Episode 7

The Unexpected Welcome: Meet Moooi

Original, unexpected, eclectic, rebellious, sophisticated, and always on the edge of commercial reality and cultural interest, Robin Bevers and Martien Valentijn take us behind the curtain into the extraordinary life of Dutch lifestyle brand, Moooi.

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We want to help people curate their life with creative luxury in a poetic, innovative, and rebellious way. Robin Bevers, CEO Moooi


CCB (One Workplace): [00:00:00] Welcome to the ONEder podcast brought to you by One Workplace. Here's where we get to spend some time wondering, debating, learning and laughing about the future of workplace design with some of the greatest thinkers and makers in the industry. I'm your host, CCB. Let's get started. So today... welcome, gentlemen. We have Martien Valentijn and Robin Bevers from Moooi visiting with us from the Netherlands. Welcome to San Francisco!

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:00:29] Hi CCB.

Martien Valentijn (Moooi Carpets): [00:00:30] Hi.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:00:31] We're here at Marketplace on Maiden Lane, where we're highlighting Moooi, a Life Extraordinary, which I was interested to see, came out at Salone del Mobile in Milan this year. So talk a little bit about that. Tell us first what was going on in the Moooi world.

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:00:49] Well, of course, we're here for this collaboration with Steelcase, which is actually, at this point in time, one of the most exciting things that we're doing. And I'll tell you later on why. But with Moooi, we're like actually getting into our adolescence. You know, we always presented ourselves as like little kids that were playing around and were trying to grow up a little bit, but not getting too serious. So that's what we're doing.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:01:20] The work that you do with all of the designers that you work with doesn't lend itself to real seriousness.

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:01:25] That's the whole idea. Our whole concept is that we make designer's dreams come true. That's the basis of how Moooi was founded. Our co-founder and owner Marcel Wanders and also our director. He was struggling around the turn of the century to get the powers-that-be to adopt his new conceptual designs, and not just him. There were many European designers, and especially in the collective Droog Design that had the same issues. And then when he ran into a very gifted commercial guide and he became friends with, they said, you know what, we build a platform for good contemporary design. And that's how Moooi starts.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:02:14] So that was in 2001. And you're now coming on to almost 20 years. So you almost say, you're young adults, not really adolescents.

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:02:24] Yeah, we were slow growers.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:02:29] So in the beginning you started out with furniture and lighting. Is that true?

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:02:36] Well, we started with a haphazard series of iconic designs in black and white that had nothing to do with each other and gradually moved into a world that could embrace the whole interior with furniture, lighting. And then, not too long ago in 2014, we ran into a wonderful discovery that our friend Martin Valentine brought to us, with whom we were already working before.

Martien Valentijn (Moooi Carpets): [00:03:10] Yeah. Actually, Moooi Carpets is the youngest sister or little brother of the family. And we actually were launched in 2015 and we think carpets perfectly fit into the Moooi world because we invented actually a new way of printing on the carpets. And this new invention was was created 5-6 years ago. And I said to Marcel, once this is finished, please send me a nice design and I come over to you with the result. And so he he did send the well, the quite famous now Eden Queen Signature Rug, which is our top selling product at the moment. He sent it to me. And it is a beautiful flower-full, colorful product, which once it was produced and I showed it to him, he immediately said "now, now we have to start Moooi carpets.

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:04:21] So that was super exciting time. I still see Martin coming in because I mean, we saw each other regularly. He had a carpet on the shoulder and he brought it to the top floor of our building in one of the meeting spaces. And he unrolled the thing and we all went ah!

CCB (One Workplace): [00:04:39] It's amazing.

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:04:40] Yes. And I think within a month we had the concept of how we would create Moooi carpets together.

Martien Valentijn (Moooi Carpets): [00:04:47] Immediately we had a tight schedule because we wanted to start, to launch in 2015, April. So actually, within four or five months, we had to create a whole new collection with, happily enough, a lot of enthusiastic designers already working with Moooi and some new and other designers as well from from other industries. For example, the fashion industry. So it was a tough time to to start with Moooi Carpets in 2015. But a lot of fun and as from then it started, ending now at this moment with a really nice partnership for Moooi carpets with Steelcase, which is an exciting moment as well. Just we are young, Moooi is also still young. Growing up, we had to grow up very fast.

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:05:46] Young at heart .

CCB (One Workplace): [00:05:49] Yeah. Kind of goes with the whole... So many of the people listening may not be familiar with Moooi. There are some that not have not heard from you yet or heard of you. So why don't you tell us a little tiny bit about where the name came from and what the concept was. Understanding that there already were the design interests.

