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Interview: Steven Visser

Designer (Netherlands)
Photography: Courtesy of Artist

Patrolling the world wide web like I usually do, I came across a designer whose accessories spoke to the precious minimalist in me. Though I am a woman, I have an impractical weakness for well-crafted menswear and accessories for men. It has always been “my thing”. Perhaps, it is why I enjoy the works of Marc Jacobs — who recently spoke at 92nd Street YAlexander Wang and Peter Alexander.

Attractively, there’s not a piece I truly dislike. Whilst, some (or most) items are not serviceable — lifestyle-wise, I understand their functions or reasons for existing. Gentlemen, this one’s for you.

Mr. Visser is a twenty-seven year old gentleman living in Arnhem. He grew up in a small town called “Lochem” in the East of Holland. He’s recently graduated from school and he believes he has a long way to go before he calls himself “a great designer”.

In reference to why and how he does what he does, he replied, “To create a concept is one thing, but for me, it’s most important that I design with my hands. Making is thinking.”

Speaking from experience: Usually, the greats are the humble giants.


Why do you do it?

Because I like it. I’ve always taken things a step further and finally, I became quite good at it. You can only become good at something if you like to do it.

That’s true. Are you completely satisfied with what you have going on?

Yes and no. I’m pleased with my collection, but as a designer who just started, it takes very long to find things out. For example, I don’t have all the machines I’d like to have. Now, I’m depending on certain companies and this takes more time.

We totally understand. Well, it’s a brand new year. There are hundreds of days we will have to experiment, experience and edit. What would you like most out of this era?

I would like to have my suspenders, pocket watch, black pipe and glasses to be ready-to-order and make [money?]. And it would be great if there’s more interest from across the globe for my work, this interview is a good start!

Aha, yes, it is. How would you like to be received?

Like a self-conscious young man who’s interested in street fashion and designs and works like a craftsman.

How would you like to be remembered?

Like a designer who re-designs nostalgic products which are well known in society, giving it a new but recognizable look.

You are certainly off to a great start. You have a freshness, a polished, a cleanliness to your personal look and your designs. Does art imitate life or does life imitate art?

I think it has to work both ways.

But what I really like is your soft beard. Why do you grow it?

At first, it was an experiment. But soon, it became clear it was something that I liked very much. So, it got longer and longer. My girlfriend makes sure it doesn’t get longer than this.

What sets you apart from other gentlemen?

Sometimes, the beard, but generally every guy who’s interested in street fashion has the same ideas about style — men look different because they find different stuff to wear. For me, brands are not a must and I prefer my stuff to be pre-owned / vintage.

What do you feel sets you apart from other designers?

My theme and choice of products. I try to stand out with my work by doing something original with iconic products.

A day with Steven Visser is like…

It will be a combination of searching flea markets, listening to good music and highly concentrated work in my atelier.

The first video I watched in 2013 was a video about you called “A Gentlemen’s thing: Steven Visser” and I thought you looked great. You are talking about your pocket watch in this video. What inspired this specific design? What is your favourite design so far?

The pocket watch is one of the most iconic accessories of the classic gentleman. The designs of my products are mostly inspired by technical and functional solutions I see around me. For example: The idea of making a hole in the ebony wood cover to open the pocket watch with your thumb came from a closet door in my mother’s attic. The way the stick and handles of the canes are constructed are classical wood connection often hidden. I find it important that a detail has a function, that way construction gets a decorative spin. This is a form follows function principle. I have a hate versus love relation with the pocket watch. I think it’s an original product. It is very difficult and complex to make it.

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We can only imagine! How long have you been a professional designer? Do you work alone or do you have a team or assistance?

I just graduated, so for now, I’m working alone. My girlfriend graduated with the same education in Product Design, so we discuss my work and hers. In the future, we will join forces and start a studio together. She graduated with a collection of shoes, check out www.verameijwaard.nl for her graduation collection.

Vera is talented! To date, what are you most proud of as a designer? As a man?

As a designer, I’m proud of my graduation collection ‘A Gentleman’s Thing’. The education was 4 years of working very hard and I’m pleased to have finished it with these products. I’m mostly proud of the skills I made my own during this education. I can make the product I design and for me that’s a luxury. As a man, I’m proud of having a loving relationship with my girlfriend Vera. We just moved in together and things are going very well!

Congratulations! You agreed to this interview, partly or wholly because of the way the website looks and that is an honor, truly. It means alot coming from someone with a trained eye. Thank you. When you first read the name “GrungeCake”, what came to mind?

The combination of different elements in search of something fresh and controversial.

Bingo! I imagine you listen to music that reflects your personal style, but before we get into what you personally like to listen to when working or at your leisure, I’d like to introduce a new stream of thinking. If I had to select one song that best describes the feeling I got when I first saw you, instantly, I heard “Tighten Up” by The Black Keys. What do you hear when you see me?

The Black Keys is a right choice of band, but I must correct you on the song. To me, their first album ‘the big come up’ is still the best. Songs like ‘do the rump’ and ‘heavy soul’ are much better than their latest, more commercial, songs.

The Black Keys – Tighten Up

Tyler, The Creator – Tron Cat

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I’m not sure if you’re into Tyler, The Creator, maybe his lyrics are a bit too crude. Whatever. I would link you to ‘tron cat’ by Tyler, The Creator. I saw you have an interview with Gonjasufi. His music under the name “Sumach” would be the second thing I’d suggest.

Are you looking to collaborate with anyone or corporation in particular?

In the future, I absolutely want to work with others but for now I couldn’t tell you who or what that is. In the near future, I will need a few collaborations to get my collection produced. Eventually, it would be ideal to have my own collection under my name and design products for companies or labels on the side. This way, my profession is diverse.

Are you open to collaborating with other designers?

Yes, I think the first collaboration will be with Vera. And in the future, the two of us will collaborate with other designers.

What is production like? How involved are you in the process? Are you creating sketches / prototypes digitally or manually? Are you putting it together yourself?

For now, I’m doing most of the work myself. The past few months, I worked on my pocket watch. Parts of the watch are milled at a company and next, I have to work about 10 to 15 hours on each watch to finish it totally, many parts are customized. Because I just finished school, I have to find out many things about production, etc. To make ten pocket watches took me a long time, but that’s also because I can’t invest in production by someone else. Ask me again in one year…

What makes a great designer?

Self-knowledge.

Are you there yet?

Hell no!

Leave your last words, thanks, contact information, favourite quote, etc.

I’d like to finish this interview with a quote from a philosopher:

[quote]Fine art is that in which the hand, the head, and the heart of man go together. — John Rushkin[/quote]

In other words, making is thinking.


To get in touch with Steven Visser, you can start by emailing him at info@steven-visser.nl, visiting his website: www.steven-visser.nl or calling him at 0031-651914264. His wooden rings are also a charmer.

Written by Richardine Bartee

Her unprejudiced love for people, the arts, and business have taken her this far. Join Richardine on her journey as she writes history into existence, one article at a time. Richardine is a member of the Recording Academy/GRAMMYs, and a GRAMMY U Mentor. She is part of the Complex Day Ones, an exclusive community to help make the Complex experiences even better.