Meet Els Van Hoorebeeck - &Tradition's Creative and Brand Director

Els Van Hoorebeeck is &Tradition’s Creative and Brand Director, leading the creative direction for the brand and its products from the head office in Copenhagen, Denmark.

We are delighted to welcome Els to Australia this month in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Sydney Opera House, with a national tour of Cult showrooms and a special panel talk in partnership with &Tradition and the Utzon Centre. 

Here we sit down with Els to discuss her background, design philosophy and what her role with &Tradition entails, including how she works with external and internal designers, plus reissuing archive designs, to consistently create a harmonious and cohesive collection. 


Meet Els Van Hoorebeeck

Els Van Hoorebeeck is &Tradition’s Creative and Brand Director, leading the creative direction for the brand and its products.

The &Tradition collection today is an eclectic confluence of past greats and contemporary designs. Els’ vast design experience came into play in her previous role at &Tradition as Head of Design, where she worked with external and internal designers to develop the collections and translate the pieces into a space. In her role now, Els continues to oversee the designs to create a collection infused with enduring qualities that connect people and places.

Before moving to Copenhagen, Els was Head of Interior Design at flexible workspace provider The Office Group in London, working with international design studios such as the Universal Design Studio, Note Design Studio and Norm Architects. Prior to moving to London Els worked for Vitra in Belgium as an in-house interior designer.

Background & Design Philosophy.

CULT: Can you tell us about your journey in the world of design and how it has shaped your design philosophy?

EVH: My journey in design didn’t go at all how I envisioned it when I graduated; it has exceeded my wildest dreams. When working in design, the most important characteristic to have is passion. I have always chosen to work for companies/brands with which I could identify, where I felt I could contribute, make a change, and truly believed in their philosophy and way of working. I approach product design from a spatial perspective because products shape space. In a space, it's all about balance: balance in proportions, in the use of color, finishes, and materials. It has a lot to do with following your gut feeling; design is very intuitive, but experience is what helps you make the right decisions.

CULT: What influences from your previous roles at The Office Group and Vitra have you brought to your work at &Tradition?

EVH: My experience at Vitra provided me with insights into how a successful design brand, or, rather, a design universe is managed. Working at TOG also enriched my knowledge of the furniture and lighting industry, and it deepened my understanding of what is important for clients when using the products. Woking on both brand and the client side has given me valuable insights into what a collection requires, and this experience has proven exceptionally beneficial in my current role at &Tradition.

&Tradition Flagship Showroom - Copenhagen

CULT: In your view, what are the key principles that define good design, and how do they resonate with &Tradition's approach?

EVH: Design should provoke feelings, good or bad. If it leaves you indifferent, we’re not off to a good start.

At &Tradition, a significant part of our effort goes into storytelling. While you may have a visual preference for something or not, the key is to develop an appreciation for the design and understand its purpose. As a brand, we bear a big responsibility in telling these stories, revealing the designer behind the product and explaining the product's manufacturing process, so that people understand the universe that hides behind ‘what first meets the eye’.

 Design enhances the beauty of everyday life, but it should also offer simplicity and ease of use for the user. The development of a product often takes a couple of years before it reaches the market, and that’s for good reason.

Good design also considers what happens at the end of a product's life cycle. It should be as straightforward as the product's use. Can it be reused, repaired, or recycled? All these aspects must be taken into consideration for a design to be considered 'good.'

At &Tradition, we address these questions during the design phase. If we cannot envision the product's durability, it won't progress to the development stage.

Screenshot 2023-10-17 at 12.30.36.png__PID:33b5253c-86f9-4642-b078-8e7e645c8495

Working with &Tradition.

CULT: As the Creative & Brand Director at &Tradition, what are your main responsibilities, and how do they contribute to the brand's identity and success?

EVH: My main responsibility is the collection, growing it by creating new product briefs and finding new designers to collaborate with, as well as making sure our existing collection remains current.

Then there is the translation of the products into space, making sure that wherever our products are being displayed, the overall feel reflects the brand’s vision. Our Flagship showroom in Copenhagen being the best example. And then it taps into telling the stories, being a brand ambassador, making sure our partners and clients understand the direction that we are going in, as well as the stories behind the products.

It is crucial for people to grasp why these designs are included in our collections and why these products exist. They need to understand the rationale behind our choices so that they can trust our brand to consistently act in the best interest of people and the planet.

