Discover Benelux | Issue 19 | July 2015

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P R O M OT I N G B E LG I U M , T H E N ET H E R L A N D S , L U X E M B O U R G & F R A N C E

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Discover Benelux & France | Contents

Contents JULy 2015




HollySiz Following a successful acting career, Cécile Cassel self-published her debut pop album My Name Is under pseudonym HollySiz, which became a runaway success. This summer she is hitting the festivals, so we asked her to tell us more.


Fashion and Design With the Dutch capital in captivated by Amsterdam Fashion Week this month, we picked a selection of the Netherlands' most exciting fashion brands and design labels. PLUS: Cityscaping, from page 30




Company profiles, regulars and more From revolutionary enterprises, successful lawyer services and a special focus on funds and finances in Luxembourg, this month our business section is once again bursting with innovation and business inspiration.

DON’T MISS 6 Fashion Picks | 8 Desirable Designs 80 Out & About | 83 Lifestyle Columns

Culture Trip The Benelux and France offer some of the most stunning cultural experiences, from dining in the dark, street festivals, pottery factories and more.


Van Gogh 125 Years Special This month celebrates 125 years since the death of the famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. Discover what his life was like and learn about the town that shaped him as an artist; Nuenen.



Skûtsjesilen These traditional Frisian races with imposing and fast sailing ships are a sight to behold. Learn all about the skûtsjes, their history and the lives of their skippers in this feature.


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Discover Benelux & France | Editor’s Note

Dear Reader,

Discover Benelux & France

Matt Antoniak

Issue 19, July 2015

Nane Steinhoff

Published 07.2015 ISSN 2059-1454

Paola Westbeek Rosanne Roobeek Steve Flinders

Published by

Even if internationally no one can agree on the pronunciation of his name, it is almost impossible not to have heard of Vincent van Gogh. This month, on 29 July, it is exactly 125 years since his death. To celebrate this, we have two special features on Vincent’s moving personal story (see page 46) and the place where he made his first masterpieces, Nuenen (see page 49).

Cover Photo

Scan Group

Dimitri Coste

Print Liquid Graphic Ltd. Executive Editor Thomas Winther

Advertising Sales & Key Account Managers Mette Tonnesen

Creative Director Mads E. Petersen

yasmina Haddadi Steven Ebbers Laura Mirandi

While much is known about Vincent and his brother Theo, one person who is often overlooked is Theo’s wife, Johanna van Gogh-Bonger. She played an instrumental role in opening the eyes of the world to the genius of her brother-in-law. At 29, just six months after Vincent’s death, Johanna lost her husband too. She was left with an infant son, stacks of letters that Theo and Vincent had exchanged and hundreds ‘worthless’ paintings by Vincent. Convinced of their value, Johanna set on a journey to show everyone Vincent’s talent.

Sophie Plenert

Editor Myriam Gwynned Dijck

Publisher: Copy Editor

Scan Group

Isa Hemphrey

15B Bell yard Mews Bermondsey Street

Graphic Designer

London SE1 3Ty

Joseph J. Ewin

United Kingdom


Phone +44 (0)870 933 0423

Amélie Timmermans

Fax +44 (0)870 933 0421

Berthe van den Hurk


Bettina Guirkinger Caroline Edwards

Cathy van Klaveren Hamida Zéd Harun Osmanovic Janine Sterenborg Josiah Fisk Lidija Liegis Marion de Graaff

She started by organising and supporting small exhibitions of Vincent’s paintings and managed to get shows in Berlin and London. But even after a larger display at the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum in 1905, the more famous Dutch Rijksmuseum rejected her offer to exhibit the paintings on a loan basis. In the meantime, she was arduously going through the hundreds of (largely undated) letters by Vincent and typing them over. In 1914, Johanna published them in a first volume as The Letters to Theo. From here on, the legacy and mystique of the tormented artist really spread through the Netherlands, and the world. Had it not been for the determination of this one woman, we may never have known of Vincent van Gogh. Thanks to Johanna, we can all enjoy the enigmatic Starry Night, his captivating self-portraits and the timeless (and my personal favourite) Almond Blossoms.

Martin Pilkington

Myriam Gwynned Dijck, Editor © All rights reserved. Material contained in this publication may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without prior permission of Scan Group – a trading name of Scan Magazine Ltd. This magazine contains advertorials/promotional articles.

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Discover Benelux & France | Design | Fashion Picks

J U Ly F A S H I O N P I C K S

A walk on the wild side Monochrome prints and a colourful take on animal graphics are the look this summer. These outfits will instantly take you from the office to after-work dinner or drinks. Stay cool in natural fibres such as fine linens, crisp cottons and smooth silks and add an interesting flair with bold prints. The pieces can be mixed and matched to provide summer cheer even on rainy days. TEXT: LIDIJA LIEGIS | PRESS PHOTOS


1: Colour with a roar This shirt dress by Dutch designer Spijkers en Spijkers keeps you cool but has sleeves for arctic air conditioning or for more conservative dress codes. Style with flats or pumps in the day time and change to high-heeled sandals paired with elegant silver jewellery for night time. Shirt Dress â‚Ź389

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2: Stand out from the crowd Stuck for an outfit for a summer wedding or party? This full-length silk dress by Luxembourg designer Belle Sauvage reinterprets a lizard print in beautiful jewel tones. Maxi dress â‚Ź850

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Discover Benelux & France | Design | Fashion Picks


5: A monochrome edge Dress up this tailored, timeless trouser suit by Spijkers en Spijkers by wearing it with a silk blouse, or a t-shirt for a more casual look. The black-and-white print gives a modern twist: the set can be worn together, or they can be worn separately as a statement piece with colour block basics. Banana t-shirt €68 Jacket €430 Trousers €295


3: Pattern perfect If going all out with prints or colour is too much for you, add some pattern with this monochrome woven raffia clutch by Belgian brand Xandres. Clutch bag €39


4: Minimalist bangles Offset an outfit with minimal jewellery, such as a silver bangle bracelet from Dutch brand BonBon Boutique. They also come in single bands in sterling silver, rose gold and gold (prices start at €40). Silver bracelet €200

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Discover Benelux & France | Design | Desirable Designs


Illuminate your life Often light is available directly from the sun but at times we need a bit of help to see things clearly. Thanks to modern life, we no longer have to look far. Lamp designs are everywhere, in all shapes and sizes, strengths and colours. These lights are not only illuminating our rooms, they are pleasing our minds as well. TEXT: CAROLINE EDWARDS | PRESS PHOTOS

1. Breath in – breath out Imagine a lamp that breathes, to help reduce stress and nurture your mental wellbeing. The Lungplant lamp by Dutch designer Tim van Cromvoirt silently expands and lights up, after which it falls and dims, as if it’s breathing. He created it with the belief in the healing power of a good physical environment. From €360

2. Light up! Originally designed in the ‘50s, the new Copper Workshop Lamp from Made By Hand allows you to make a personal statement – whether you’re in a private or public setting. The solid and industrial look represents an urban and minimalistic lifestyle décor. €630

3. Smell the fresh oak Passion4Wood specialises in high quality wood lamps and there is no better example than this seven-layer oak piece by Mike Vanbelleghem. In a perfect imitation of nature, it curls on top of the light bulb, sending out a warm stream of brightness. €260

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4. Let your birds do the lighting Mathieu Challières is known for his special flair for creating real-looking birds for a little poetry in the house. With one of Les Volières bird cage lamps on your territory, you are guaranteed a magic light bursting with visual harmony and French elegance. €350

5. The perfect dose of colour Anthony Duffeleer presents TSOEPy, an organically shaped lamp in polyester. Its pure and timeless design works for all kind of interiors, perfectly fitted into a kitchen, living room, bar or restaurant. Without a doubt, this is an all-purpose kind of lamp. Price upon request.

