I met Vibeke and Jesper the first time almost one year ago, during iSaloni in Milan, they invited me for lunch at 10 Corso Como. We sat in the courtyard, eating and talking for hours, mostly about Skagerak and how they were transforming a rather forgotten and old brand into a modern and interesting Scandinavian brand everyone would be talking about. I feel like they have more or less already succeeded, they are selling worldwide and their designs keeps rolling in design awards.
I sat the both down once again, to go deeper, I wanted to know more about how it all started, what they love most about their job, their favourite cities and hotels and of course why they are now changing their brand name.
First of all, do we call you guys for Trip Trap or Skagerak?
One of the big questions these days. As of February 18 th, we only have one company name SKAGERAK. Since the company was founded in 1976 we have been “Trip Trap” in Denmark. In the beginning of 2000, however we had to change our international brand name to “Skagerak” due to trademark rights. Since then we have had 2 brand names.
Over the past years, we have expanded our design profile to include interior and accessories. These products are based on the same values and ideas as our classic outdoor designs. I believe that expanding our product profile while still staying true to our core value of creating quality, timeless designs is one of the reasons why the company is doing really well – both in Denmark and on other markets. We feel the time has come for just one name. Now we are Skagerak in Denmark – like on all other markets.
Tell in short, who is Vibeke and Jesper?
Jesper is the CEO and owner of Skagerak, and he is married to Vibeke, who is the Brand Ambassador.
How did you end up in the interior business?
Jesper has been with Skagerak since 2001, and has previous worked at KPMG, Siemens (in Germany) and Dansk Supermarked. Back in 2001 Skagerak needed a controller who could speak German – a position tailor-made for Jesper.
The brand gets in your blood. You are surrounded by beautiful products, you work with the best designers, best retailers and people, and you see your products in use. It is a perfect place to work.
Vibeke is originally a midwife, but decided to join the force 3 years ago. Vibeke is also our “Feel Good Officer” and takes care of both press and everybody working at Skagerak.
How would you describe the Skagerak design DNA?
The company was founded in 1976 and has gone through a dedicated and deliberate development during the past 5 years.
We are a design brand with our roots firmly planted in the tradition of Scandinavian furniture design. We work only with designers who share our passion and love for the Scandinavian way to think and live design. Our products speak for them selves. They are being passed down from generation to generation. We seem to be timeless yet contemporary.
We will never work with hyped fashion trends – we believe that quality lies in creating long lasting designs of damn good quality based on the right materials and production.
We work with both established and upcoming designers in order to always stay inspired or continuously develop.
We are now stronger than ever and we are happy that both products, designed almost 40 years ago and new products from recent years are doing well with customers globally. We believe it is because they all live up to the same values of function, sustainability and quality.
What do you love most about your job?
Vibeke: Our days are never the same, and we are so fortunate to be working with many interesting people
Jesper: Seeing how our people and designers succeed and develop.
What has been the greatest challenge about taking over Skagerak?
Jesper: I was part-owner (50/50) from 2005 and we never actually learned how to go from being employees to owners.
In 2010, I took over the majority of the company and focused on developing the organization to be self-leading and ambitious and to transform myself from an old-style control focused manager to a value-driven manager.
At the same time we had to renew our collections and designers, and focus on selected markets. We have managed every aspect by hiring the right people and constantly keeping our eyes at the goals.
What has been your greatest achievement?
Jesper: meeting and marrying my wife. And transforming the company from a sleeping beauty to a team of winners.
What are your biggest regrets?
We don’t really have any.
We believe in leaning from mistakes, but always have a positive outlook on the future. Once you learn from mistakes – then leave them and forget them and keep your focus.
What do you dream about?
We dream of seeing Skagerak being a global brand.
Today we are represented in Europe and the US, and we dream of also being in the rest of the world.
What is the first thing you think about Monday morning?
Jesper meditates every morning to focus the energy and clear the mind. It is a wonderful way to start every day.
We love Mondays – a new week full of positive vibes is about to start.
What country have you always dreamt about visiting?
There are so many fantastic cities, and we do travel a lot. But Barcelona, New York and Ho Chi Minh City are wonderful places in their own special ways.
It has to be SP34 in Copenhagen. It’s our second home away from home.
And The Park Hyatt in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Two different worlds but both luxurious in different ways. In Denmark we appreciate the personal connection and the Nordic décor and the organic breakfast buffet, but in Vietnam it is the more grand and spectacular picture. The wonderful staff, the rooms, the service and the food, the way they pay attention to every detail.
We do really enjoy our own flagship store at Indiakaj, Copenhagen, but it must be Stilleben in Denmark and the Muji stores when we travel.
What have you learnt from your kids?
Patience and unconditional love.
Which book are you reading at the moment?
Jesper is typically reading management or historic books, while Vibeke mostly read design- or cookbooks and good novels.