launch, which in­cludes two din­ing chairs, a lounge chair and a cof­fee ta­ble, is a bolder project, in­volv­ing a more di­verse pal­ette of ma­te­ri­als and colours, thus mark­ing a shift in the brand’s di­rec­tion.

The lounge chair and one of the din­ing chairs have a metal­lic frame that is distinctively Vipp – black stain­less steel, with the usual pow­der-coated cof­fee sur­face that gives it the tac­til­ity of cast iron (it also has a sub­tle lus­tre, cour­tesy of alu­minium dust). What sets them apart is the leather up­hol­stery, avail­able in black but also a lus­cious dark brown that di­verges from Vipp’s mono­chrome aes­thetic. The cir­cu­lar lounge ta­ble can be thought of as a wider, lower ver­sion of the side ta­ble, but no­tably is topped with mar­ble or smoked oak in­stead of ce­ramic. How­ever, it is the sec­ond din­ing chair, still in early pro­to­type stage dur­ing our visit, that catches our at­ten­tion. This is the first time the brand has made a piece of fur­ni­ture en­tirely in wood, and though its gently el­e­vated seat, clean pro­file and pre­cise con­tours iden­tify it as a Vipp de­sign, it is a clear state­ment of in­tent.

It is a de­lib­er­ate ef­fort to shift per­cep­tions, ac­cord­ing to Kasper Egelund, third-gen­er­a­tion owner and CEO of the com­pany. ‘If you cre­ate ev­ery­thing in black steel, it’s not in­ter­est­ing any­more. We’re work­ing on a bal­anc­ing act.’ His mother Jette, Vipp’s chair­man and daugh­ter of founder Hol­ger Nielsen, adds: ‘We’ve made all th­ese hard things, so now we’re turn­ing to our more fem­i­nine and cosier side to add to our range.’

She took over the com­pany when Nielsen passed in 1992, de­vel­op­ing the prod­uct range be­yond the iconic

pedal bin (she de­signed Vipp’s sec­ond prod­uct, the toi­let brush) and ex­pand­ing the Den­mark-based dis­tri­bu­tion to build a global net­work of re­tail­ers, start­ing with The Con­ran Shop in the UK and Wil­liams-sonoma in the US. She keeps an open mind as to where the com­pany is go­ing – so long as it pro­duces at ex­cep­tional qual­ity. ‘My father in­stilled it in me,’ she says. ‘What­ever we make, it is never a “quick fix”.’

Jette hired Vipp’s first chief de­signer, Morten Bo Jensen, who has now over­seen prod­uct ex­pan­sion for 12 years. He prefers to think of his de­signs as ‘tools for ev­ery­day life’, not­ing that each one has the same sense of crafts­man­ship and at­ten­tion to ma­te­rial. ‘It’s been my big pas­sion to see if we can put a huge part of Hol­ger into ev­ery sin­gle new item, in or­der to es­tab­lish Vipp as a brand, not least in­ter­na­tion­ally,’ he says. ‘We’re now try­ing to com­pete in the sport of de­sign with all the other great brands we see out there. The pedal bin is not enough.’

Yet it is the bin that con­tin­ues to in­form the brand, not only in its in­tel­li­gent de­sign but also its sturdy con­struc­tion. It is not un­heard of for Vipp bins to last half a cen­tury and, un­usu­ally for such a hum­ble ob­ject, spare parts are avail­able for pur­chase. ‘It’s our re­spon­si­bil­ity to the world, or at least to our end con­sumers, that when we ask them to pay a sig­nif­i­cant amount of money for a prod­uct, they have the ben­e­fit of keep­ing it for many, many years.’

Which is why Vipp will not over­haul its fur­ni­ture range ev­ery year, as some brands do in an ef­fort to pro­vide Pr-able launches at in­ter­na­tional de­sign fairs. Cer­tainly, fur­ther fur­ni­ture ty­polo­gies are on the draw­ing board. Ges­tur­ing to the liv­ing area of the Vipp Loft, which has two con­tem­po­rary so­fas along­side chairs by Poul Kjaer­holm and Flem­ming Lassen, Kasper says: ‘When you look around, it’s easy to say, “That’s nice, but it’s not Vipp. Why don’t we make it?”’ And there will be in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ments to ex­ist­ing pieces, says Jensen, but the de­signs are here to stay.

And so are Vipp’s own­ers, who are happy to keep it a fam­ily busi­ness at a time when con­glom­er­ates are snap­ping up Dan­ish de­sign brands – in the past year alone, Mu­uto was ac­quired by Knoll, Gubi by pri­vate eq­uity firm Ax­cel, and Hay sold a stake to Her­man Miller. Speak­ing from the New York show­room, Jette’s daugh­ter Sofie (the com­pany’s con­cept di­rec­tor, a graphic de­signer by train­ing who cre­ated the cur­rent logo) says: ‘We do it out of love for our prod­uct. We have done a lot of unusual de­vel­op­ment and been car­ried along by op­por­tu­nity and pas­sion and great ideas, not nec­es­sar­ily fol­low­ing an ob­vi­ous path. I’m not sure what lies ahead, but if it’s like the last cou­ple of years, it’s go­ing to be very ex­cit­ing.’

vipp is ex­pand­ing its range with four new de­signs, in­clud­ing this leather-up­hol­stered, metal-framed ‘vipp451’ chair, shot at the vipp loft in copenhagen

left, from left, vipp chief de­signer morten Bo Jensen; chair­man Jette egelund; and her son kasper egelund, the Brand’s ceo Be­low, the new ‘vipp456’ lounge chair and ‘vipp421’ mar­ble-topped side ta­ble, which are due to Be re­leased next year

Above, the soon-to-bere­leased ‘vipp451’ chair. seen in leather, it will Also be Avail­able up­hol­stered in fab­ricleft, the lat­est Ad­di­tion to vipp’s light­ing col­lec­tion is this black ‘vipp530’ ta­ble lamp, £239, which fea­tures the brand’s trade­mark per­fo­rated shade for soft light dif­fu­sion

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