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Discover Benelux & France | Inventive Gastronomy | Lafitte Foie Gras

Gastronomy fit for a King (Queen, Grand Duke, President...) Foie gras is perhaps France’s finest gastronomic creation. Lafitte’s version, its quality and qualities rooted in the terroir of Les Landes, is appreciated by the world’s finest chefs and this year celebrates its 95th anniversary. TEXT: MARTIN PILKINGTON | PHOTOS: LAFITTE FOIE GRAS

When Pierre Lafitte started his family’s business in the village of Montaut in 1920 its main activity was supplying restaurants with geese and ducks bred for foie gras and with game birds. “That trade established relationships with farmers and a discerning clientele of restaurateurs, links still significant today,” explains Fabien Chevalier, the first from outside the Lafitte family to head the company, though third and fourth generation members sit on its board. From the 1970s the foie gras business expanded, as did its shop network throughout France’s Southwest and eventually in Paris, where besides foie gras they sell typical prepared Southwest dishes like confit, rillettes and pâtés, along with other fine food specialties. The close nature of Lafitte’s relations with farmers influences product quality: “We deal with about 80 farmers, all within a 40

kilometre radius, some now third-generation suppliers,” he says: “We engage with this region’s deep agricultural heritage through cooperation not exploitation, so even small-scale producers make a good living keeping the right breeds in the best conditions with the traditional feed.” Modern methods and tradition interact harmoniously: the birds are raised according to Lafitte’s strictly detailed manual, but the main feed remains the wholecorn (non-GM) maize so suited to the wet but mild Landais climate; ducks waddle outdoors with plenty of shade; and they’re cosseted, pampered ducks with superior quality livers are worth more to farmers and Lafitte alike.

wide: “We’ve long supplied top French chefs like Michel Guérard,” says Fabien: “And ship twice-weekly to our Japanese distributor of 25 years’ standing to satisfy a particularly demanding market.” A yet grander feather in Lafitte’s cap is their association with the Club des Chefs des Chefs – cooks for the heads of 22 states including Belgium, Luxembourg and Britain. Here again it’s about tradition more than commerce: “Our partnership means we help keep foie gras at the forefront of haute cuisine,” says Fabien. “Without it any great occasion lacks a key component.”

Lafitte’s own processing of the animals replicates such care. The resulting superior standard of the foie gras wins them a regular place at prestigious tables world-

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Discover Benelux & France | Inventive Gastronomy |

Pick ‘n’ mix: order a cheese board of up to 12 cheeses and you’re sure to find something to everyone’s taste

French cheese to please a global palate has been shipping French cheeses across the world for 18 years. Brie, Camembert, Tomme de Savoie and goat’s cheese, amongst others, are FedExed as far as North America, Japan, Singapore, South Africa and Australia. Managing director Marc Refabert founded the online shop in 1997 with no previous experience of selling cheese. TEXT: LIDIJA LIEGIS | PHOTOS: FROMAGES.COM

The idea came about as he chatted in a Paris brasserie with his friend and eventual co-founder David Nutt. Nutt was travelling to the United States and took with him a selection of French cheeses for his American friends. They realised that there must be an easier way to deliver cheese to the US and thus the idea for was born. The site is dedicated to cheese lovers everywhere: from its headquarters in Tours in the Loire Valley, it is able to deliver French cheeses to all major cities in the US and Europe in 24 hours or between 48 and 72 hours to Asia and beyond. For those unable to narrow down their choices, or for first-time buyers of

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French cheese, Refabert recommends ordering a cheese board. This has a selection of between four and 12 different cheeses, with availability dependent on the season. The founder suggests ordering a mixture of goats, cow and sheep milk cheeses. The hardest thing about selling cheese online, says Refabert, is the fact that unlike going into a cheesemonger, you cannot smell or taste any of the cheeses. “I love the choice and the selection of cheeses but it’s difficult to describe and to try to sell my favourite cheeses online. People have to choose based on the look of a cheese.” A highlight of his job is the artisanal cheese producers he works with

locally. He praises them as “truly honest, extraordinary people who fight to make quality products.” On the day of delivery, the cheeses have to be at the peak of their maturity with some margin for travel, therefore isothermal packaging keeps the cheeses fresh. Once your order has arrived, as a rough guide, soft cheeses should be eaten within four to six days; goat’s cheese should be eaten within eight to ten days; and hard cheeses should be eaten within 15 days.

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Discover Benelux & France | Inventive Gastronomy | Mongozo

Exotic and innovative beer TEXT: MyRIAM GWyNNED DIJCK | PHOTOS: MONGOZO

Bring the ultimate summer experience to your doorstep with Mongozo’s exotic and refreshing fruit beers. Mongozo, which means ‘cheers’ in the language of the Chokwe people who live in Angola, specialises in innovative fruit beers inspired by flavours from around the world. The company was founded in the Netherlands in 1998 and produces exotic beers including African banana beer, Sri Lankan coconut beer, Brazilian mango beer and Angolan palm nut beer. Co-founder Jan Fleurkens says: “We are all about the exotic experience and most of our beers are best served in a coconut, to add an extra layer to your Mongozo moment!” Mongozo is not just synonymous with exotic beers, it also produces a buckwheat white beer and a premium pilsner. Fleurkens: “We are particularly proud of our pilsner, it is gluten free, fair trade and organically produced. When we launched it in 2010, it was the first of its kind.”

It’s no wonder Fleurkens is keen to talk about the Mongozo Pilsner. The beer also received several gold awards in the World Beer Awards (the Oscars for beer brewers) and other competitions around the world. “We developed the process ourselves to create a gluten free pilsner, which is very difficult to do and took over three years,” he adds


Being innovative is in the genes of the company and this also expresses itself in their drive for sustainable production. “Currently most of our beers are gluten free and certified fair trade, and we want to make sure they are all also organically produced in the future.” Mongozo beers are available in many (exotic) restaurants, at festivals, larger supermarkets and in specialty beer shops in over 40 countries around the world. DISCOVER ALL OUR EXOTIC BEERS AT: WWW.MONGOZO.COM

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Discover Benelux & France | Cover Feature | HollySiz

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Discover Benelux & France | Cover Feature | HollySiz

H O L Ly S I Z

From silver screen to music studio She dyed her hair blond, painted her lips bright red, adopted the alias of HollySiz and secretly made a music album. As more and more listeners fell in love with her upbeat and catchy electro pop, actress Cécile Cassel revealed herself to the world as the musical talent behind the songs. TEXT: MyRIAM GWyNNED DIJCK | PHOTOS: DIMITRI COSTE

With her album about to be released in the United Kingdom, Discover Benelux & France caught up with the Française to hear all about her double life. While cycling, she spoke to us over the phone in fluent English, and told us about fooling her friends, tap dancing and Batman movies. Cassel, 33, was very calculated when she made the transition from the silver screen to the music studio several years ago. “I started putting music on the internet without any visuals, only a logo and HollySiz; no country and no biography, nothing.” A car honks loudly, but unfazed, she continues: “Even my closest friends weren’t really aware of it. They knew I was doing something but they didn’t know it was the HollySiz project.” As an actress, Cassel has played in many French movies including The First Day of the Rest of Your Life (Le Premier Jour du Reste de ta Vie), Saturday Girls (Les Filles du Samedi) and the television series Clara Sheller and she made a cameo appearance in the final season of Sex and the City. To avoid stereo typing, Cassel initially did not want to reveal that she was also HollySiz. “I did it secretly,” she says as she talks about wanting honest first impressions from listeners. “The problem is, when people know you for something else, it is not completely natural. Before they hear the music, they are already thinking something about it.”

From hobby to profession It was around six years ago that Cassel decided to dedicate herself to music. Although playing the piano, singing and song writing had been a part of her entire life, an

opportunity arose for her to take things a little more seriously. While at a party, she suddenly felt the urge to start singing. “I sat at the piano and started singing one of my songs. I don’t even know why I made it actually, maybe I was a bit drunk,” she laughs. “I don’t know why this day I had to express myself at 3 o’clock in the morning.” The song was heard by yodelice, a French musician who asked her to come to the studio the next day to record some demos. This made Cassel realise she could actually do something with her musical talent. “I knew that I really wanted to do this all my life so it was now or never. I decided to put my acting career on the side, because if you want to do something, you have to be 100 per cent about it.”

Musical persona Under her alias HollySiz, she changed from being a brunette to having platinum blonde hair and cherry red lips. This red and white colour scheme can also be seen on her album cover, wardrobe and in many of her video clips, but it wasn’t simply a change of looks. “When I was writing the album I was completely obsessed with red and white stripes,” she says, “Red has many significations, it’s love, it’s fashion it’s blood, it’s sexuality it is a lot of things. So I think it was subconsciously connected to my story I was telling.” Her alias HollySiz also has several meanings, as Cassel explains: “Siz comes from ‘Sizzle’ which has been a nickname for me for a long time,” she says. “But it was a bit of a hip-hop name so I decided to put something on it.” What she added, ‘Holly’,

refers to both the holly plant with its red berries, but it was also a name that she picked up from the Batman comic character Holly Robinson. “When I was writing I was thinking of a movie about the choice in your life when you have two roads in front of you,” she says. “I think it came in the morning one day, I woke up and thought ‘how bizarre I really like this name, Holly’. Before that I was brainstorming with my friends for ages to think of crazy names. HollySiz is me. I couldn’t pick another name.”