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:06:09] So we started with this whole rebellion against the powers-that-be. So Marcel formulated three, let's say taglines. One is: stop the boring business. The second one: Design is the unexpected welcome. You know, you didn't know you needed it, then you had it, and then you couldn't imagine ever living it without it. And the third one is more on design fundamentalism. That's modernism, minimalism. You know, people say less is more. Then we say, if you want your life to be less, that's fine. But we want our lives to be more. And from that, we built making designers dreams come true. It was a little bit sketchy and it became more complete. But as you say, in our concept it is impossible to really make collections that fit together because everything comes from an individual dream. We just put things together now. Mooi is a Dutch word with two O's and it means beautiful. But of course, Marcel always wants to overdo things a little bit. So we said we put in the extra "o" for extra beautiful. And that's that's our name and how it stayed. Now, now that we're further ahead, we say Moooi, a life extraordinary. We want to help people curate their life with creative luxury in a poetic, innovative and rebellious way.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:07:49] So we we kind of talked a little bit earlier about the way that you find designers or they find you. And the idea of a collective, it feels like there is a larger family that continues to grow within the Moooi business, that relationships are built and that you continue on. And so it's an interesting business model. Think about it. And talking about bringing your business to the United States and linking up with Steelcase and distributing it through this larger distribution. What impact is that going to have on the family? The Moooi family. Is it exciting to everyone? Are some people less?

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:08:44] Well, I think I think it's exciting to everyone. So the Moooi pieces are often the cherry on the cake or the jewels on the beautiful lady's outfit. And especially with a company like Steelcase is so good in portfolio management, in creating fantastic, beautiful, functional product and workspaces. I think often designers look at their work and say "wow, I did really good and the people that are going to work here, they're gonna be really happy here, but you could have something extra. And that's where we come in. And that's why I think it's such a great combination to work with a company like Steelcase.

Martien Valentijn (Moooi Carpets): [00:09:36] Yeah. And I think in general, you can say that more office-related interiors—it's changing a lot from the 70s and the 80s. The boring offices, cubicles to the 90s and 2000s where Internet came and we all started working from home, etc.. Coming to a new phase where people want to interact with each other, want to see each other, want to come to each other, but they want to do it in an environment which is nice, which feel them home. And I think because of that, because of the relationship we are building now, together with Steelcase, our products perfectly fits combined with the products of Steelcase to create that special feeling environment because of the fact that offices are changing and the markets are changing.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:10:37] That's great. I asked you last night whether you could tie what you do to a workplace issue and you've just hit it right there with the people can work anywhere. And if they have the choice to work someplace, they want to work someplace that they're comfortable in and home is comfortable. But so can the office be as comfortable or as delightful?

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:10:57] Well, and especially here in the Bay Area, I mean, there is this huge competition. For talent, and one of the means to compete is to offer an exciting place to work. You asked about the Moooi family. So a very important part of our family are our designers. They usually find us or we find them. We go around and or we just keep up and sit with them in their studios and watch their sketchbooks and find great things. But what I really love about our concept is that we don't just work with the famous designers and the names that have established themselves. I mean, it's all about the design. So we have so many people approaching us. And, you know, designers, if you're listening, I call out to you. Connect with us if you have good ideas, because whether you're still in school or whether you're a 65 year old mathematician if you have a good idea and we think it can work, we can develop it together.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:12:06] So how does the Moooi carpet line tap into that same design richness and army of potential?

Martien Valentijn (Moooi Carpets): [00:12:17] The product we have is actually a white canvas and that white canvas opens up. And this is also why Marcel, our art director and founder of Moooi, was so enthusiastic from the beginning. It gives designers the freedom to do anything they want, to create anything they want to. Not only designers who are working already with Moooi, creating beautiful products in terms of lighting and furniture, but also from other industries like the fashion industry, for example. It connects our product. The white canvas connects with Moooi brand perfectly. So this opens up whole new fields. And this is this is why people love working with Moooi carpets. Existing designers with a lot of new designers as well. And it feels really nice that that our product gives that possibility to them. Young new designers or more more famous, already well-known designers.

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:13:31] You know the furniture and lighting products, they are more 3-D or more technology driven. And for that you need a certain type of designer. And the carpets are much more 2D, of course. And that's why I think in this field, more artists have been coming in, which makes it super interesting. I mean, a ???, for instance, the Finnish artist, you know, or the Swedish lady who did this special limited edition tapestry collection. So that was beautiful. It was really, really beautiful.

