Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am Alexander Claessen, 24 years old. My product- and interior design studio is based in Sittard.
I did my bachelor in product design at the ABKM in Maastricht and my Post Master’s degree at the Domus Academy in Milan. During my studies I decided to go to Italy because of my roots. I want to understand the design cultures of both The Netherlands and Italy, to find a harmony between the two. They are completely different. Italian design is very neat and slick, whereas the Dutch design is mostly raw, it uses a lot of raw materials such as ceramics, wood and metals. These two different cultures need to be merged into who I am. In my design I use a lot of wood, I feel very comfortable with it.
What would you consider your distinctive achievement?
The Dutch and the Italian design cultures are two of the most famous design cultures in the world. These are very different in their way of thinking, it’s not easy to combine them. But I think that in my case I can connect these two parts without prejudices.
Once a professor told me to make a choice. Either you go Italian or you go Dutch. At first I was very upset, but later on, what happened motivated me to show my teacher and the rest of the design world that these two cultures can surely live happily together inside a design. It’s like when parents go in a divorce and ask their child to make a choice, that’s not fair isn’t it?
As a product and interior designer I am proud of my lamp design made in 2012 during my bachelor. I am speaking about ‘Il Centro’ made from birchwood. It is laser-cutted and shows the elegance of a wooden grid into a delicate, 1 meter 20 wide, breathtaking symmetry.
While studying at domus academy in Milan, I won a contest. Its price was to exhibit at the Trienale di Milano, which I did and it was a real honour.
My goal is to exhibit at the Salone del Mobile with a successful line of products.
What are the qualities needed to be an entrepreneur?
Designing is 25% percent of the process from cradle to selling.
This, of course, is extremely important, though the most important thing is to create a piece that will sell and, above all, is profitable.
Ebby (Port) and I motivate each other to so. Just recently, she did a pop up shop where I was a participant as well. She sold my first piece. Little problem: if you have to sell someone else’s creations it is not that hard, because you look at it objectively. But when it is something you created yourself, you become vulnerable and subjective to critics.
Truth is the selling part is the most difficult to me. When I look back at my studies, a marketing and sales course would not have been harmful. Actually, it surprises me, it was not included. An alternative is to learn it the hard way. So I jumped into brandig, marketing and wrote a business plan.
To conclude: to be a designer you have to design. To be an entrepreneur you have to be a designer AND you have to look for smart opportunities without harming creativity.
What are you looking forward to?
I am looking forward to exhibit at the Dutch Design Week this October in Eindhoven. This is the leading design exhibition in the Netherlands. Hopefully it will open new doors. On the moment I am working on expanding my lamp collection with new designs and variations, designing a coffee house in Maastricht and I’m designing the trophies for ‘DanceClash’ which is a national dance contest.
Which advice you want to give to other professionals?
If you want to start a company in this field think about where you are going to produce and exhibit your products. Are there enough facilities, competitions and exhibitions are items you have to think about clearly.
Oh, and remain strong to yourself! you can do it.
What are the challenges that we need to overcome in order to make entrepreneurship’ more accessible?
If Limburg really wants to help entrepreneurs in this field, they should ask entrepreneurs in Limburg what they need to become bigger or to become a healthy company. I saw a lot of entrepreneurs moving to the bigger cities or elsewhere in Europe. I still believe in Limburg because Germany and Belgium is close. Next to that inte rnet made the world a lot smaller and i think it doesn’t matter a lot anymore in where you start your company. Government and companies should help each other to gain more work.