A long-term project For almost two years, while making demos and playing shows in little bars, Cassel worked on her album. It was important for her that she took things slowly. “I started doing some festivals and I really wasn’t ready at all,” she recounts. “I needed more confidence.” In the end she started selfproducing her debut album and it was eventually officially released in France in 2013. “It is good to take time. When you are prepared and you’re ready, people can judge you on your finished work, not on something by a beginner.” Her perseverance certainly paid off, her album called My Name Is was nominated for the 2014 Victoires de la Musique, the French equivalent to the Grammy Awards, as ‘Best Debut Album’.

The album The sound of the album is characterised by synth-pop with plenty of upbeat songs that are perfect to dance to and sing along with, such as the opener Better Than Yesterday. “I really like pop music and I am not

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Discover Benelux & France | Cover Feature | HollySiz

with the haunting pop song The Light. It features a young family where the father struggles to accept the choices of his young son. “The director told me, ‘great, so you are going to play the mother?’ And I said ‘no, no way.’ It would be terrible for me to put myself as an actress in a video clip.” Another intimate song on the album is The Fall, which Cassel says she is the closest to. It is about hidden feelings that make you want to scream but at the same time, you don’t want anyone to hear them. “The Fall is the most personal and I really love it. Sometimes you sing things and you don’t really understand at that moment that subconsciously that is what you feel.”

Language as a mask moment. I started from zero so that is why. In the end I am really proud of it,” she says.

ashamed of it.” Talking about the sound of the album she says: “It is a pop album, but it is really tainted by rock and electro and sometimes ‘80s influences.”

Acting her own story

Another striking song on the album is Come Back to Me. With catchy lyrics and up-tempo beat, it is a song ideal for the summer festivals. It also has a special place for Cassel personally. “My lucky charm is Come Back to Me because everything started with that single. I found a deal because of that song, I signed a producer for my tour,” she says.

Coming from an acting family, with not just her father but also her brother Vincent Cassel being well known French actors, Cassel used this experience while performing. “Being an actress and a dancer more than anything helps me on stage to move and express myself with my body. But the difference is, I am singing words that I wrote myself,” she says. “When you’re an actress you’re putting other people’s words in your mouth.”

The song is about Cassel’s late father, French actor Jean-Pierre Cassel. “He was a really good dancer and tap dancer, and I definitely wanted to…” another car honks, but Cassel continues in the same breath, “sing about him and write about him, but I wanted something that would be like who he was. It was impossible for me to make a sad song about him.” Cassel also decided to write the story for the video herself, it includes her doing dances inspired by her greatest influences Michael Jackson, Liza Minnelli and Madonna. Added to that, as an ode to her father, she also included a short break where Cassel wanted to tap dance. “I never learned how to do it. I spent like three months, five days a week on private tap dancing classes, only for that little

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Being so close to the lyrics makes Cassel reluctant to act in her own videos, such as

As many of the songs are very personal to Cassel, it is not by accident that she is singing them in English rather than French. She has often been to England and even lived in London for around eight months. “When I decided to make music, it was in London. For me English really was the language of music and of love and all my life at that moment.” She continues: “The first song I wrote for the album was A Shot, it was done with somebody that I was living in England with. For me it was a letter to him, so it was important to write it in English.” After that, she realised she was able to express herself more intimately in a foreign language, and she is able to say things she would never admit in French. “I discovered that English for me is a mask, I can be more personal with it because I am hidden behind this name.” Now that the album is about to be released in the United Kingdom, it is evident that Cassel is looking forward to it and is planning to tour the country after the summer. “I still go to London a lot, I really love it and I still have a social life with many friends and people that I love. It is my second home,” she says and adds: “I am really excited because everything started in England for me. Now it is full circle.” HollySiz’s debut album My Name Is will be released in the UK on 7 August.

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Discover Benelux & France | Cover Feature | HollySiz

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Discover Benelux & France | Fashion & Design | Amsterdam Fashion Week


Dutch design reigns supreme In the 11 years since it began, FashionWeek Nederland has shown the world that Dutch fashion can make its mark. Dutch style is seen as both highly innovative and outspoken and many designers, including Jan Taminiau, Iris van Herpen, Aziz Bekkaoui and Claes Iversen, have become household names globally. TEXT: LIDIJA LIEGIS | PHOTOS: TEAM PETER STIGTER

FashionWeek Nederland began in 2004 as a way of putting Amsterdam on the fashion map. There are four main events: Mercedes-Benz FashionWeek Amsterdam, a series of shows for upcoming talent, designers and commercial brands; Downtown, a special programme of ten events open to the general public taking place in Amsterdam’s most iconic locations; Fashion in Business, a set of networking events for people working in the industry; and Fashion Lab, a range of workshops, lectures and presentations that encourage innovation and support young entrepreneurs. This month is the 23rd edition of MercedesBenz FashionWeek Amsterdam. The event runs from 3 to 13 July and includes a number of hotly-tipped catwalk shows geared

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towards the fashion industry and press. The catwalk shows all take place in former gas works Westergasfabriek. This year 25 designers will be exhibiting a mix of womenswear and menswear. Amsterdam hosts the fashion week twice yearly, with a fall/winter edition in January and a spring/summer edition in July. Three designers to look out for this year are Zyanya Keizer, who is half Dutch and half Mexican, and Dutch design duo Judith van Vliet x Chris van den Elzen. Avant-garde couture designer Keizer learned her craft from fellow Dutch designer Iris van Herpen, who pioneered the use of new technologies such as 3D printing in her designs. Keizer’s work often features heavy embellishment and unconventional materials.

Van Vliet and Van den Elzen are collaborating on a collection for the second time; Van Vliet designs clothing, and Van den Elzen creates footwear. Van Vliet graduated from the Eindhoven Design Academy in the Netherlands, and Van den Elzen from the Utrecht School of Arts. In 2014 they produced a much-lauded collection of clothing and shoes inspired by architecture. Another key event to look out for is the Lichting show, this year taking place on 10 July. Fourteen recent fashion graduates from seven Dutch fashion schools will present their creations on the catwalk. With the winner walking away with 10,000 euros, the future looks bright for young Dutch designers.

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Discover Benelux & France | Fashion & Design | Amsterdam Fashion Week

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Theme | Vinexpo: Fine Wines of France Discover Benelux & France | Mini Fashion & Design | ByKay

Well-designed baby slings add to children’s development and are an ergonomic, fashionable way to keep your child close.

Happy babies, happy parents Doesn’t every parent sometimes wish they had an extra pair of hands? Carrying your child in a baby sling allows you to move freely, while taking care of your other kids, or to do household chores while keeping your child close by. TEXT: JANINE STERENBORG | PHOTOS: ByKAy

As a mother of four, ByKay founder Kay Poelen knows what modern parents of babies and toddlers need: a hands free, ergonomic and fashionable way of carrying your child, plus of course a healthy and happy baby. Poelen started ByKay ten years ago, when she was unable to find a stylish, comfortable and ergonomic baby sling. Soon, she started making slings for friends and family and quickly her hobby grew into a business. Now, ByKay is the Netherlands’ leading baby sling brand. “The ByKay slings are designed so children train their mobility and the tiny muscles in their legs, while they develop a good sense of balance,” explains PR manager Roxy Watson. “And as a parent, keeping your child close to your body, you keep an er-

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gonomic posture, saving you lower back pain.” Carrying your child is good for their self-esteem and makes bonding with their parents easier. And according to a study published in the Pediatrics journal in 1986, carried babies cry less. Watson: “That’s because children feel safe: they can explore the world and their parent is always within reach.” ByKay offers a full range of beautiful slings, available in many colours and different fabrics and patterns. The new buckle carrier line will be available for children aged between zero and four. Watson: “The click buckles are very convenient for those who don’t like the knots in a regular sling. The carrier can be tied to the body quickly, which is perfect when you’re on the plane,

a day out, or on holiday.” Besides the buckle carrier classic, a deluxe version will be available. “It’ll contain small but useful extras.” The fabrics ByKay uses, such as cotton, linen and jersey, all have their own advantages and are ecologically certified. Watson: “Linen is perfect for summer, for instance. And our collection contains slings specifically designed to use in the water as well!” Next summer, ByKay will release a fashion line with temporary available prints. “Think of patterns like hearts and Delft blue. Just like in our regular collection, there’s something for everyone.”