Martien Valentijn (Moooi Carpets): [00:14:15] And actually, we're working on that. So tapestrys will be a new part of our family. On the wall, yeah. So here are more and more artists. Artists are coming to us asking to give them opportunities.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:14:33] Opportunities to... would you do limited editions? Are they individual pieces?

Martien Valentijn (Moooi Carpets): [00:14:37] A lot of our existing products, actually, people use them like the ??? pieces. They are often used as a tapestry. Up until now, we are doing some kind of new events with the limited editions up until now. But we are working on that on them on a tapestry collection line as well, which will be introduced later.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:15:03] I will tell you, last night a woman walked by and wanted to come in, was wondering what was going on. And she was a professor at the Fashion Institute of Design, which is just down the block. And she said, I have to bring my students here. I said, here's my card. Call us and we will have them. And we love to have people come through and see. But she noticed because of this, you know, that the link to fashion and we at One Workplace had been talking about space as fashion. What are those connections between the design of space and the design of fashion?

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:15:36] So as of our, let's say... nature, limited editions don't come very natural to us. I mean, we want to be I mean, all designers want to be democratic. That's why to become a designer, they want to spread their work, and they want to reach as many people as possible. So we try to keep things unlimited and also try to keep them achievable for for people who want them. And limited editions for us, it's a little bit I mean, we've done one or two things, but we noticed that it's not very much aligned to our core values.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:16:15] So when you bring up core values, what are the most important values at Moooi?

[00:16:20] It's really loyalty, transparency and honesty. It's very much the values that Marcel and Casper, the co-founder, have selected people on from day one. And we have a few gatekeepers in the organization that have very good antennae for that. So in our Human Resource Department they look out for two elements. First of all, compliance with with the core values. And second, you have to understand the brand, which is not a given. You mean you have it or you don't have it. So we really need people to understand what Moooi is all about. And to be on brand... it's very corporate, but that's the two challenges that we face.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:17:18] When you talk about brand and the end of the breadth of Moooi and the almost universal reach that it has by virtue of all of the design that comes into it... What does Moooi want to be if it's a young adult today at 19? What does it want to be in its future?

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:17:45] I think Moooi is by definition a kind of lifestyle that we try to portray through our own businesses. The Moooi, the proper Moooi business, but also in our partnerships with Moooi Carpets or Moooi wall coverings or with our Moooi hotel cosmetics. So we tried to reach our target audiences at numerous touchpoints and always give them the same design as the unexpected welcome feeling with whatever we do.

Martien Valentijn (Moooi Carpets): [00:18:22] Yes. And within the new partnership with Steelcase you explained this morning to a big audience, we want to be the sparkle within the products range of Steelcase. So we want to be that partner with the sparkling products creating that extra touch within any project workplace.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:18:50] Well, and in today's workplaces, as you are extremely well aware of... those shared spaces and the places where people meet and gather have become so much more unique and design sensitive to encourage people to bring out their own creativity and innovation. So you have a much broader...

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:19:14] Of course, a workspace is also very specific. That's a lot of regulations. There's a lot of ergonomics, there's a lot of R&D involved. And I think Steelcase is so good at that. For Moooi, I mean, where we would operate more independently is in our collaborations. So we start with the interior. But we're talking about maybe hotel concepts, maybe then the departments, really other levels, to bring the Moooi lifestyle, the Moooi look and feel into into the world. And I think it's just a matter of time.

Martien Valentijn (Moooi Carpets): [00:19:52] Especially here in the Bay Area. We are very curious to see how this how our brand will work here in this specific part of the states with all the the big and important clients like Google and Spotify, etc.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:20:07] I'm pretty sure that we've put some Moooi products in a number of our customers. So that always makes we wonder. I know that a lot of people that listen to the podcasts will wonder what's an amazing installation that you've done? Is there something that you think, boy, that that absolutely was perfect anywhere.

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:20:33] I walked into the one workspace office yesterday and I was already blown away, it was so nice. Let's not forget that before starting up this collaboration with Steelcase, we already were teaming up with One Workplace for more than four years.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:20:55] We had a big party. Marcel was there.

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:20:55] Yes. So in a way, I think this is very symbiotic relationship. And I applaud Steelcase for listening to their partners, because I think in a way already teaming up with One Workspace has made it more easy to take this step Steelcase-wide. So that's... I think in the Bay Area we've already made big steps thanks to the great design companies and the partners that we already have.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:21:24] So is there anything that you think people should know about Moooi that they wouldn't immediately see? What surprise would you share?