&Tradition Flagship Showroom - Copenhagen

CULT: Could you share some insights into how you work with external and internal designers to create a harmonious and cohesive collection?

EVH: Products begin with people, and the best products emerge from strong relationships between designer, manufacturer, and the brand.

Collaborating with designers is a bit like a marriage between the designer and the brand. Challenges may arise along the way, but they are faced together. A clear goal and open communication are of paramount importance, and the process should be fun, with the product as the ultimate outcome. The designer's personality has to shine through in the product, while the red thread of our brand identity weaves all the different pieces and products together, creating an eclectic yet coherent collection.

Fortunately, we have a very strong in-house team of designers and developers who can translate our values into our products. They play a crucial role in ensuring the success of the design and in making sure that, in collaboration with our external designers, the manufacturers are aligned with the design story.

ATD_Retail_2023_Mist AP17_Momento Candleholder JH39_2.jpg__PID:a50f0b69-2bf2-42fe-92e1-e7b8d92c600c
The Mist Table Lamp by All The Way To Paris is one of the newest product releases from &Tradition. 

CULT: What's next for &Tradition in terms of design and brand development, and how do you plan to steer the creative direction in the future?

EVH: As we strive to collaborate with various international designers and infuse diverse, strong personalities into our collection to enrich the brand's eclectic essence, we will continue to partner with contemporary designers from a variety of cultures and backgrounds to create new products.

Alongside this, we will continue our search for international classic designers - all our current ones are Danish.

Having reached a point where our collection is robust and encompasses a wide array of categories, our focus will shift towards launching fewer products, with a renewed emphasis on optimizing our existing offerings. For instance, we aim to have 70% of our furniture collection achieve third-party certifications by 2026.

Moreover, we will place significant emphasis on crafting even more curated experiences to immerse people in the &Tradition universe.

ATD_Retail_2023_Trace SC88_Inland AV21_Tung JA3_Colette ATD6_Collect Rug SC84.jpg__PID:f222fe52-e1e7-48d9-ac60-0c3e841be476
ATD_Retail_2023_Pivot ATD7_Alima NTDS1_Collect Glass SC78,SC60.jpg__PID:2bf222fe-52e1-47b8-992c-600c3e841be4
ATD_Retail_2023_Momento Vase JH40-JH41.jpg__PID:692bf222-fe52-41e7-b8d9-2c600c3e841b
ATD_Retail_2023_Trace SC88_Inland AV21_Tung JA3_Collect Rug SC84.jpg__PID:22fe52e1-e7b8-492c-a00c-3e841be47633
ATD_Retail_2022_Colette ATD6_Tung JA3_X HM10_The Moor AP5.jpg__PID:fe52e1e7-b8d9-4c60-8c3e-841be4763362
ATD_Retail_2022_Rotate SV73_Pavilion AV17_Rely HW40-HW47_Flowerpot VP9.jpg__PID:f5fe1839-54c6-4281-a4b1-2bf5b9712f5e
More new releases introduced by &Tradition this year including the Rotate Trolley, Inland Armchair, Tung Table, Momento Jug, Pivot Table Lamp, Aida Trolley, X Chair, and Colette Lamp. 

Sydney Opera House at 50 x Utzon 

CULT: This week &Tradition is hosting a special event at the Sydney Opera House celebrating the work of Jorn Utzon, including the Utzon pendant special edition. Can you tell us more about this event and how it connects with this design's story?

EVH: With the event at the Sydney Opera House, we want to celebrate the enduring connection between Danish and Australian design. Jørn Utzon designed one of the most iconic buildings in the world: The Sydney Opera House.

The design inspiration for both the pendant and the Opera House itself stemmed from ships, and in recognition of this shared heritage, we have chosen to pay special tribute to his work by creating a unique edition for the 50th anniversary of the Opera House's completion.

Drawing inspiration from the Opera House's stunning surroundings, particularly the harbour, as water played such an important role in Utzon’s life, and the distinctive tiled roof of the building, with ceramic tiles crafted in Sweden with a high-gloss finish. The result is a deep blue, high-gloss pendant that accentuates the architectural elements of the light.

