The collection Dutch Invertuals has been developing for seven years speaks to the imagination, although maybe abroad to a greater extent than in the Netherlands itself. Thanks to the continued participation at Milan’s Salone and Eindhoven’s Dutch Design Week, the designer collective has been able to blossom into a platform that discovers talent and allows it to grow under both the group identity and the individual’s name. Now it’s time for the next step.
Wendy Plomp has been the biggest motivation behind Dutch Invertuals since the beginning of 2009. She started out as a fellow designer, but from 2010 onwards she played an increasingly greater role as the collective’s organizer and curator until it became her full-time job last year. And she’s already got the next logical step in mind: developing the surge of talent into a more business-like approach. The first visible result: a slick online platform, which not only allows visitors to see the bi-annual output, but to actually buy everything too, thus ensuring new clients.
It’s not long before Wendy Plomp betrays her design background. “Sorry, hang on a second; I’ll grab a sheet of paper to make talking a little easier.” Her words are spoken at the same time as the small designs are drawn in her sketchpad. Text and image are parallel worlds. We’re sitting in a large space at the edhv design agency on the Fuutlaan, which not only serves as the Dutch Invertuals headquarters, but also as the location for the annual DDW exhibition.
The group is international and variable in nature. It works collectively towards a thematic exhibition in preparation for Salone or DDW. There will be 13 members for the upcoming DDW. Every two weeks they all come from their different directions to meet at the Fuutlaan and discuss their progress. With DDW looming, serious attention is turned to the final layout of the exhibition itself. All of the edhv workspaces are then cleared to make way for the Dutch Invertuals for 9 days.
“We choose a different theme each time and this one is Energy Overload,” says Plomp. “And the title of the exhibition is ‘Powerplay’. We’re examining the effects of an ever more energy-efficient and cleaner living environment. The technology is more advanced and so the applications have been expanded considerably. But the technologies also have to be affordable and, as such, ubiquitous.
Here’s an example: if the European grid cannot use up all of its energy, the excess energy is sent to huge pump houses that pump water to a mountain-top basin. If there’s an energy shortage we could let the water run back down to produce energy. It’s an inspiring idea, but how would this work in the future? What if everyone is self-sufficient? In that case, would there even be a European grid? Would it still be of economic interest? What happens then if there’s a surplus of energy?”
According to Plomp, the themes should be considered as chapters in a book. “There’s always a link between the different exhibitions. In fact, a number of the DDW works will be further developed for Milan.”
The shared vision of design is and remains the foundation on which Plomp keep her focus as a curator. “Sometimes that’s hard though, simply because the group members also have their own individual activities. That’s a good thing, of course, but it’s important to keep finding the balance. That’s why we now go for more of a professional structure. We already have so much invested in Dutch Invertuals and, at the same time, we can see that there’s still so much more possible. We have to look for a way to hold onto it.”
The new website does the story of Dutch Invertuals much better justice, says Plomp. “It’s our calling card; it shows every aspect of what we can do. You can get a better idea of who we are and what we’ve done. In fact there’s a timeline which shows our developments every six months, so if someone has a genuine interest in our work, they can also take the next step, such as by buying something from our offering or by contacting us for a commercial assignment.”
Another part of the professionalisation is the broadening of exhibition opportunities. “Now it’s invariably Milan and Eindhoven, but the collection is so strong that you could take anything from the exhibitions to New York, Basel or Taiwan, for example. In this way, our members’ chances are of course greatly improved.”
A fixed location may even be on the cards for Dutch Invertuals in the long term, but that’s only a thought. “Right now all focus is on DDW. But that would certainly be another nice new chapter!”