Photographer JORGEN AXELVALL
Fashion Editor KEITH S. WASHINGTON
Writer ANNEMARIE LUCK
Remember that time Brad Pitt designed his own furniture range and critics were full of praise for the surprise collection? Well, in Denmark, style icon Emil Thorup has pulled off a similar feat. The Danish public has come to know (and love) him primarily as a model and TV host on the country’s biggest national network, but the 32-year-old has been harbouring a passion for design that he’s finally found expression for in his new furniture brand called HANDVÄRK, which launched in August 2015.
While Thorup admits some people were reluctant to believe he could make a U-turn in his career and just begin designing furniture, he says he has actually been working on the side in design and architecture for several years. From his industry peers he has had nothing but praise, and says this is largely down to the fact that they are all ‘working for the same purpose – to promote Danish design to the rest of the world’.
We caught up with Thorup on his recent visit to Tokyo to chat more about HANDVÄRK, his inspirations and why he’s a huge fan of Japanese eyewear brand Frency & Mercury.
What’s your connection to Tokyo?
I have a great passion for Japan – the people, language, food and architecture. By heart, I’m an architect and residential architecture is amazing in Japan. I’d love for HANDVÄRK to open a flagship store in Tokyo. The style is international with a Danish flavor that – in my humble opinion – would go great with Japanese architecture.
What is it that you love about Japanese design and architecture?
It’s in many ways an organic version of the Bauhaus style, where function dictates form. In the Japanese “version” it’s more about the materials, the user and nature, but still, with excruciating detail, never adding any redundant design feature. Japanese minimalism seems to have some warmth to it – something that we, cold, Nordic minimalists could be inspired by.
But with HANDVÄRK, you’ve said you want to stay true to Nordic DNA…
To me, the Nordic DNA is much more than just the design; it is based on passionate designers and skillful craftsmen. HANDVÄRK is one of the few brands left that produces all our furniture in Denmark. This means I have a day-to-day communication with the people crafting the steel frame to our tables and I probably see my upholsterer more than I see my own family. This gives us all a deep connection to the brand and all the know-how and skill possessed is not lost in translation.
Do you have any plans for a new collection yet?
I’m probably the most impatient designer you’ll ever meet – I’ve had the next two collections ready for several months. For now we have to focus on our first collection, the “Black/Brass”, but we have plans to release “The White Edition” in August 2016, which will feature powder white products with honed crystal white marbles and grey granites.
You also work on other big design and architecture projects. Are you working on anything interesting at the moment?
I just finished designing a line of luxury pre-fab houses for building giant Kalmar-Huse. But my most interesting project at the moment is creating the HANDVÄRK Apartment. We have gotten our hands on a 300m2 historic apartment overlooking the royal park in Copenhagen – perfectly restored. Here, I’m decorating our showroom, primarily with our own furniture but mixed with the best of Danish and international design – and vintage items from around the world. A perfect place for a press brunch and it’s available to rent for shoots.
Your sense of style clearly crosses over from design to clothing. Do you have a favourite brand of eyewear?
I’m a huge fan of the Japanese brand Frency & Mercury, who make the most stunning eyewear. The brand is in many ways like my own brand – everything is produced locally, they use precious materials, titanium, silver and gold, and maintain a very high level of craftsmanship. And the young owner and designer, Eque, is a flamboyant and extroverted person – much like myself. [Laughs]