Marcel Wanders

Even Marcel Wanders (1963) must have a secret bucket list of ambitions he hopes to realize during his lifetime. It’d be interesting to see how many he has crossed off after 28 years in the design business. Marcel launched Wanders Wonders in the mid-1990s and subsequently hazarded a large number of creative and commercial enterprises that never failed to broaden his outlook. Once he gets his teeth into something, he never lets go. The strong basis of his design method is a positivist-evolutionary approach that goes through stages of conceptualizing, adjusting and reconsidering until the end product meets his criteria. In each individual case, the result, complexity and challenge vary greatly: Airborne Snotty Vase (2001), Knotted Chair (1996), the Moooi platform for design talent (2001), Andaz Amsterdam Hotel (2012), Mosaics (2004), the book Masters of the Golden Age (2015), an air pollution mask (2017) and recently the Mondrian Doha Hotel (2017).


‘I give my imagination free rein, that’s my guiding principle. That’s always been the case. It took a while before I realized that my esoteric way of thinking was intertwined with modernism and the aesthetic principles that are contained in it and still determine the appreciation for design. My motto ‘Designer of a New Age’ is not new. I thought of it a long time ago, wanting to express the new position and the new mentality that I believe the design profession needs. It didn’t start out as a professional statement; it came up in connection with my personal situation when I was in school. With my former girlfriend, who unfortunately had cancer, I was engaged in alternative medicine for a while. That’s based on a holistic idea of humanity, in which intuition and creativity are underlying mainsprings. Those insights were a great support and I found the idea of a new era, which would ideally come with a new kind of design, very appealing.’


‘Unfortunately, there was not a trace of this philosophy to be found in the approaches of any the educational institutes in which I was trying to find my feet as a student. After I’d been expelled, more or less, from the AIVE in Eindhoven, I initially went to the Maastricht Art Academy and subsequently studied industrial design in Hasselt, Belgium for a year. My travels resonate my struggle with my personal esoteric-philosophical quest, which was intended to clear the way for the design for a new era, and with the dogmas that ruled many of my teachers – especially those in Eindhoven – who didn’t fancy my ideas at all and placed all of their trust (it’s safe to say: in an almost totalitarian way) in the approximately 100-year-old Bauhaus curriculum. I finally ended up in the Art Academy in Arnhem, where I would also graduate. There, too, I had a lot of discussions with teachers such as Ed Annink and Paul Schudel about beautiful/ugly issues and about the question what the term ‘quality’ actually referred to. I was all about open-mindedness and felt, for example, that beauty could not possibly be a quality with a set value. Paul Schudel felt almost insulted by that assertion. I could say things quite decisively, because I was always quite willing to investigate and seriously reconsider my own points of view. I remember that I once studied the question ‘what is beauty’ for nine months by placing objects on a large grey blanket in the middle of my room and walking around them for two hours every day. That was my self-invented training.’

never stops

‘To be honest: I never stopped studying and I wouldn’t know why to slow down now, either. In 2014 I passed my MBA exam at the Insead Business School in Fontainebleau. I’m currently learning to drive a motorcycle even though I’m not necessarily planning to buy a motorbike. Always keep studying; never stop learning, I think that’s important. Not only because I’m curious, but also because every new stage comes with the need for new knowledge. That’s my responsibility at the office as well. At Moooi, my own design studio and the Andaz Hotel, I employ some 250 people. Creativity is a lot more than making beautiful new chairs. To me, it’s about initiating collaborations of different types of intelligence. That is essential to innovation, and I think it’s very interesting and exciting to do. Last year I once again immersed myself in new projects and I lived in San Francisco. There, hi-tech companies from the creative industry sit down with bankers. There’s much less of a gap between them than there is over here. I think that’s a task for the creative industry as well: to make those connections. If the government indicates, say, seven spearheads for future developments and pinpoints creative industry as one of them, then the creative industry ought to manifest itself in all six of those other sectors. To add value by creating forms of collaborating intelligences. Designers can play an important part in such developments.’

Roche Bobois presented an exclusive collection with Dutch designer Marcel Wanders during last Design week in Milan, Brera. An ode to fabled adventurers and inventors, this furniture collection will take you on a voyage to a faraway land. 



This interview was published in WOTH issue No7 still available in our shop.