Martien Valentijn (Moooi Carpets): [00:21:38] Mooi is the unexpected welcome in many ways. Is that enough?

CCB (One Workplace): [00:21:47] I think that's pretty much covered it.

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:21:49] Really, we don't want to be predictable. That's one thing at the moment. So that also is making your life really difficult, because every time you reinvent the wheel in a way, for instance, throughout our life, installations in Milan have been very important, Salone del Mobile is and remains to be an important week. Even if we have started to also introduce products in other periods of the of the year and we were in this fantastic location in ???, which was this 17000 square feet old factory hall where every year we could completely create our own world with our own scents and sounds and amaze people. And then we hit 50000 visitors during Salone, which was a big increase from the year before and never heard before. And then we said, you know what? Bag it! We're leaving here. We're leaving here. What else is here to gain? We've done it. We've been at this location for three years. We can dream building up this space. We know every nook. This is not good because we're getting good at it. We don't want to be good at it. We want to be exciting. So for the first time in our whole life, we left. ???. We've been there always. We left and we went to ??? to downtown Milan. We went into an old church and we said so with all the problems that we face there. And it was amazing. And people loved it.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:23:32] It was amazing. It was beautiful.

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:23:33] You liked it?

CCB (One Workplace): [00:23:35] I only got such see pictures this year.

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:23:37] You didn't walk on clouds? No, really. I mean, this was... So. Okay. Let me tell you this. It's an old church with a courtyard. So you walk in, you see the church, and then you go up the steps and you see some celestial stuff hanging there in the air. And you look and you're literally walking on clouds on the on the Front girls' designs. And we used this beautiful soft yarn quality from from Moooi carpets that made the clouds even fluffier. And you really were sinking in. And people were like ,what's happening here? It was like a celestial experience.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:24:17] It did get a lot of coverage. Even those of us who don't didn't get to go saw it.

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:24:23] But you're coming in April, aren't you?

CCB (One Workplace): [00:24:26] Oh, I don't know.

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:24:27] You have to.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:24:27] Oh, come on. Ok. The other thing that we like to ask is, are there... Is there one--and it's really hard to do with design, and I totally know this--Is there one product that absolutely like makes your heart lift? At this moment in time?

Martien Valentijn (Moooi Carpets): [00:24:47] Well, this question is asked a couple of time these days. It's difficult. Of course, when it comes to carpets. I do have my my personal favorite than I do have a carpet at home I really love, which is the Eden Queen and our our top seller. But I also love.. I adore Walking on Clouds from the Front girls. But my personal favorite, and I see that product every time when I'm driving in cities, I see them in restaurants and I see them everywhere. And they are magic. It's the Raimond lighting. This is my personal favorite.

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:24:47] Like yesterday, right?

Martien Valentijn (Moooi Carpets): [00:25:34] Like yesterday in a Brazilian restaurant here. Famous restaurant here. I forgot the name.

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:25:38] Our Portuguese is a little bit rusty. But we're there in a taxi. We go and we see this explosion of Raimonds. And and it's so recognizable.

Martien Valentijn (Moooi Carpets): [00:25:54] So this is my personal favorite. And of course, Robin....

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:25:58] Well. So I live in Amsterdam and I have just like really old coach house in the downtown area. And then once in a while, something comes up at Moooi. And for instance, there's this rough artist called ???. He's an acquired taste. And he made this really big, nice floor lamp. And I say, "I want to have that piece at home." The response is "Fine. And so what are you gonna chuck out then?" Nothing. I love all my pieces. But now I have this solution because the head office of Moooi is outside of Amsterdam, which is like an hour and a half drive. And I got sick and tired of driving back and forth or staying in hotels. So I convinced my better half that we should have an apartment in Breda in that town. So all of a sudden I have like a two bedroom, quite big apartment that was empty and I could just fill it all up with all my love pieces including ??? of course. And over the table, I have two prop lights. One of the double top side and bottom side are filled with lamps and then two and then ???. And I really love that piece. It's a little bit advanced design, I think. But I think it's really clever and beautiful and well done and maybe a little bit underrated. So maybe it could get a little bit more TLC.

CCB (One Workplace): [00:27:41] Well, since it's here, we can show it as much as we possibly can. Okay. So I want to say thank you very, very much, Robin and Martien for spending time with us. It was absolutely wonderful. And you have brought beauty to San Francisco and to our Marketplace on Maiden Lane, and we hope that you have a wonderful time here with us.

Martien Valentijn (Moooi Carpets): [00:28:01] We're having a wonderful time.

Robin Bevers (Moooi): [00:28:03] Thank you very much.