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Discover Benelux & France | Fashion & Design | Stroke

A perfect fit, comfortable fabrics and beautiful colours: the core of Stroke’s design. The clothing, designed by Berry Tielens, helps women dress for success in timeless luxury every day.

Affordable luxury Allowing women to dress in beautiful luxury clothing every day. That is the mission of fashion brand Stroke. Every season a new collection of gorgeous, comfortable and affordable clothing hits the shelves of high quality fashion shops. TEXT: JANINE STERENBORG | PHOTOS: STROKE

“A woman should feel pretty in the clothes she wears,” explains designer and Stroke founder Berry Tielens. “Too often I see women wearing clothes that don’t fit well. That is such a pity. Clothes should have the right fit, accentuate the female figure and suit the woman’s age and personality. Every woman should dress for success!” What is so beautiful about Tielens’ clothes, are their perfect fit, comfort and natural colours. “All fabrics are of high quality: mainly silk, cashmere and linen, but also modern and high tech ones. All fabrics offer optimal comfort, which allows you to move easily in them.” Tielens is inspired by the world around him, as well as by today’s icons like Michelle

Obama and Victoria Beckham. He translates the contemporary catwalk designs into stylish clothing, perfect for women in everyday life. With 15 years of experience in fashion design, Tielens knows his clientele. “Ten years ago, Stroke really took off when I started working with my current feel and vision,” Tielens explains. Ever since, he released new collections every season, aiming to inspire women to dress beautifully. He is currently working on the summer collection for 2016. “I have never worked harder in my life, but this is my calling. I love doing this. I am constantly looking for new opportunities and inspiration to improve and beautify my collection.”

This summer’s clothing collection is of course already available. The colours are mainly white and blue, but cheerful pink designs are available as well. In August, the autumn collection will be launched. What can we expect? “Oversized blazers and pencil skirts. Plus, the wide skirt is back! you can combine either of them with sneakers for a bold look, or with pumps, for a feminine look,” tips Tielens. Besides a seasonal clothing collection, Tielens designs beautiful scarves. From basic to colourful, with striking prints and patterns. And they are wearable throughout all seasons.

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Comfort and style Comfortable chic is the new style for modern and entrepreneurial women who combine a sportive outlook and fashionable design. Fashion All Over is an international fashion wholesale company that focuses on these modern women. TEXT: ROSANNE ROOBEEK | PHOTOS: DAMAR SURyO

Ton van Eck, founder of Fashion All Over, has been passionate about the fashion industry since an early age. Born in a family that has been active in textiles, he decided to move beyond his father’s shop and enter the wholesale industry. Joined by his wife Angelique van Eck, the financial mind behind the business, the company aims to offer comfortable and affordable clothing that women can wear anytime of the day. “The modern woman is an absolute multitasker, which requires comfortable clothing

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for an active lifestyle,” says Van Eck. He describes the modern woman as a “confident and entrepreneurial person.”

The athleisure trend is growing Active wear sales have been booming worldwide and the active sports category is the fastest-growing segment of the market. Fashion All Over tries to respond to the demand for the 'athleisure' look but pays close attention to style. “We see a clear trend in fashion in which clothing designed for workouts is worn outside the gym to go to the office, do

shopping, bringing children to school and other social occasions,” Van Eck says. “If you walk in the streets, you see many women walking in tight yoga trousers with sneakers. They are a frequent choice of the modern woman, so we thought: let’s give it a stylish touch,” he adds.

Comfortable and feminine Their brand called Zoso appreciates a luxurious and comfortable outfit. Zoso offers complete wardrobes where colourful fashion items could be combined with the necessary basics.

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Discover Benelux & France | Fashion & Design | Fashion All Over

respond more quickly to the latest trends and does not leave shop owners with unnecessary stock.

International market Fashion All Over is gaining international grounds quickly, currently designing clothes for the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Fashion All Over aims to expand more internationally in the near future, including to countries like Czech Republic and Poland in Eastern Europe. “Germany is one of our main markets as shop owners demand high quality and value organic and fair trade fabrics, which suits our products perfectly,” Van Eck says. Love for fashion is in the genes of the family. Spending day and night thinking of their products, they have passed on their passion to the next generation. Van Eck’s children are already excited to take over the company in the future. "Our customers need the functionality — but want to look great and feminine as well," Van Eck says. "Zoso tries to prove that comfortable clothing can be as sexy as skinny jeans. Many great names in fashion tend to design very special and interesting looks, but sometimes I wonder for whom they are designing their products.” Classic forms of fashion trends no longer exist according to Van Eck. Consumer preferences are still changing, but we do not go out in clothing which we do not feel 100 per cent comfortable. Van Eck therefore focuses on clothing that would comfort everyone. Zoso, for example, targets women between 20 to 65 years of all different sizes. Consequently, “the art is not to design products for size-6 women. The aim, instead, is to focus on clothes that look stylish on everyone, especially as the majority of the population has size 12+ and wants to look good as well,” Van Eck says.

High quality products Quality and delivering value for money are at the core of the services Fashion All Over provides. It also has always valued the use

of natural and organic materials. “We constantly look from the perspective of the product itself, which we believe leads to a stable success. Cotton is popular for a reason - its soft texture and breathable nature make it very wearable, and it just feels soft against your skin,” Van Eck says. The textile industry has experienced a shift where natural fibers have become displaced by synthetic, man-made materials such as polyester, acrylic and nylon. Although the quality of these technical fabrics is increasing enormously, Zoso tries to use natural products wherever possible. Sometimes cotton and synthetic fabrics will be accurately combined, to give each piece of clothing an aura of luxury.

Value for money The financial crisis opened doors for Zoso. As the balance between price and quality was not always clear, the fashion industry decided to change course and started to demand more value for money. Shop owners were forced to think more short-term. Fashion All Over responded by giving the opportunity to deliver designs at the very last minute, which allows them to

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Discover Benelux & France | Fashion & Design | Effio

Back on the pedestal: socks Try to think of an item of clothing. Got one in mind? Bet it wasn’t a sock that came to mind. Just plain, good oldfashioned socks. But they don’t have to be plain at all. This company does everything to make stunning, unique wear for men’s feet. The proverb in Dutch goes: ‘kleren maken de man’, translated as ‘clothes make the man'. Joost van Beek, owner of Effio, turns it all around by saying: it’s not the clothes that make you who you are, but your socks. TEXT: CATHy VAN KLAVEREN | PHOTO: EFFIO

It’s 2006. Van Beek is around 25 and wants a change. Together with his companion he decides he wants to rock the fashion world a little. At that time, he thinks that socks are in desperate need of getting their rightful place back on the pedestal. Other accessories, like boxer shorts for men, started to go from dull grey and black to prominent and shameless. Playful and colourful prints made their way back in the fashion world. Van Beek: “There are designers who make stunning cufflinks, there are great hats, great belts and even great boxer shorts. So where were the socks? Where were the nice designs and comfortable

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fits?” It was with this question he started to look around for a company that would make his wish into a tangible sock. And he did. Just one and a half years later he already had his first collection on the market. Signed, sealed and delivered: Effio was born. Effio is derived from the Latin word for ‘fashion’.

Signore Bertoletti So where did these unique socks come from? Van Beek explains. “We looked for companies abroad. We visited Poland but that didn’t really fit with us. Eventually we came across a family in Italy, near Milan, who specialises in making socks. They only make socks, nothing else. They

have all the equipment and generations of knowledge about it. Signore Bertoletti and his son Mario are the ones who make the ideas into the real thing. “I am already behind with next year’s collection,” Van Beek says. “Italian people don’t like to be kept waiting.” For the ones who think socks are merely made out of one piece of fabric, think again. There’s a whole process in the making for creating the sock Effio wants to put their name on. “We can only choose ten threads of yarn, each their own colour, for making a sock and a print. It sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t. Think of the base colour, the lining and content of a print and details.”

