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Interview: Mirjam Vogt of Magazin

The co-founder of the Amsterdam design boutique discusses the strengths of Dutch design

by Kat Herriman in Design on 22 July 2013

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With one large window facing the street, Magazin looks out onto one of Amsterdam's newest design districts. The artisanal shops lining the long street of Czaar Peterstraat seem to have appeared almost overnight, although locals will tell say it's been nearly a decade in the making. One of the shops leading the way is Magazin, a softly lit space that feels simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar with its worldly collection of thoughtfully designed, fair trade products. Cheerful, handcrafted vases by Foejke Fleur van Duin, dangling lamps by Rescued and super soft blankets are some of the mainstays at this tri-level lifestyle shop, which is focused on sustainable design and the work of local craftsmen, as well as those abroad. To learn more about the uniquely outfitted shop and the evolving neighborhood surround it, we spoke with Magazin's co-founder and buyer, Mirjam Vogt.

How did Magazin get started?

We started Magazin in November 2012. Starting the shop has been a long process; Margo and I made plans for a business together for over 25 years. When I was cycling in the neighborhood, I saw this beautiful little space for rent in the Czar Peter Street in Amsterdam East. And things came together to finally realize our old dream. My motto in life is always: When there is a possibility, take it and ask yourself the question, "Why not?"

I’m a camerawoman and producer and used to work in the world of broadcast and produced corporate films for development organizations. So, I always had an interest in design because of my background as an artist. Margo has a background in anthropology and is now working for the local government. Her drive is to find fair and honest products to make the word a little better for craftsmen abroad, and also in the Netherlands.

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Magazin is in a neighborhood that seems to be in the middle of a transition. Could you tell us why you picked this location and what transformations you have seen there?

The neighborhood has been poor for decades. In the '80s, Czaar Peterstraat was packed with junkies and rundown houses. After the development of the Oostelijke Eilanden (Eastern Islands), the street became the connection between the center and the Islands. This was the beginning of a transformation. I always believed this area could become a place to be. It took a little longer than I imagined, but we are getting there. There are several small personal shops and we’re hoping that this process continues. The reason for renting on this street is that we believe in little shops and having contact with our customers—the importance of having a coffee and talking about life.

When buying new products for the store, what do you look for? Is there a narrative element?

Our products must be well-designed, fair trade and sustainable. Our goal is to make the world more beautiful by selling well-designed things with a great story. For instance, necklaces from Micha Vos—he designs simple and elegant animal figures that represent characters in old Dutch tales. But we also sell products from Imperfect Design, a label that sends renowned designers to work with craftspeople in—for example, Guatemala—to co-create a product. We also like to give the podium to young Dutch artists who make beautiful things. We started a label Made for Magazin to help realize products we believe in.

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How do you make a cohesive collection with unlike things?

We sell the products we would want to get or give to our best friends. For us, it is an adventure to find the things we like. In the fair trade world, the design part was always far behind. In Holland nowadays, you see collaborations between Dutch designers and craftsmen. Together they make a better products.

Who are some of your favorite designers and artists?

My favorite designers are, for example: Mirjam van der Lubbe en Niels van Eik. I am strong believer in collaborations that connect Dutch designers with craftsman in developing countries. I also like Piet Hein Eek collaborative design products for Fairforward. I like it when design is both formally beautiful and functional like Friso Kramer chairs. Dutch design is always very strong in its most basic forms. It is also important to be touched by the piece's story.

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Where do you find new products or inspiration for your shop?

Inspiration is daily life. And daily life is going to the opera, seeing theater and music, enjoying good food with friends, being in nature with the dogs Hummer and Nozem and talking with the inspiring people who are visiting our shop. This season we are going to visit the exhibitions at the art schools and design academies to see what the graduate students are doing.

We do what we like. Sometimes it is difficult to find what you like, and that‘s why we started our label Made for Magazin. We ask craftsmen or designers to co-produce items for Magazin. Our first product is a salad bowl made together with pottery designer J.C. Herman. It turned out to be a very bright bowl in white chamotte with a contrast colored top line.

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Working and living in Amsterdam, what do you see as the strengths of the Dutch design and designers?

The Dutch designers are very strong in form. I see a focus on tradition and history by the young designers. Marga van Oers makes with her tiles a beautiful connection between old dutch "witjes" and modern design.

How would you characterize the design community now? And where do you hope it will be in the future?

The design community is in search of something meaningful. We are moving back to basics. Making more connections between past and future. I also see an energy to make sustainable things. Design is fluid and so are we, being a design shop. When things move you never know where it ends. For now we want to become more well known, so we can mean more for the designers in Amsterdam and the craftsman abroad we support.

Magazin
Czaar Peterstraat 104
1018 PS Amsterdam

Images by Karen Day

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