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Dutch Design plus Dutch Cheese

“Why aren’t you able to buy good Dutch farm cheese in a hot designer jacket?” asks Marinde van Leeuwen who four months ago started Designkaas to provide just that.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 14-05-2009

It’s a strange thing that a marketing lady from Schiphol Airport told Marinde van Leeuwen that her recently released design cheeses wouldn’t be popular amongst tourists.  

We’ve seen them and can't think of a better combination – an affordable and useful product that combines two of Holland’s finest exports – cheese and design.

“I get a lot of emails from all over the world asking how they can buy it, “ says Van Leeuwen over coffee this week in de Bakkerswinkel.  A few minutes after pulling a wheel of cheese out of her bag, the owner of the famous café joins our table and starts quizzing Van Leeuwen who both designs and markets the cheeses.  Clearly, everyone is interested.

Since she was a child, Van Leeuwen’s family has been buying their cheese directly from the same farm.  And even since moving away, she still makes the 45 minute drive back to Jongenhoeve in Bergambacht to buy her cheese.

“It’s that good,” she promises.  Which is what gives Designkaas its edge.  The cheese recently won cum laude for being one of the top 25 cheeses in Holland.  Combine that with the beautiful designs Van Leeuwen has created to encase the one kilogram wheels in, and you have a winning combination.

By day, Van Leeuwen works as an inspiration consultant for VODW Marketing.  Her idea for creating Designkaas came after listening to how enthusiastic her international clients are for Dutch design. She spotted an opportunity.

“My clients are always asking me about the design scene here, and they are often familiar with the names of the top designers,” she says.  “On top of that, traditional patterns like Delft Blue, lace and country landscapes are becoming more popular.  Just look at what Hella Jongerius and even Marcel Wanders are doing.  I see a real demand for authenticity.”

After developing the concept for Designkaas, Van Leeuwen went down into her own cellar to see if she could make her ideas work.  “I didn’t really know if I could design cheese covers in different colours with nice textures that wouldn’t scratch off,” she says.  Her experiments worked.

For the jacket designs, Van Leeuwen has turned to all things typically and traditionally Dutch – tulips, windmills, lace, the boerenbont pattern, and poetry.  Next, she wants to collaborate with an Islamic designer to create a jacket on the theme of integration for the Turkish and Moroccan communities.

10% of the Designkaas profits go to two organizations involved in helping to preserve the Dutch traditional landscape: Natuurmonumenten, the oldest organization in the Netherlands for the protection of natural reserves, and the Vereniging Nederlands Cultuurlandschap, a society for protection of the traditional agrarian landscape.   

On the issue of rip-offs, Van Leeuwen stays pure.  “I guess there will be copycats,” she says.   “But I hope that people recognize that Designkaas is the original and the real thing.  We use award-winning cheese and all our profits go to a really good cause.”

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