Model of the Sydney Opera House, photographed at the Hellebæk House studio, c. 1961 Credit_The Utzon Archives Utzon Center ©.jpg__PID:d58d1936-81e0-481f-9680-2cc8db8a5ca4
Blueprints, models and sketches created during the early planning phases of the Sydney Opera House. Credit: The Utzon Archives / Utzon Center ©

CULT: The Utzon pendant is a notable piece in &Tradition's collection. Can you elaborate on the inspiration behind this design and the significance it holds for the brand? How does it represent the blend of classic and contemporary design elements that is a hallmark of &Tradition's collection?

EVH: The Utzon pendant was originally designed for Jørn Utzon's house in Denmark, and its design language clearly reflects the architect's touch. This light was created in 1947, a decade before Jørn Utzon won the design competition for the Sydney Opera House. It was one of the first pieces that started the &Tradition collection and therefore is very close to our heart.

The Utzon pendant is a timeless design, it has been around for over 70 years and has truly become an icon in the collection. This new finish gives a contemporary feel to the light, expressing its architectural features. And putting the design in a new light.


&Tradition Utzon JU1 Pendant - Special Edition

&Tradition Utzon JU1 Pendant

&Tradition Utzon JU1 Pendant - Special Edition

This Special Edition release of Jørn Utzon’s classic Danish pendant lamp commemorates the 50th anniversary of the completion of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sydney Opera House, by architect and designer Jørn Utzon. 

Offering a new take on the classic Danish design, &Tradition welcomes the Utzon Special Edition lamp in Steel Blue to its collection. 

Inspired by time spent as a child in his father's shipyard, the shade is made of lacquered steel and is comprised of four components formed by a combination of two metal shaping techniques: deep drawing and spinning.

Photo from Jørn Utzons fathers office at home with JU1 Pendant Lamp_Credit The Utzon Archives_Utzon Center ©.jpg__PID:2a87aacc-75bd-4d55-ace1-3132c65bfbd1

The Utzon pendant was originally designed in 1947 for Jørn Utzon's house in Denmark. Credit: The Utzon Archives / Utzon Center ©

Photo from Jorn Utzon's younger days, Denmark, 1940s — Credit: The Utzon Archives / Utzon Center ©

CULT: Could you provide some insight into &Tradition's approach to working with archive designers and how it contributes to the brand's design legacy?

EVH: When working on classic designs, we typically collaborate closely with the families or foundations of the classic designers. In the case of Utzon, we have a strong partnership with the Utzon Centre, responsible for managing the Utzon archive, and the Utzon family.

Many exceptional designs were created in the past, and it would be a missed opportunity not to re-issue some of them, showcasing their timeless appeal.

When re-issuing classics, you have to stay in line with the original design philosophy and proportions. This is a meticulous process that demands extensive research and finding solutions for manufacturing challenges while preserving the integrity of the design.

Classic designs hold significant value within our collection, contributing to the concept of collecting and providing insight into a different design era and period. They form the foundation upon which we incorporate contemporary designs.

CULT: You previously lived in Sydney - tell us about your time in Australia and your thoughts on the design industry here?

EVH: When I was here 4 years ago, I did a lot of research into Australian interior design, which I believe to be some of the best in the world. You have a way of combining many different materials, textures and finishes in one space, yet make it feel calm and coherent. When pitching to &Tradition’s founder of what we should do with the collection going forward, I drew a lot of inspiration from that research.

Quick Six with Els Van Hoorebeeck

Music – what’s on rotation at office and home? 

I probably have the worst taste in music as my forever go to is 90s rnb, especially to get my day going. In the evenings at home I am more into Bossa Nova, to wind down after a busy day.

Best downtime activity? 

Starting the day with a good coffee and a book on a terrace somewhere, regardless of the weather. Slow mornings are a real luxury.

Preferred tipple?  

Negroni. There is no better drink out there.

Films that have inspired you? 

Of course Wes Anderson in terms of interior inspiration. I think the way things are put in scene, I loved Vicky Cristina Barcelona from Woody Allen

Travel – favourite regular haunt? 

Milan has become a favourite, I travel at least once a year and have become keen on vintage shopping in Italy in general. I also love going during Salone to see everyone again and the city during this time has such a unique atmosphere, there is nothing like it.

Your most treasured belonging? 

My pictures, and therefore my iPhone, as it contains over 30,000 images of memories and experiences. I am obsessed with taking pictures. It is always a bit of happiness scrolling through my camera roll.

The &Tradition collection is exclusively available in Australia at Cult. Shop online Australia-wide or visit our stores in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Related Posts

Join the Cult Community

Be the first to know about Cult news, exclusive offers, product launches and events.