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THE DESIGN CHASER

Copenhagen x Cult | An Unforgettable Visit with Vipp

10.30.2019

If you've been following my highlights from Copenhagen, you'll know that I attended a very special Design Tour, which I'm still documenting here on TDC. I was also lucky to extend my trip by partnering with Cult, who set up some exciting visits for me with their Danish brand partners. One of these was Vipp, who this year are celebrating their 80th anniversary. An incredible milestone, it was such an honour to visit them at their headquarters, and spend time at two of the renowned Vipp Hotels, which are both designed  by Studio David Thulstrup. I even had the pleasure of staying at one on my final night in Copenhagen. Coinciding with the lead up to today's exciting launch of the Vipp furniture collection in Australia, Cult are celebrating in style with a Vipp Open House at their beautiful Sydney showroom.

Vipp Loft //— photography by Michelle Halford for TDC

Open to the public until Friday, I've provided all the details of the Open House at the end of the post. But first, I'm thrilled to be sharing today's write up following an interview with Vipp CEO and grandson of the founder, Kasper Egelund. Joined by Miffy Coady, the managing director of Est, we chatted to Kasper inside the beautiful Vipp Loft about the idea behind the hotels, how Vipp expanded from a trash can into kitchens, furniture, lighting and more, and what's still to come...

— Vipp Hotel —

The Vipp Hotel is not a hotel in the traditional sense. Instead of having many rooms in one location, Vipp offer unique rooms at various destinations, as a chance to experience Vipp products in locations out of the ordinary. Following the first destination, Vipp Shelter, two more have since opened, Vipp Loft (which we visited) and Vipp Chimney House (which I had the pleasure of experiencing first hand with an overnight stay). Kasper says that the hotels are something that he is personally very passionate about. “It's not a showroom, it's not a store. You can stay there and feel it in a different way. I think it taps more into dreaming and having a vision – something that retail stores can't offer. And with the internet you have to think about how you can position yourself. I'm a big believer in the experience economy.” You won't find a 24-hour lobby, a gym, daily housekeeping or fitness facilities at the hotels. Instead, they offer tailored and curated design destinations, filled with Vipp's take on design. By engaging with the interior of the stunning hotel rooms, including the iconic Vipp Kitchen, the Vipp Hotels provide a unique experience. 

Kasper believes that these experience-driven hotels are a much more interesting concept. It also reflects the Vipp philosophy, that you should buy less, but you should buy better. “We are as a brand promoting things and building things that we think are long lasting, that you can have for a long time. Yes, we are premium, but I believe that the experience economy is important, because that's what the future is about. So we will do more destinations.” Kasper hints at Australia and of course I ask about NZ (fingers crossed), and he also says he dreams of doing one outside of Milano.

Vipp Chimney House //— photography by Michelle Halford for TDC


— Vipp Furniture Range —

Kasper showed us some new furniture pieces in the Vipp Loft that are all in the pipeline, including new sofas and some wooden chairs. He explains that they put prototypes of furniture into the Vipp Hotel, so it becomes a testing lab of sorts. A place to invite people to experience them. Of course it also makes sense to finish a house with furniture, especially when you invite people to stay, and we learnt that this was part of the catalyst for Vipp's move into furniture when creating the Vipp Shelter. But it also came from a simple need to keep on developing. Kaspar says that staying with his grandfather's bin would have been very boring... and couches and chairs are fun to make! Having the right team to do it is also key, with Vipp's chief designer, Morten Bo Jensen, having been Kasper's wingman for many years. Dedicated to the same philosophy, Kasper says it's seldom that they are not on the same page. 

But rather than doing eight chairs and seeing what works, they spend a long time creating fewer, but better products. A perfect example is the aluminium chair (Vipp451) which took six years to create. The choice of material and industrial feel of the chair fits beautifully into Vipp's universe, and it comes in a choice of fabric or leather upholstery. I was also very excited to see a wooden chair in the pipeline. On the move into wood furniture, Kasper says that as the range grows, the curation of products is important. “It's the full picture that has to be interesting. And it's not interesting if you keep on refining product with the same material that my grandfather was excellent in, so we have to challenge ourselves. That means taking the same principles that Vipp is centered around — details, finish, materials, and functionality — and using them to create a wooden chair”. In following this process, Kasper's hope is that people will look at the chair and the bins and recognise that they are part of the same family.


Vipp Chimney House //— photography by Michelle Halford for TDC


— Kasper on his Grandfather's Influence —

Kasper's grandfather, the founder of Vipp, died when he was 10. A very important figure in his childhood, Kaspar says that because he wasn't there during his later, formative years, it wasn't so much about the words he spoke or what he wrote down, but rather the proof by way of a product that has truly stood the test of time. Talking of course about the iconic pedal bin.... after all, how many other products have been produced continuously for 80 years? “What he left us with is that you put a lot of attention into these different materials, how you manufacture, the functionality and then of course the shape... then you can actually do something that has a very long lifespan... together with only 5 or 6 other products in Denmark today, like the Lego brick.” No mean feat! And with Vipp now strongly influenced by his grandfather's legacy, Kasper hopes he can continue with more products that live beyond 80 years. He says this means passing certain filters, and not being driven by fashion, as this would not be fair to their story, their position in the market and what they stand for.


Vipp Chimney House //— photography by Michelle Halford for TDC



— Vipp's Position in the Current Danish Design Landscape —

By not being fashion driven, Vipp is different to other players who are more trend-based and faster paced. Kasper says that there has also been an increase in venture capitalists in the Danish design industry, for good or worse. “Maybe it's good, we'll see. Maybe it's not good. But we will not play that game. We will play the other game. We will play what made people buy and appreciate the bin.... it's what has to be brought into everything else we make. And that's the filters.” The Vipp ethos can be seen on the walls of the Vipp Offices below, and of course in the products.