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Discover Benelux & France | Fashion & Design | Effio

For Joost van Beek, 32, a man who comes walking in with a suit, handkerchief in the left breast pocket, and fitted shoes, an eye for detail is certainly one of the aspects of his own company and in his collections. “We give upcoming talents or otherwise fashion related people the chance to make a collection for us. The upcoming collection is from Antoine Peters, who worked for numerous magazines, and has a simple design but yet a deeper meaning behind it.” Van Beek puts the story behind every collection online. But does it really make a difference? A sock is a sock, right? “We use the finest quality cotton that comes from Egypt. Egypt is well known for their cotton, because it grows well under the conditions of the Egyptian climate. We also use cotton from India that isn’t harmful for the environment and we make sure the labourers there get a good wage for it. We don’t promote Effio as ‘being sustainable’ or ‘organic’ or anything else for that matter. We think it’s logical to produce in the best and friendliest possible way that doesn’t effect our environment.” He says: “In Italy, the yarns are dyed in a safe way, all done by professionals, after

which the product gets the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 label. This is an international renowned mark that guarantees there are no poisons in the fabric and ensures that the textile used does not harm the environment or the users.” Van Beek concludes: “And when we make the final product, we don’t want any seems in the design.” So asking about socks from the standardised big companies? “They do not feel right,” Van Beek says.

Getting things done After almost eight years in the business Van Beek doesn’t seem to slow down. “I especially like it when I realise I want something, and then automatically everything falls into place. For instance, I discovered the Netherlands also has a sock factory, but figuring that out was only possible because I started talking about it. Who knows what can come of it.” One pair goes for about 15 euros. Don’t worry, Van Beek and his companion can make a decent living of it. Take a look at the website where they do not only show good socks, they also present fantastic photographs.

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Discover Benelux & France | Fashion & Design | POM-Amsterdam

A woman’s love for scarves It must be one of the most magical pieces of clothing there is. With just this one item only, you can change your whole outfit to fit any occasion or mood. A fantastic scarf is an absolute must-have for all ages. TEXT: BERTHE VAN DEN HURK | PHOTOS: POM-AMSTERDAM

scarves were sold in De Bijenkorf (a luxurious Dutch department store). Momentarily POM scarves are sold on POM's online webshop as well as 280 shops in Europe, Australia and Dubai.

“I wasn’t able to find a great scarf with a good value for money,” says Liesbeth Lotgering, co-owner of POM-Amsterdam. “So, my sister Violet and I decided to make them ourselves.” An authentic POM shawl has a rich look without being posh, has daring designs and combinations, striking rushes and an asymmetrical triangle shape, combined with an outspoken hemming (they also have a worldwide patent). Liesbeth: "With POM all women get a chance to express their styles and moods. We think that a scarf is the ideal accessory for any outfit. It just adds that extra bit to express a feeling for instance.”

Liesbeth is responsible for sales and marketing and Violet is head of design. Most of the designs are made by Violet, but they compile the collections together. Violet: “We want to create beautiful things. People who wear a POM scarf are getting noticed and receive many compliments about their scarf and the way they look. It sits close to your face, so everyone will see it.”

Liesbeth and Violet founded POM-Amsterdam in 2011 to make women happy. And successfully so, 18 months later POM

Coming this August, the sisters will release a new collection. Liesbeth: “The premium collection is a little bit more luxurious. This

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time we’ve used special woven fabrics such as jacquard, or interwoven with a piece of gold thread.” POM-Amsterdam also has some special collections, made for KLM airlines, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh museum and charity Dance4Life. POM stands for ‘piece of mine’. Even though the company is popularly known as POM or POM-Amsterdam, the origin of the name still stands. Liesbeth: “We create scarves for all women, regardless of their age. A scarf is very personal and can change your whole look in an instant.” Overall, a POM scarf is one of the most indispensable items in your wardrobe.

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Discover Benelux & France | Fashion & Design | Eva Schreuder


Jewellery, especially the handcrafted kind, often transcends the realm of being a simple fashion accessory and becomes an intimate form of wearable art. For Dutch jewellery designer Eva Schreuder, the absolute bonus between the union of art and object is the sentimental value given to her pieces by those who wear them. Schreuder, a Leiden native who decided to make a career out of her passion for jewellery-making launched her first collection in 2011. She explains: "I think it's important for jewellery to come with its own story, yet there should always be room for the wearer to make it personal and apply it to their own life." Her inspiration is not only sparked by the visual, but is also the result of her own experiences. This is one of the main reasons why she likes to think of her pieces as "heartfelt and handmade" – meaningful words that happen to be the aptly chosen inscription on her newest packaging labels. "I create my pieces with love, from my heart, and with the conviction that if

you make something with love, you consequently bring that across." Outside of her yearly collection, she very much enjoys creating exclusive commission pieces: "It gives me immense pleasure to turn memories into wearable heirlooms," she says. Working with silver as a base material, which is as versatile as it is beautiful, she

also crafts in gold (mainly on commissions) and uses a wide variety of materials ranging from stones to even paper and wire. Though her pieces can sometimes be decidedly rugged around the edges, Schreuder's creations are characterised by an almost intrinsic poetic subtlety.

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An instantly green, healthy and beautiful environment Plants improve the aesthetic qualities of our surroundings and help create a more pleasant living environment. This concept is fully embraced by Mobilane. The internationally operating Dutch company specialises in eco-friendly readymade living systems such as fencing, roofs, room dividers and even stunning artworks made of foliage. TEXT: PAOLA WESTBEEK | PHOTOS: MOBILANE

The company, which started in 2001, has branches in Europe, North America, Asia and Africa and aims to create a sustainable and greener urban environment with the use of innovative and easy-to-install systems. A perfect example of this is the Green Screen, one of their best-selling products worldwide. Available in different types of foliage, the hedges are woven into a high-quality frame and pre-cultivated in greenhouses for a period of one-and-half years. The result is an instantly green border that can be erected in just a few hours, thus beautifying and partitioning any outdoor environment in a considerably short amount of time. One of the company's missions is to modernise greener living. "In the past, green liv-

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ing was seen as somewhat dated. Through our contemporary designs, we try to do away with that image," says Alexander Ilsink, commercial director at Mobilane.

"Research has shown that more green improves concentration levels and feelings of happiness. People feel better when surrounded by nature."

The LivePicture is proof of Mobilane's ongoing conceptual evolution. A living work of art consisting of a frame fitted with a cassette holding a variety of plants, the arrangement immediately brings life to any interior. Because it is equipped with an internal irrigation system and only requires watering every six weeks, maintenance is extremely easy.

Recently, the company was contracted by the Nike production headquarters in Belgium to install a LivePanel system, a product which is currently under high demand. Suitable for indoor and outdoor use, this so-called ‘living wall’ can be mounted onto any type of building and requires minimal use of water. Just like all Mobilane products, it is a low maintenance, eco-friendly and ingenious way to contribute toward a cleaner, greener and more beautiful environment.

But the effects of Mobilane's products go beyond the aesthetic and convenient. According to Ilsink, a greener environment leads to increased health and well-being:

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East meets West at ZENS AMSTERDAM Oudezijds Voorburgwal 306 | +31 20 3620985 Open Tuesday to Sunday | 12:00 to 17:00

Taking a stroll by the canals in Amsterdam, you might stumble across something unexpected in the landscape. That something is a boutique dedicated to Oriental Lifestyle Design: Welcome to ZENS. Opened in 2014 by a collective of entrepreneurs committed to bringing great design, and excellent tea to Amsterdam and Europe; ZENS is committed to highdesign in products for tea, coffee, and dinner. Here, handcraft and material are of key importance, with products made from porcelain, borosilicate glass, and rare clays. ZENS recognize that the right designs, quality tea, and cozy atmospheres are integral to a healthy mind and body. If you find yourself in the center of Amsterdam, be sure to drop in to the ZENS boutique for an afternoon tea, at Oudezijds Voorburwal 306, from Tuesday to Sunday. International travellers enjoy ZENS products duty free with Global Blue. Not travelling through Amsterdam? You can still find the full range of ZENS home ware products at

Cobblestone & Wandering Tray Designed by Ming Liu

Designed by SchilderScholte Photographed by Ronald Tilleman

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Distinctive simplicity and aesthetic enjoyment Is there anything better than having your own wellness area in a hotel room or even in your own home? Get acquainted with the luxurious experience of showering and bathing in endless atmospheres. TEXT: BERTHE VAN DEN HURK | PHOTOS: JEE-O

It all began with the creation of a single shower over 11 years ago. The freestanding, stainless steel shower was the first in a line of many products, designed by Lammert Moerman, owner of JEE-O. It designs and creates showers, baths and wellness areas. Currently, the Dutch brand has scattered throughout the world. The company's name was inspired by this first design; when you take a look you will see the letters ‘J’ and ‘O’ in the design. For the following eight years Moerman perfected this design and created several others Moerman: “We design luxurious bathrooms and wellness areas, but it is considerably more than developing products. Wellness is much more than an activity, like the massages and pools. We want to create a world beyond wellness, because wellness should be an experience. We

