Doubly Dutch: Our Amsterdam
Thinking of Holland is a design store that was set up by Ingrid Hobbelen and Dorret Griffioen in 2008 to ‘change the face of the souvenir’. They tell Cynthia Putman how the store is putting its stamp on the Netherlands
So, you are ‘changing the face of the souvenir’!
DG: We know it sounds a little bold, but we really feel strongly about all the tat that is being sold to tourists over here. It’s everywhere – all those fluffy orange clogs, wooden tulips and fake Delftware. A souvenir should represent the city. It’s a reminder of the time someone had here and we felt strongly that a clog-shaped teapot just wasn’t good enough!
When was the moment you decided to set up your own shop?
DG: I was walking down Damrak [the city’s most touristy street] one day and saw all these ‘sale’ signs everywhere, selling cheap souvenirs for bargain prices. It felt like the whole city was on sale! I felt a little frustrated that this tackiness was the only memory tourists would have of this beautiful city.
How is Thinking of Holland different?
DG: One of the biggest things Amsterdam is known for is its design. There are so many amazing designers here, including Droog and Marcel Wanders, so it was important to us to represent that side of the city instead of the cliched side. We aim to sell unique souvenirs from some of the biggest Dutch design names. We’re talking about things that will get people’s friends asking ‘Where did you get that?’
How has your own experience of travelling shaped the store?
IH: Whenever I go on holiday I buy something that I can keep forever – an expensive shell or a unique piece of jewellery that I can’t get back home. It’s that kind of durability and uniqueness that both Dorret and I strive for in the shop.
What kind of designers did you get on board?
DG: We got in touch with a number of Dutch designers who liked our vision and since 2008 we have been selling cool objects from Droog, Moooi by Marcel Wanders, Royal Delft, Royal VKB and Royal Goedewaagen. There’s even a €1,200 silver necklace made of little clogs by a unique Dutch designer called Sita Falkena.
Why did you locate off Damrak?
IH: Our position is not really that important, to be honest. It is more what we do that makes the difference and our location on Piet Heinkade allows us access to the cruise ship traffic, so we are on the tourist trail, in a way! Surprisingly, a significant chunk of our business is from the local neighbourhood – people who are looking for something different and unique for their homes. I’d like to think they are coming to us instead of department store De Bijenkorf.
Which Amsterdam shops inspire you?
IH: I used to live in the city centre and never tired of meandering around De Negen Straatjes [the Nine Streets] in the Jordaan. I’d always pick up cool vintage clothes from Lady Day and loved poking around the bridal section of Laura Dols – the intricate lace gowns from the 20s are amazing.
DG: I think that’s the thing about Amsterdam, the shops all have their own flavour. I think there’s a dedicated shop for hairbrushes and even a specific flamenco shop. It’s all about the independent boutiques here.
What’s the weirdest thing you have in store right now?
IH: We always have something a little funny on the shelves! There’s a sink plug by Dutch designer called Doreen Westphal that has the slogan ‘when that’s done, let’s make love’ on it. Then there’s this cool, but slightly odd-looking fruit bowl made out of cardboard by Dutch design label Fem. There’s been a lot of interest in a plastic puppet that doubles up as a flower vase. Dutch designers Van Eijk & Van der Lubbe have a good sense of humour and that really comes out in their stuff.
What about your personal favourite piece?
IH: We both love jewellery designer Natalie Hoogeveen. She makes necklaces that mix the traditional with the modern, so there will be old and new silver mixed together in the same design. All her pieces have a link to the Netherlands so expect to see small pieces [melded into a pendant] of Van Gogh or Rembrandt’s paintings in them.
How is Thinking of Holland making people … think of Holland?
We have traditional Delftware sitting next to some exclusive bags made of old bicycle tyres by Dutch designer Krejci. That’s something you won’t forget!
Thinking of Holland, Piet Heinkade 23, 1019 BR Amsterdam, +31 (0)20 419 1229