Written by Jasmijn Tuit
Multidisciplinary artist Noa Verhofstad has been selected to design the shop windows for Hermès at the Bijenkorf. We got to meet Noa in her studio and received a sneak peek at what she’s working on. We spoke with her about craftsmanship, her style and of course about her assignment for Hermès: “the most exciting project ever”.
Wow! You have been selected to design the shop windows for Hermès at the Bijenkorf, how did this happen?
When my friend Levi made an installation for Hermès in Shanghai someone of the team saw my work and thought it matched the brand well. It happened by chance but it’s a really great opportunity for me to work with such a major brand. I’m really excited about this project.
Did you have a lot of rules you had to take in account during the Hermès project?
Actually I was quite free to show my perspective! I did get a theme and a moodboard for inspiration but I was free to interpret this in my own way. Obviously we deliberated a lot but Hermès really goes from your strength as an artist. I have experienced the collaboration as very pleasant and free.
The choice of materials was mine as well, as long as I clarified my decisions and stayed true to the identity of Hermès. It had to be more than a pretty picture and fit the story the brand wants to tell the world.
I think Hermès is well aware of the fact that if they collect the right people around the brand the best result is obtained by giving those people a certain kind of freedom.
So how important is material in your work?
Very important! It defines the look and feel of the product. Right now everything is made from wood but it’s all going to be covered with a layer of velour. This happens with a special flock technique that is used primarily in the car industry. I think amusing that two different worlds integrate this way.
Did you do a lot of research before you started with this project?
Absolutely. I only knew some basic things about Hermès. I took a good look at their products, read a lot about the history and went to the Hermès museum in Paris. I noticed that the current collections are very well linked to the origin of Hermès. I felt a bit like a child who left home to go to collage but can always come back to remember where she came from. I think it’s very special that Hermès is so rooted to it’s history. Not many brands have that in my opinion.
We live in a time of endless digital possibilities, why do you choose craftsmanship instead?
I think you can see in a blink if something is made by hand or produced using a computer. Furthermore I believe in the force of the process. If something is made with the computer there’s no place for accidental discoveries during the making of the product.
You graduated from ARTEZ in the direction theatre, how did this influence your current work?
Theatre is all about telling a story, characters, proportions and creating an intriguing moment. Every choice you make has a meaning. My job is to know what that meaning is and choose the right material to deliver the story I want to tell in the best possible way. All the skills I developed during my education come in handy now.
All your photographs are totally enscenated. Does a picture always turn out the way it was meant to do?
Over the years my eye has become more trained. But still, sometimes something just doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would. It’s not like science. Often I have to do things all over again, that’s very frustrating.
With this project it actually went quite well. I had to seek for the right materials and techniques, think everything through but that’s the fun part. Now I know how to deal with wood very well, a material I didn’t work with before.
How would you describe your style?
If you could work with any artist or designer you want, who would it be?
I prefer to work alone because I like to be in charge of the choices I make. I do like to collect a team of artists around me when I’m working on a project. They understand what my work is about and can think along but I’m the one making the final decisions. Of course I have people who I admire, like Hans Op de Beeck. He’s a Belgian artist who makes fascinating work, it’s very aesthetic. Multidisciplinary artists are most interesting to me.
What would you like to tell the world trough your work?
I like to play with reality. I once made a room of cardboard that caused confusion. People where wondering whether it was an actual room or not and what they where really looking at. I often look for alienation. I like to create wonder and build a new reality by styling the materials I use in a certain way. I work a lot with daily materials like paper.
Could you tell us a little bit more about what we are going to see at the Bijenkorf next month?
The history of Hermès is based on horse riding. I decided to create a whole world around it complete with a carriage with horses and a stable including the smallest details like a broom. It’s all going to be in the exact some red colour of the collection. I think it’s going to look very beautiful together.
I hope that if people walk by the window they get drawn into the world I created. I hope they leave their daily life behind for a second to see what happens. To be in a state of wonder is always a good thing I think.
The Hermes window by Noa Verhofstad will be shown from the 28th of September until the 20th of October at the Bijenkorf Amsterdam.