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want wellness to be a continuous experience, even after taking a shower or getting a massage.” All its designs are robust and powerful, and always distinctive in simplicity. The designs are solid quality; made entirely out of one piece, everlasting and therefore vigorous. A look that speaks for itself. Moerman: “All our products are presented in black or white to create tranquility and simplicity. People make the design their own by adding their own lives and characters." More than half of all the JEE-O designs are home bathrooms. But JEE-O also designs wellness areas and bathrooms for hotels, like the MANNA hotel in the Dutch city of Nijmegen. MANNA is an all-in-one boutique hotel, trendy bar and top restaurant. It is known for its personalised accommodation, facilities and services providing the

guest with an intimate and luxurious experience. Moerman and his team created ten bathrooms for this hotel and are currently working on an extension. The design of the entire hotel received the award for Best European Hotel-Restaurant concept. During this assignment JEE-O worked with a team from Egoista, who designed the rest of the hotel. This collaboration resulted in another exquisite project: the AMA hotel in the Spanish city of Huelva. This hotel is brand new and created according to an innovative spa and health retreat concept. It is designed to give the visitor a whole new dimension to their stay. JEE-O designed all bathrooms, wellness areas, outside pools and toilets throughout the hotel. Moerman: “The AMA Hotel wanted an oriental-like spa feeling. Not only for the wellness activities, but also to maintain the feeling that goes with it. The wellness doesn’t end af-

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Discover Benelux & France | Design | JEE-O

ter a massage or shower. We’ve created this atmosphere and ambiance with our products and designs.” According to Moerman JEE-O represents a personal, conscious choice within the modern interpretation of spare time. They are responding to an increasing need for self-development, and are more than distinctive in their designs. The concept proves to be successful; JEE-O is one of the fastest growing Dutch sanitary brands and their products are currently represented in 30 countries worldwide. Moerman has 26 years of experience as an entrepreneur in the sanitary industry, but his dreams go much further. With his designs Moerman only has one wish; to enable people to feel the 'JEE-O DNA'. He calls it DNA because the designs are more than just products; it is more a lifestyle and experience.

Because of this thought, JEE-O designs more than sanitary facilities. Moerman: “Wellness is a broad concept. It’s much more and goes beyond massages and swimming pools or luxury bathrooms.” In collaboration with design studio Grand & Johnson, JEE-O completed the remarkable Soho-collection. The collection consists of a freestanding shower, a bath mixer and a wall faucet. The Soho trio has a sturdy, stark form and the black hammer coating gives the robust designs the right look. These black beauties create a singular experience in the bathroom with design that delights the senses.

from JEE-O is characterised by the same simplicity. Less is more. All unnecessary clutter has been removed from the rocksolid shower. The robust coating is fully in keeping with the sturdy design. Industrial and pure, Soho is a statement.

The collection was inspired by the vibrant New york neighborhood SoHo, which is well-known for its many industrial lofts and apartments, many of them austere and stark in their designs. The Soho-collection

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Discover Benelux & France | Cityscaping | Benthem Crouwel Architects

Designing for the future with the past or present The creators of many iconic buildings in the Netherlands and abroad always try to contribute to the future of the city. TEXT: BERTHE VAN DEN HURK | PHOTOS: JANNES LINDERS

Ever since Benthem Crouwel Architects was founded in 1979, the architects challenged themselves by designing the practical, innovative, restrained and the iconic. With great success, everyone who has been in the Netherlands has seen Benthem Crouwel architecture, like the Anne Frank Museum, The Hague Central Station and Schiphol Airport. They always seek a balance between economic, social and ecological, with a special concern for innovation and sustainability.

A station with two sides Multiple recent projects create a connection between different areas in the city, improving the overall quality of life, social cohesion, employment and thus the fu-

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ture of the city. For instance Rotterdam Centraal, the new central train station of Rotterdam, which is re-anchored in the city centre and integrated in the European network of transport hubs. The design for the station and the surrounding area was made by Team CS; a cooperation between Benthem Crouwel Architects, MVSA (Meyer en Van Schooten Architecten) and West 8. A salient feature of the location is the difference in character between the northand south side; the north is a residential area, while the south side is part of the city centre. This is accentuated in the design of the station and its surroundings. The north of the station makes a modest

and transparent impression that matches the late nineteenth-century ‘Proveniers’ district. In contrast, the city centre side of the station exhibits a new grandeur that fits the imposing high-rise buildings that characterise the entrance to the city. Rotterdam’s urbanity is reinforced by a metropolitan station architecture in which the building and the new station square merge. The station connects the various characters of the city and marks the beginning of the cultural axis.

A bridge and park in one Another typical Benthem Crouwel project is the remarkable Paleisbrug (Palace

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Discover Benelux & France | Cityscaping | Benthem Crouwel Architects

Partners: From top left to bottom right: Marcel Blom, Marten Wassmann, Markus Sporer, Joost Vos, Mels Crouwel and Jan Benthem.TOP LEFT: The Stedelijk Museum. LEFT MIDDLE: The Atrium. BOTTOM LEFT: Paleisbrug.

bridge); an elevated park, bicycle- and pedestrian bridge in one. When a new district Paleiskwartier (Palace District) arose behind the train station and outside of the city walls of the city of 's-Hertogenbosch, Benthem Crouwel created the Paleisbrug. It is designed to connect the old with the new, and at the same time create unity with the surrounding historic landscape. The 250-metre long Paleisbrug has plants, trees, benches and lighting, all integrated in folded weathering steel. The plants are illuminated, as well as the benches and paths, allowing the Paleisbrug to be a pleasant place to walk and sit down at night. Floor heating is installed to prevent the bridge from freezing in the winter as spreading salt would affect the steel and the plants. The bridge is also used as a massive solar collector during summer, since the floor heating is connected to an Aquifer Thermal Energy Storage (ATES) that provides the stored heat during winter.

With the design of the Amtrium, a new building at Scheldeplein (Schelde Square) Benthem Crouwel Architects created a multifunctional and remarkably sustainable office and a conference centre along with a restaurant. With its transparent lower faรงade, the Amtrium creates new interaction between the RAI and the residential area that adjoins the complex. The addition of a high quality public restaurant also contributes to the culinary and entertainment value of the neighbourhood. The south wall of the building is a climate zone with plants; a greenhouse which also provides food for the restaurant. This greenhouse wall combined with other innovative sustainable technologies, made the RAI the first conference centre in the Netherlands to achieve the BREEAM-NL Excellent level, a hallmark for sustainability that is managed by the Dutch Green Building Council (DGBC).

their vision actually works. And in retrospect, it does. The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam shows that the vision Benthem Crouwel had works quite splendidly. The city museum needed a new entrance to improve the logistics. Benthem Crouwel created a whole new entrance at the other side of the building. By doing so, the museum became connected to the famous Amsterdam Museum Square and thus the other museums like the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum. They added underground space to keep the square as open as it was, and also created a forecourt; a subsquare at the Museum Square, to make the transition from square to museum flawless. The shift has been so successful that the cooperation between all adjacent museums has improved immensely.

Multifunctional and sustainable

From vision to reality

With all assignments Benthem Crouwel Architects look beyond that what is required. A design should not be just optimal for the client or the public, but also contribute to the surrounding area.

The Amsterdam RAI is an internationally leading exhibition and conference centre.

As Benthem Crouwel always keep the future in mind, it is important to verify that

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Discover Benelux & France | Cityscaping | Fabienne Bulle architecte & associés

The French embassy in Gabon will be built with locally sourced wood.

Architects without borders Architecture firm Fabienne Bulle architecte & associés stands out for its work on exceptional projects in France and further afield. Most recently it won a national competition to design the French embassy in Libreville, Gabon. Due to be finished in 2017, the project will consist of an eco-friendly building made using local materials such as doussie, a golden brown or light red wood found in West Africa. TEXT: LIDIJA LIEGIS | PHOTOS: FABIENNE BULLE ARCHITECTE & ASSOCIéS

The firm is conscious that over 70 per cent of Gabon’s terrain is covered by forest and it ensures that wood logging is done in a responsible and sustainable way. “When we won the competition, it was very important to the French foreign ministry that it would be one of the first embassies built in an ecological way,” says founding partner Fabienne Bulle. The embassy is designed so that it will be “symbolic of a philosophy which is sober, safe and also not too grand – it has to combine all of these qualities,” notes Fabienne Bulle, to reflect the French presence in an emerging economy. The building must be representative of both France and Gabon, whilst melding the two cultures.

