Labels we love | Vlieger & Vandam

Two weeks ago I visited the exhibition Brutal Beauty: Violence and Contemporary Design at Marta Herford. The exhibition deals with the question how designers deal with violence? What responsibility do they bear, and which possibilities for action do they open up in the highly dynamic production process? The curators introduce a whole new generation of designers whose designs and strategies are making violence visible in order to take a stance against the often devastating worldwide developments now and in the future. They are no longer concerned solely with the design of the perfect product, but rather with shaping social processes.

The exhibition also points up the dark side of design. Although design is meant to serve humans in a wide variety of ways, if we look more closely, violence and design are closely connected to each other, because, at the latest in the production stage, a material or fabric is forced into a particular shape. In addition to this, a lot of product developments have military origins. The exhibition was very interesting and reflected a lot of actual conflicts around the globe. It’s on display until May 1st, so I highly recommend you go and see it before it’s gone.

Vlieger & Vandam

And again when you at least expect it there is also fashion in an exhibition. There is no way I can tell you everything about the exhibits in detail, it was so much input. But I’d like to tell you about a label I discovered during my visit I fell in love with immediately – Vlieger & Vandam.

The story behind Vlieger & Vandam is one about interdisciplinary design, the relation between art and fashion, and about innovative craftsmanship.

Carolien Vlieger and Hein van Dam, a graphic and an industrial designer, respectively, started the label in 2004 in response to the overwhelming success of their collaboration in 2002. This collaboration named The Guardian Angel Handbag was a comment from both designers on all the media attention to street violence in the city of Rotterdam, the place where they had just settled. The handbag displayed in the exhibition is one of exactly this first collaboration.

Exhibition view: Vlieger & Vandam, Guardian Angel, 2002 and Charm Gun, 2010, leather Photo: Hans Schröder/ Marta Herford
Exhibition view: Vlieger & Vandam, Guardian Angel, 2002 and Charm Gun, 2010, leather
Photo: Hans Schröder/ Marta Herford

Those early bags were assembled with parts from second hand handbags and new brightly coloured felt embossed with a distinct profile of a large kitchen knife or handgun. In 2005 the Guardian Angel Handbags were featured in the exhibition SAFE: Design Takes on Risk at MoMA in New York, where they have been part of the collection ever since.

Fashion statement or functional objet d’art, the Guardian Angel Handbags – by now translated into a vast number of styles for men and women and made in the most luxurious leather qualities instead of felt. They have been spotted on the arms of stars like Rihanna and Rita Ora as well as architects and fellow designers such as Zaha Hadid and Fabio Novembre. I still can’t believe I’ve never seen one before. Have you?

Until today they created many more bestsellers such as the Handcuffs clutch and hand painted Splash accessories. All bags and accessories are made in specialized leather workshops in Europe. New generation luxury means a traditional high end quality and craftsmanship, but with statement design as an added value instead of conventional luxury industry branding.

So guess what’s on my dream wish list now?! That’s what you get if you run around museums too often 😉

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