WRITER: Sara White Wilson
Artistic and fantastical, Brand van Egmond’s lamps and chandeliers challenge the idea of the light fixture. Their whimsical approach has landed them commissions all over the world.
If you are a frequent hotel guest, every once in a while, take a moment to look up. You might just see one of what Brand van Egmond prefers to call their ‘creations’. Not chandeliers and certainly not lighting fixtures but rather, ‘lighting sculptures’. The pieces by this Dutch team of two are more than a means to light a room. They can be described as objects that evoke intoxicating mixes of the baroque and the gothic, the natural and the industrial, the abstract and the practical.
The duo behind it all are William Brand and Annet van Egmond, who trained respectively as an architect and an artist at the Utrecht School of the Arts, where they met. They have been working together for almost twenty-five years and often speak for each other, so synergistic are their talents by this stage.
I caught up with them shortly after they finished a commission – several small lighting sculptures and one stunningly large, centrepiece – for the new Chopard boutique in Kuwait.
“The ceiling height of over 13 metres,” explains William Brand, “proved to be both the biggest challenge as well as the biggestopportunity. It had to be momentous; no other option was available. People both in the space as well as passing outside had to be captivated by the sheer splendour of the installation. We used the most beautiful crystals and the association between diamonds and crystals was effortlessly made.”
This isn’t the duo’s first regional foray. They were also responsible for lighting the W Hotel in Doha and had some pieces installed at Dubai’s Grosvenor House. Still in the UAE, they are currently installing a project out in the desert at Al Barari. And this is just the Middle East. Go to 45 Park Lane in London, the W in Singapore or the Gansevoort in New York – even a church in the Netherlands – and you’ll spot a Brand van Egmond or two.
Their most interesting, diverse and fabulous projects though, are for private residences. “Or, at times, palaces, “ chimes in Brand. “For one of the royal families in the Middle East, we designed lights for their desert falcon-hunting lodge. After that, we were invited to do their residence in Lebanon and now we have again been requested to design a new wing of their palace.”
One of Annet van Egmond and William Brand’s favourite self-categorisations is that their clients range from “royalty to rappers, from Panama to Japan”, which is a phrase they like, perhaps because both profiles, royalty and rappers, tend to have a rather independent, do-as-I-please attitude that’s particularly partial to the innovative. “We don’t care much for limitations,” adds Brand. Fortunately, neither do most of their clients.
Brand van Egmond really launched internationally almost 15 years ago when they showed their work for the first time to an audience at a fair in Cologne. The response was overwhelming and coincided with their lights being selected for the Academy Awards ceremony. Ever since, the commissions have been coming.
Independence is and has always been, a priority, marking their process and products as truly artisanal and artistic. “We design and produce everything by hand,” explains Brand. “We believe in the power of craftsmanship, rather than mass production. We believe in the beauty of personal and customised work, rather than bland averageness. At the end of the day, we are a design studio, with creativity as the founding source. We have our own workshops in order to translate the concept into handcrafted reality”.
Concept? That is, indeed, the point to be remembered about Brand van Egmond – they don’t make fancy lamps, they tell ‘stories’. “At the root of every collection lies a story, as varied as life itself can be. I am constantly fed anecdotes about spaces and the people who inhabit them, they are my true inspiration board,” muses Brand. For example, a commission to commemorate Rembrandt yielded their ‘Nightwatch’ chandelier while their ‘Love You, Love You Not’ chandelier is about a love affair hitting a rough patch.
But of course, their main inspirational source is light itself. “Light is, for me, as primal and vital as the air that surrounds us,” Brand continues. “We are oblivious to its importance until it disappears. Our light sources, contrary to other designs, are almost always possible to see. I feel we humans are wired in such a way that we prefer this. It’s going back to the beginning of humanity, the fire in the cave means safety and warmth.”
That said, neither van Egmond or Brand confine themselves to operating in the safe zone. Speaking for them both, Brand sums up the nature of the brand’s approach. “We’re more forward looking than back. I always feel that our most fabulous project is the one we are going to work on next.”