Vipp Offices //— photography by Michelle Halford for TDC

Vipp Chimney House //— photography by Michelle Halford for TDC



— Growing a Company into a Successful Global Brand from a Bin —


Vipp is founded on the success of an iconic design, the pedal bin. An incredible success story, Harvard even created a case study on it ten years ago in the interest of educating business students. However, when asked what Kasper's advice would be on growing a company into such a successful global business and brand from a product like a bin, he says that in many ways Vipp has not followed the normal path for MBA thinking. He says his best advice is to break the rules. So how can you stay true to something and break the rules? “You have to find that flex point. And the fun thing about business is there is no one set way of how you should do it.” Kasper goes on to explain that while there's an agreed brief for a new product with important features (like the Vipp bin in terms of material, details, functionality, quality, etc), you should break the rules in other ways. For Vipp this meant broadening their distribution channels, and ultimately going from a trash can to doing kitchens, furniture, lighting...  and well, we know the rest. 

“Stand in something you believe in and then break some rules, so you are different.” — Kasper Egelund

When Vipp went into kitchens 10 years ago, many people, (including internally) disagreed. Their arguments? Everything from it being too far away from the core business, too complicated, too risky and too expensive...  to worries over needing to have to have your own worldwide approved taps and integrated appliances. And what was even more risky, was that the idea came up during the crisis. 

Fast forward 10 years and The Vipp Kitchens are now well on the way towards global distribution, with 30 sales points — including their latest in Singapore opening the day before the interview.

Vipp Chimney House //— photography by Michelle Halford for TDC



— Vipp Products: The Most Important Vs Favourites —

Kasper says that while Vipp Kitchens are a good part, they are not the most important part, Furniture is now becoming more and more important, as is lighting. But essentially, it's a mix of everything. And he think that's what makes Vipp interesting. “Where do you want to start? Will you start with the chairs or the lamps, or the bin, or the kitchen, or the couches? You can start anywhere you want and we can promise you that they all build on the same recipe”. 

When I asked Kasper if he had a favourite product, he likened it to choosing a favourite child — he and his wife Heidi, who also works at Vipp in Human Resources have three kids, two girls and a boy. “Vipp is my fourth child. It means a lot. I don't really have a favourite but of course I will mention the bin because it's a recipe of the rest. It's where it all began”. He goes on to say that this is why they will never sell out to private equity, "because this is not just a piece of merchandise for sale. This is life dedication. How could you do that to a child?” 

He then adds “Personally I can see from the last 18 years that I've been with the company, we've never pulled a product from the market.” While something may be a big hit, and something else less of a hit, it's clear that every product has a story, and that Kasper feels a connection with every one of them.

Vipp Chimney House //— photography by Michelle Halford for TDC



— The Biggest Challenge for the Business —

With so many brands and so much noise, Kasper says the biggest challenge they face is getting the word out. “The world is full of many, many brands screaming, and Instagram and Facebook. It's a very competitive world. So how do you find your edge and how do become relevant? That's a challenge. So spreading the word, finding your position in the market. And of course being family owned with limited resources and big ambitions, that will be a challenge”. Despite the daily race and lots of competitors, Kasper has no doubt that they'll continue to find their position in the market through good products, motivated people, big goals, and by pushing ahead. “We have that advantage that we can think long term. And I think the employers appreciate that”. Speaking of which, I was so impressed by both the current and past employees I have met at Vipp. Their knowledge and passion for the brand is infectious, and this is something that Kasper says is for him, a personal measure of success — fostering people who are loyal, motivated, challenged and happy. “I hear from ex-employees who say they had the best time here. Some of them go on to great careers elsewhere but it's not the same because we're family owned. My sister is involved, my mum is involved. It is my extended family, that's how we run it. If they can stop and look back and say wow, this was the best place I ever worked. Well, that is the goal.”

Vipp Chimney House //— photography by Michelle Halford for TDC


— Vipp's 80 year Milestone —

As mentioned earlier, this year Vipp celebrates its remarkable 80th anniversary. To celebrate the incredible milestone, they commissioned French artist Vahram Muratyan to pay tribute to Vipp's Danish roots, with colourful city silhouettes that unfold across a Limited Edition 80 Years Anniversary Bin. They also collaborated with Mikkeller Brewery, a very well respected beer brand in Denmark to create a special beer can, served to guests at the Vipp Hotels. Kasper adds “We may do more, the year is not over yet”!


The Vipp Beer Can Collab with Mikkeller to Celebrate 80 years


— The future with Vipp —

When asked what the future holds for Vipp, Kasper simply answers “Many things”. Seeing how far he has taken the company in the last 15 years, I have no doubt this is true! “We were two people and a trash can, with very little industry know-how and few resources, and we came to here. We have no excuses for not doing three times as much now. We have a great team, and the ball is rolling”. He goes on to say that they will keep putting one foot in front of the other, with some trial and error, some breaking of rules, and at times trying to hit the ball outside of the fence. Never playing too safe. Always taking chances.


Vipp Chimney House //— photography by Michelle Halford for TDC


Huge thanks to Cult and the Vipp team for an unforgettable visit. Spending my last night in Copenhagen at the Vipp Chimney House was the perfect way to round off an incredible trip. 

Cult's Vipp Open House is currently open for viewing at the Sydney showroom, where the new range of Vipp furniture and soft furnishings is on display. Nicholas, from Vipp APAC, will take visitors on a tour of the space telling the story of the new collection. 

The Open House runs through to Friday, 16 November. 


Photography by Michelle Halford for TDC

This post was created in collaboration with Cult and Vipp. I only work with products I love and all opinions are my own. For more information please visit my About Page.

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