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This is not the firm’s first foray into international projects; it previously entered a competition to design the French embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. Fabienne Bulle qualified as an architect in 1977, and has been teaching at the prestigious Paris-based Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture since 1982. She founded the firm in 1995, and says that through her work as a university professor and architect she has learned “a distinct ability to truly listen to clients’ needs”. What sets the practice apart from others is the founding partner’s personal involvement in every single project. For Fabienne Bulle, the most challenging aspect of her work is maintaining momentum throughout a project. “Passion

is necessary to succeed, but it’s not enough to keep you going: you need ability and real savoir-faire.” Other projects which Fabienne Bulle is particularly proud of include a student house for the University of Versailles SaintQuentin-en-yvelines in Guyancourt, northern France. Its futuristic façade is covered in large spikes in the shape of nails. Another highlight was designing the Clichysous-Bois-Montfermeil police headquarters, which resembles a beautiful, minimalist sculpture. The firm upholds its sterling reputation thanks to standout designs made with first-rate natural materials.

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Contemporary art visits the medieval city of Bruges There are a number of things Bruges is known for, a unique tourist destination, a medieval metropolis of Flanders, the Venice of the North and for me as a young French Art major, it is most famous for being the cradle of Flemish Renaissance art. But this summer Bruges will stand for something a little more modern: contemporary art. TEXT & PHOTOS: HAMIDA ZĂŠD

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Discover Benelux & France | Culture Trip | Bruges Triennial

Until the end of November the city is hosting the Bruges Triennial featuring 18 international contemporary artists who have created installations displayed throughout the city. To find out more, I embarked on a trip to Bruges, to see the modern art and architecture among the medieval buildings for myself. Arriving at the central station, I was welcomed by the sound of horseshoes on the pavement as I stepped out on to the road. Greeted by the historic buildings, it felt as if I was transported through time, back to the Middle Ages. This must also be the way the rest of the five million tourists that visit Bruges every year feel, as they marvel at its characteristic architecture which is listed as a UNESCO World heritage site. Addressing this very topic is this year’s Bruges Triennial, of which the previous

edition dates back to 1974. The dozens of installations and events all revolve around a central question: “What if those five million tourists decided to stay – what if a small, preserved, historic city should suddenly become a megapolis?” Bruges has had a peculiar relationship with contemporary art and modernism as a whole. For decades, the effort to preserve the authenticity of the historic centre has often curbed the ideas of architects with the desire to innovate. The contemporary Concertgebouw (Concert Hall), and the polemic surrounding it, in this case is a rare exception. With the stage set, the artists involved in the Triennial considered the architectural and spatial challenges of this theoretical future scenario. They expressed their thoughts via contemporary outdoor art installations and works displayed at three

Norwegian architect Vibeke Jensen’s art work 1:1 Connect DiamondScope.

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indoor venues. This is what makes the Bruges Triennial so interesting. If you visit the city before October, you will have the chance to interact with very surprising, and at times visionary, thought-provoking art pieces in the free, public URB EGG exhibitions – an anagram of Brugge and the name given to the historic heart of the city for this occasion. The first piece you might encounter, as you step off the train, is a container placed on the path that leads you to the centre. Created by Belgian artist Daniël Dewaele, To Become a New Citizen of Bruges represents a Kafkaesque immigration office where each visitor fills in a form asking for their hopes, expectations, dreams and aspirations in coming to Bruges. “For me, the container represents the movement of people and goods and money,” explains the artist. “It is the tool that best symbolises all the people coming to the city for some time, or for forever.” In the same

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Discover Benelux & France | Culture Trip | Bruges Triennial

Nathan Coley: A Place Beyond Belief.

A neon quote inspired by Taoism which is part of Song Dong’s installation.

spirit, Dewaele is exhibiting a video installation at the train station showing interviews he conducted asking foreigners living in Bruges what they are missing the most about their homeland. Continuing in the theme of immigration, Norwegian architect and artist Vibeke Jensen created a 1:1 Connect: DiamondScope between the belfry and the marketplace. The octagonal structure made from massive one-way glass mirrors is designed to welcome one resident and one visitor. From this intimate space they can observe the people without being seen from the outside. 1:1 Connect is a fascinating and metaphoric work about how a city like Bruges, with its rich history, can combine two facets of the same heritage. On the square near one of Bruges’ main attractions, the ancient Sint-Salvator Cathedral, is another installation. It is created by Chinese contemporary artist Song Dong who made a structure from repurposed house windows from China.

Song Dong’s Wu Wei Er Wei installation made of windows from houses in China.

His work named WU WEI ER WEI (Doing Nothing Doing), is inspired by the Taoist concept of doing by not doing; going with the flow of things. The installation is based on the art of bonsai and man’s endeavour to dominate and control nature. It addresses the paradox of progress leading to environmental damage. As for Austrian born artist Rainer Ganahl, the message is first and foremost economical. The art piece directly links to Bruges as a city – if only because it was created using 500 kilograms of the purest and most expensive Belgian chocolate. With it, Ganahl reflects on capitalism and the unfairness of trade. The sculpture, which was assembled by a real chocolatier, represents the Huis Ter Beurze, one of the first stock exchanges in the world that was based in Bruges, with the words ‘Uber Capitalism’ rotating above it. In the end, what strikes me most about the Bruges Triennial is how well the art pieces have integrated in a city protected and frozen in time. Both locals and

tourists are interacting with the installations with great pleasure. Before I left, I did however visit the Groeninge Museum to contemplate the paintings of Van Eyck, which, in their own way, complete the art fest that Bruges is offering us this summer. On the train home, it was the harmony of the ensemble that stayed with me. Bruges offered us a treat, a composition in its own, between the modern and the authentic.

Visit the Bruges Triennial The Triennial lasts until 18 October and is free. It includes 14 public, temporary outdoor installations in central Bruges and art exhibitions at three indoor locations, De Bond, the Town Hall and Arentshuis.

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Discover Benelux & France | Culture Trip | Royal Palace Amsterdam

A royal visit The past and present collide at the stunning Royal Palace Amsterdam. It is one of the most famous historical buildings in the Netherlands and still in use today by the Dutch Royal Family. When the King and Queen are not entertaining guests here, the palace is open to the public allowing visitors to literally walk in their footsteps TEXT: MyRIAM GWyNNED DIJCK | PHOTOS: ROyAL PALACE AMSTERDAM

The Royal Palace Amsterdam, located in the heart of the city, is the only palace in the Netherlands that is both in active use and available for the public to visit. The imposing 17th century building is certainly a sight to behold, and it is an important witness in the story of the Netherlands as a nation. To this day, history is still being written at the Royal Palace Amsterdam. Significant events take place throughout the year and people can see where this happens, which makes a visit extra special. The beds on display are still regularly being slept in and the tables are dined at by important guests from around the world.

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Apart from hosting state visits, awards ceremonies and royal weddings, the palace was also used during King Willem-Alexander’s inauguration as the Dutch head of state in 2013. The palace aims to reopen to the public the day after an event has taken place and thanks to this it is open during the majority of the time, about 60 per cent of the year.

Steeped in history The palace, also known as the Palace on Dam Square, was originally the grand Town Hall built in the Dutch Classicist style. It was completed in the mid-17th century when Amsterdam enjoyed a time of great prosperity during the Dutch Golden Age.

For a long time it was the largest administrative building in Europe and thanks to its splendour it also became a contender as Eighth Wonder of the World. While the outside of the palace has a relatively sober character, the inside is highly decorated. One of its most dramatic rooms is the Burgerzaal, or Citizens’ Hall, which is the first thing you see when you enter. The stunning hall was initially used as a public square and is very impressive with a ceiling of around 28 metres high, a large Atlas sculpture and intricate marble floors. Entering the palace is like walking into history with art and objects from three different

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Discover Benelux & France | Culture Trip | Royal Palace Amsterdam

ages. First there is the original collection of stunning 17th century paintings and sculptures, designed by the building’s architect Jacob van Campen. Secondly, there is the furniture, clocks and chandeliers collection amassed by Louis Bonaparte (brother of Napoleon) when he ruled as King of Holland. In 1808, he converted the building into a Royal Palace and much of the interior still dates from those years. In fact, the Empire Collection is one of the most complete and best preserved furniture collections of its kind. Lastly, there are the paintings of the Royal Collection dating from the 17th century onwards. It includes many portraits of the ancestors of the Royal Family.

