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CHARACTERS_ the Limited Edition Maarten Baas 101 chairs by Walter Van Beirendonck

Walter Van Beirendonck's original sketchbook

CHARACTERS_ Maarten Baas, Walter Van Beirendonck and Hans Lensvelt

The collaboration


How exactly this limited edition came about can be read in the exclusive interview below. Journalist Jeroen Junte, designers Walter Van Beirendonck and Maarten Baas talk about their similar humorous yet disruptive style, the unique collaboration, The Chair and much more.

The collaboration with Maarten Baas and Lensvelt was not Walter Van Beirendonck's first in the furniture world.  In addition to his own high-profile seasonal fashion collections, van Beirendonck created a Limited Collection for a Swedish furniture giant in 2016. Walter Van Beirendonck and Maarten Baas have known each other for quite some time through Van Beirendonck's boutique in Antwerp for which Maarten made some furniture.

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The Limited Edition of 120 chairs includes 9 different CHARACTERS with different facial expressions in 9 colors.

An embroidered detail on the armrest

An outfit by Walter Van Beirendonck at the entrance of the Lensvelt Gallery at the Herengracht.

One of the Characters with a mohair wig that can be bought separately

Double Interview with Maarten Baas and Walter van Beirendonck

by Jeroen Junte

With their flamboyant style and disruptive humor Maarten Baas and Walter van Beirendonck are some ‘characters’ themselves. What do they think of their love babies? ‘Objects must also have a soul’ A double interview.

“OH, MY DARLINGS.” A broad smile appears on the face of Walter van Beirendonck at the first glance at his Characters, the 120 unique editions of Maarten Baas’ 101 Chair. His fingers - with a substantial ring on each - glide lovingly over the upholstery. “How lovely they are, huh.” Maarten Baas also looks happy at the first viewing of  their ‘love babies’. After all, it was he who suggested that a special edition of his 101 Chair by Lensvelt be created by the Flemish fashion king. So what if the doubt had struck now? Hence that relief, on the part of both Baas and van Beirendonck.

Maarten, why did you choose Walter for a special edition of your chair?

MB: “I’ve been a fan of Walter’s since the Design Academy. Moreover, Walter works in a different discipline, which makes it exciting. His work is also more expressive than mine. I once tried to make a design with faces. That didn’t feel right because it became too literal. I’m more of the suggestive type. Where I can’t access it anymore, Walter goes ahead and finishes it. Teamwork!”

You know what they say: never change a winning team....

MB: “The fact that this is a one-off and a limited edition is what makes it so strong. Too much Maarten Baas and Walter van Beirendonck is not good for anyone, haha.”

WVB: “But it’s also not the first time we’ve worked together, right Maarten. We sold his Clay furniture in our store in Antwerp. Then you also made a series of clothing racks in cheerful colors. I’m a fan of yours too, you know.” 

Walter, how did you come up with the idea of these creatures, each with its own expressive look?

WVB: “That came almost immediately. And then you know you have a good idea. All eight of Maarten’s chairs already have their own identity. With those two buttons that look like eyes and those different backs. I only had to enlarge that. 

Of course I had to find out how far I wanted to go with the decoration. There still has to be some curiosity in the characters. But those wigs are of course the finishing touch. They are made of very soft mohair, which is my link to fashion and textiles. In fact, that was all in that very first idea.” 

BAAS AND VAN BEIRENDONCK ARE ALSO ‘CHARACTERS’. 

Walter, the Big Friendly Giant with his extravagant jewelry, fluorescent jacket, tough jeans and sleek sneakers. Maarten is more the timid artist in dark, understated clothes; a jolly hat is his only frivolity. So, at first glance, two very different characters. 

What they share is a sense of absurd humor. They like to disrupt, and they don’t care about conventions. But don’t call them provocateurs.

WVB: “I can understand why people say that, though. But provocateur? 

Certainly not. My designs come about spontaneously, out of my own interest or fascination. I don’t find them absurd. They come from reality. They are different but also very ordinary.”

MB: “You don’t know this but you have put a spell on me. In the form of a compliment no less. You once said in an interview that you appreciated the provocative aspect of my work. Since then I have regularly thought: would Walter find this provocative enough? But seriously, I work mainly out of curiosity. What happens when I burn a chair? What does that wood look like? If it turns out to have a special beauty, I want to show it by ‘smokin’ a Rietveld Zigzag chair. Because why would it be beautiful in a flea market chair, but not in such an iconic chair? What does that say about our image of beauty?” 

Your work is autonomous and balances on the border of visual art. 

As if fashion and design are not sufficient for your ideas?

MB: “I sometimes call myself an artist born in a designer’s body. In furniture design, functionality and manufacturability, as in the chair for Lensvelt, play a dominant role in the design process. In fashion, there is more room for expression, just take the fashion shows in which fashion, performance, sets and music merge into a total experience. That’s why it’s so nice that Walter has taken my chair in hand. Now it has become a work of art after all.”

At the same time, your work is also artfully made. How important is that artisanal craftsmanship?

MB: “Whether something is very well made, therein lies the difference between a successful product and a gimmick. I recognize that in the materials Walter uses. Sometimes they look like sportswear. But then it doesn’t shine too much or too little but just right. My Clay collection looks as if I’ve just been doing some nice claying. But that required hundreds of tries, failures and retries. In the end, it’s all about the attention that needs to be visible. Who wants clothes or furniture that are slapped together?” 

WVB: “Yet that superior craftsmanship is not what matters. Because if you are immediately blown away because it looks so artful, you would miss the humor, 

for instance.”

Aren’t we slowly losing that, that appreciation for quality? 

WvB: “Actually not, it is even more appreciated than ever. Precisely because there is so much mass production and because we are always online. I first make my designs myself all by hand. I also visit all the fabric suppliers and manufacturers myself. I am right on top of things. Aren’t you too, Maarten?”

MB: “Craftsmanship is an essential part of my creative freedom for me. Something has to look exactly as I had it in my head.”

Your work is always narrative and close to the zeitgeist, Walter. What do you want to tell us with your Characters?

WVB: “Diversity is an important theme right now. The fact that you are good the way you are. There are white chairs and black chairs and everything in between. Young, old. Cheerful, angry. We need to celebrate these differences, not hide them. On the armrests are words like Love and Hold. We need that, especially now. And at the same time, these chairs also show the value of exclusivity. That the objects with which we surround ourselves have a unique personality, a soul actually. In fact, they should all have a name. Or better yet, that people name them themselves.”

MB, smiling: “Thanks Walter, you’ve raised the bar yet again for me.” •

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Maarten Baas invited Walter Van Beirendonck to develop the Limited Edition for Lensvelt

There are 9 faces with different moods in every color.

The Lensvelt Gallery was arranged to a layout designed by Walter Van Beirendock with a 6-meter-long catwalk

There are versions with embroidered armrests.

The Buyersroom at the Lensvelt HQ shows new sofa called BALANCE, designed by Fabio Novembre.

Maarten Baas and guests at the preview dinner.

Jeroen Junte interviews Maarten Baas and Walter Van Beirendonck prior to the September 29 dinner.

The unveiling of the limited-edition by Walter Van Beirendonck during the Preview dinner.

The posters which were displayed prior to the expected Launch Party.