An email dumped into my mailbox an early morning, I only knew the sender by name and I remember thinking: “why on earth is he emailing me?”. I know Emil Thorup from Danish television and I knew he had also done some designs for various companies, other than that, nothing! He wanted to tell me about his new projects, so I agreed to meet with him. In real life Emil is just like you see him on television; smiling, very talkative and extremely blond. We had a good talk about his new exciting project HANDVÄRK, Monday mornings and the future. Even though you don’t know Emil, I am sure you will love his designs, which includes a lot of black marble and black steal.
Not everyone knows who Emil Thorup is; tell in short, who is Emil?
I actually started out working in feature film, primarily behind the scenes – and slowly moved in front of the camera. I’ve done a ton of TV, hosted big live shows, had my own talk shows and experimented a lot with the medium – lastly “the male birth” where we mimicked a labour through electrodes – seeing how a man would react. That was quite – hmm – interesting. Gave me a lot of (extra) respect for mothers. I’ve always had a great passion and desire for design and architecture and I’ve been working on this path for the past 4 years, though in the dark of the public eye. I’m working with the Danish owned, award-winning practice LW Design, with offices in Hong Kong, Dubai and Sao Paolo – where I’ve done primarily hotel refurbishments and designs. I recently also developed a number of luxurious villas for the prefab giant Kalmar Living under the name of ‘Nordic Noir’ – they hit the market a month ago, with great interest. Now the time has come to finally do something in my own name.
You have a new project –what is it exactly?
Yes – I’m launching a new furniture brand – called HANDVÄRK – which is becoming increasingly ambitious. I started out with 8 products – now I have 46 – and I just landed the biggest, most exclusive retail partner in Scandinavia – Illums Bolighus. Together we’re launching in Denmark and Norway.
I love furniture. Absolutely love it. Many start-ups and new businesses are built on statistics and market research; my brand is build 100% con amour. It’s only design, materials and products I like. I’m not going to let anyone dictate the essence and style of my designs – so I build all of this alone – with a desire to be true to my ideas. I am incredibly fond of metals and stone and felt that we were lacking a brand daring enough to experiment with these kinds of materials, whilst still sustaining the simple and applicable Nordic DNA. For this exact reason I created HANDVÄRK. These are all very precious and heavy materials to work with, which means I have had to come up with innovative solutions in regard to the production, assembling and packing of the products. This was hugely important to me, as it’s been the main focus of mine to keep the prices at an attractive level.
What has been the greatest challenge?
Product development! I can’t say how many times I’ve wanted to sit down and cry, or throw it all away, saying “being a TV-host wasn’t so bad after all, maybe I’ll just go back to that”. Had I known what I know now, I don’t think I would have started at all. Maybe it’s for the better – like having a child – the ignorance and naivety is the same, I think. I’m very excited about my baby now, make no mistake, but it’s been tough. Sleepless nights, anxieties and a lot of concerns. I’m blessed that I’ve had it easy with PR and generally spreading the word – cashing in a few favours along the way. Now, on the brink of launching, I’m as excited as terrified.
A typical day for you?
I have no recollection of a typical day. These days I don’t even know what I did yesterday. But I usually start my day with emails, social media accounts and a calendar check in bed. I never skip breakfast: always a big, healthy breakfast with lots of proteins and fat – and coffee. From here it can pretty much go anywhere – usually I meet up with my assistant in our showroom or the office, and the rest is mayhem. Last night I put the MacBook away at 2:45 am, having gone through all 1100 pack shots for HANDVÄRKs web shop.
What do you dream about?
International acclaim as a designer – no doubt. Being famous already seems to concern people – and I really have to prove myself in this industry. Am I just doing this as a heartless collaboration to get some quick cash – or in it for the long and serious run. I want to build this company as a serious contender on the international design scene – and we’re already planning launch in 7 countries in 2015.
What is the first thing you think about Monday morning?
“What have I already forgotten – which deadlines did I miss?” – primarily things like this. No – I’m actually a Monday-lover. I like to start the week by getting everything done, clear my schedule to allow for that impulsive lunch with some person I randomly met the week before – who might be able to help me into the China market. This is what I do best – networking – and I should favour time to do that. The design process is actually the smallest bit – it’s the rest that takes time.
Who is your favourite designer?
I could come up with 20 happening, eclectic designers who would be the trendy answer, but truth be told I’m a huge lover of Mies van der Rohes – especially the Barcelona Pavilion, in which all my designs begin. I don’t claim to have produced an innovative design with my furniture, but I can say that it’s deeply rooted in Bauhaus lines with an exclusive added touch. I love how the Barcelona Pavilion combines my favourite materials; steel, stones like marble and onyx, and glass. He obtains a warmth in spite of not working with wood – something I’d like to think I’ve achieved in my designs, even only using stones and metals.
If you could invite one person to dinner, who would it be?
This might be a bit unorthodox, but I’d really like to have a dinner with Pharrell Williams. He’s extremely entrepreneurial, designing, curating, producing whilst maintaining a unique and strong brand. I would love to know his thoughts on my journey – and especially the future. And I’d give him a green marble desk – my favourite HANDVÄRK design.
What are you working on right now?
My next collection. I’m presenting the first – and most newsworthy – item on this year’s North Modern Expo in Copenhagen august 13. I’ve found these guys who compress resin into marble slaps that allows them to cut it paper-thin. We’re talking big slabs of only 3mm thickness. This we’re mounting on a aluminium honeycomb and putting in an aluminium frame, producing a big dining table of 2,5 meters in ONE piece of white Bianco Carrera marble, which is only 19mm thin atop a minimalistic, light frame – and can be shipped worldwide. This product is ready to sell in November 2015.
3 Instagram account you would recommend others to follow?
Obviously follow my brand @HANDVARK account. @thefatjewish is an amazing account if you like anything inappropriate. Which I do. If you also like people buying French castles and renovating them with dedication and respect, follow @chateaugudanes – I’m very inspired by it, and plan to do the same thing when I grow up.