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PARIS — Droog Design is best known for building an elegant chandelier out of 85 ordinary white light bulbs, but that’s nothing compared with what the Amsterdam-based collective of designers has done to illuminate to the world what’s been happening in modern Dutch design.

This story first appeared in the September 24, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Since Droog was founded 11 years ago by design critic Renny Ramakers and jewelry maker Gijs Bakker, the collective has kept the design world enthralled by transforming and combining everyday objects into whimsical, mind-bending creations, many of which are on display in an exhibit that opened recently in Lille, France, called “Open Borders.” The show, which runs at the city’s Tri Postal cultural space until Nov. 28, also features design and art from other companies that were admired by the Droog designers.

“We look for ideas that [run contrary] to mainstream culture,” said Ramakers. “We search for innovation and projects that communicate developments in society in a playful way.”

Droog’s iconic 1993 chandelier is exhibited alongside unusual works by British artist Marta de Menezes Graca, who modifies the wing patterns of butterflies by stimulating their cocoons, and Arnhem-based designer Floris Schoonderbeek, who created a bathtub heated by an open fire. Also on display is French architect Edouard François’ project to “dress up” a banal Parisian apartment building with giant pots of bamboo, while artists Su-Mei Tse and Jean-Lou Majerus contributed a pair of headphones formed from seashells.

“The way [Droog] was started was really a [boost] for Dutch design,” said Jurgen Bey, an Amsterdam-based designer whose “Lampshade Shades” are displayed in Lille. “At the time, Droog brought many young designers together giving them better European exposure.”

Loic Bigot, owner of the trendy Tools gallery in Paris, said, “It’s uncontestable that Droog Design was the precursor for the popularity of Dutch design. They revolutionized objects by demonstrating how it could be reconverted or reinvented.”

But Bigot is now on the lookout for the next phase from Droog, which opened its first store in Amsterdam this month.

“They developed a system, but they have to be careful not to get too confined in it,” he said.

Added Bey, “Newness is very difficult in design. You have to reset yourself. I am very interested to see how they will grow and develop.”

— Emilie Marsh

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