Hidden stories The intended use of the building as a Town Hall is still apparent in the interior, even if it is not always obvious to a current-day beholder. To highlight the hidden messages and uncover these myths,

the palace is hosting a special exhibition starting this July called Hidden Stories. Everything inside and outside the building tells a story and this exhibition explains the meaning behind the statues and the paintings. One example is the relief of a scene from the story of Daedalus and Icarus in the Bankruptcy Chamber which signifies that pride comes before fall – a rather fitting message in a room where bankruptcy cases were dealt with. The palace is full of similar hidden messages, particularly from Greek and Roman mythology. At the time of construction these stories were much better known than nowadays. But as soon as the stories are revealed, visitors will spot them throughout the palace and start to read the building like a book. The Royal Palace Amsterdam hosts two special exhibitions yearly and is open to the public whenever it is not in use for events

or royal affairs. The palace is also where the yearly Royal Award for Modern Painting ceremony takes place, hosted by King Willem-Alexander.

Visit the Royal Palace Amsterdam The exhibition Hidden Stories runs from 3 July to 27 September. Entrance to the palace includes a free audio guide available in eight different languages. Before your visit please go to the website to make sure the palace is open to the public that day. The Royal Palace Amsterdam also occasionally hosts gallery talks on Sundays on specific themes and offers guided tours for groups.

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Discover Benelux & France | Culture Trip | Musée des Beaux-Arts of Bordeaux / Ctaste

An artistic love story between Bordeaux and Italy TEXT: BETTINA GUIRKINGER | PHOTOS: MUSéE DES BEAUX-ARTS OF BORDEAUX

Following the Orientalismes exhibition, and with the aim to provide a thematic experience to their audience, the Musée des Beaux-Arts of Bordeaux (Museum of Fine Arts) has now focussed around the intimate relationship between the city of Bordeaux and the Italian peninsula, for an exciting visit worth the detour. Founded in 1801, the Musée des BeauxArts of Bordeaux has survived the political turmoil of 19th and 20th century France. Today it has become a reference in European fine arts from the 15th up to the end of the 20th century. The Bordeaux-Italie exhibition aims to illustrate four centuries of fertile artistic relations between the capital of Gironde and the Italian peninsula since the Middle Ages. It does this through a collection that’s rich in masterpieces from the Italian school, from Perugino to Boldini, and continues through the Venetian school with its most outstanding representatives: Titian and Veronese. Through the 120 works exhibited the visitor is invited to marvel at pieces that for a large part come from the museum’s own reserves and therefore are rarely seen, such as the four frescos by Gaspard Dughet. On top of this, visitors will be able to enjoy composed

and sublimed landscapes from the 17th and 18th century, as well as paintings of worldrenowned Italian cities such as Venice, Rome and Naples. Lastly, the exhibition will look at the fundamental contribution of Italian art to Bordeaux’s artistic training through a selection of drawings and sculptures from the 18th to the 20th century. A delight for adults and younger visitors.

A restaurant for your bucket list TEXT: BERTHE VAN DEN HURK | PHOTOS: CTASTE

This restaurant is unlike any other in the Netherlands; Ctaste makes dining a whole new experience by turning off the lights. The Amsterdam-based restaurant Ctaste creates a memorable evening not just with high level service and great food, but because dinner is served in a pitch-black room. “You only know how dark dark is once you’ve visited us,” says Sandra Ballij, owner of Ctaste. “Dining in the dark makes you more aware of other elements like taste, smell and sound. It is a very funny and good learning experience, everyone should have on their bucket list.” Guests are guided and served by ‘experts of the dark’. These experts are blind and visually impaired people. Who else could do a better job serving in the dark? Ctaste was founded in 2007, after a likewise experience on a holiday.

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Ballij: “It showed so many possibilities. What society classifies as a weakness becomes a great strength and force. We can employ people for whom it is very difficult to find a job because of their visual limitations, and use the enhanced abilities they have as an advantage.” To get the total experience, they also offer ‘CtheCity’: a sensory exploration. Walk without vision through the Vondelpark, the red-light district and ride over the canals. Do not worry; it is all safely indoors and guided by experts of the dark. They will show you the way in the dark and the beautiful characteristics of Amsterdam. “It truly is an experience everyone remembers for a long time,” says Ballij. “People come for the experience and the good food, and leave with a new type of awareness.” and

Receive a free glass of Prosecco when you visit Ctaste / CtheCity by quoting the promotional code ‘Discover Benelux’ when making your booking.

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Discover Benelux & France | Culture Trip | Rotterdam Unlimited

One of the most popular elements of Rotterdam Unlimited is the Summer Carnival held on the Friday and Saturday (24-25 July).

An explosion of cultures The five-day festival Rotterdam Unlimited is a celebration of cultural diversity. It combines music, theatre, dance, poetry and a colourful Caribbean Carnival parade into one spectacular event focused on non-Western culture. From 21 to 25 July, Rotterdam Unlimited will once again take over the city in style. TEXT: MyRIAM GWyNNED DIJCK | PHOTOS: ROTTERDAM UNLIMITED

Festival founder and organiser Guus Dutrieux of DUCOS Productions says: “One of the best things about the festival is that it is truly for everyone. We have a great 50/50 mix of people who attend and enjoy it, with half coming from diverse non-Western cultural backgrounds and the other half from a Dutch or European heritage.”

limited is an expression of that, which celebrates this in a very varied way. But we also try to build bridges between high and low culture and groups of our multi-cultural society, like through discussion seminars for entrepreneurs.”

Top events at Rotterdam Unlimited Rotterdam, the Netherlands 21-25 July - For a night of unique stories see Mijn Vader, de Expat + Oumi, a mix of documentary filmmaking and spoken word about identity and migration (in Dutch and Arabic only, 23 July).

The event started two years ago as a fusion of the 35-year running cultural Dunya Festival and the Rotterdam Summer Carnival, which originated in the ‘80s and grew into the largest Caribbean Carnival in mainland Europe. Combined as Rotterdam Unlimited, the event is bigger and better than ever, attracting almost 900,000 visitors.

- For something a little different, join the Post-Apocalyptic Beauty Pageant, an open fashion workshop with a twist (registration via the website, 24 July).

Festivities and acts are held throughout Rotterdam at seven different venues and three outdoor stages, and many of them are free to attend. Dutrieux adds: “Non-Western and ethnic minority cultures are transforming cities across the world. Rotterdam Un-

- Turning Rotterdam in one big outdoor party is the Summer Carnival Street Parade, with spectacular dancers, colourful costumes and swinging music (24 and 25 July).

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- Dance to the funky sounds of R&B veteran George Clinton who will set the stage on fire together with The Parliament and Funkadelic (25 July).

One of the spectacular highlights of the festival is the Battle of the Drums, where three percussion and brass bands walk through the city. With their uplifting swing music they bring the crowds together at the main stage at the Hofplein, on Friday 24 July.

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Discover Benelux & France | Culture Trip | Sightseeing Rotterdam

Rotterdam’s highlights aboard the newest attraction With the most impressive skyline in the country, flamboyant architecture, dazzling cultural atmosphere and one of the world’s largest harbours, one could safely say that Rotterdam has it all – and there’s no better way to see it all than with Sightseeing Rotterdam. TEXT: PAOLA WESTBEEK | PHOTOS: SIGHTSEEING ROTTERDAM

For those visiting a new city, audio-guided bus tours provide an excellent way to quickly and conveniently become acquainted with most of the main attractions. After Rotterdam’s Splashtours (a one-of-akind excursion on a bus operating on both land and water) proved to be a huge success, recreational company Wielders Management decided the time was ripe to follow in the footsteps of cities such as London, Paris and Barcelona. This past April they launched Sightseeing Rotterdam, yet another tourist attraction that is rapidly becoming a favourite. The 60-minute city tour aboard an opentop bus comfortably accommodating 22 passengers, departs daily from Parkhaven and runs approximately six times per day during the high season. Highlights include

the Euromast; the architectonic phenomenon known as the Cubic Houses; Markthal, the country’s first covered market; the bustling Witte de Withstraat with its numerous restaurants, shops and galleries; and even Delftshaven, an historic and picturesque part of the city often overlooked by visitors. “Most tourists don’t go there,” says Stephanie Sippens, sales and marketing manager at Wielders. “We like to show them something else besides what’s in the city centre.” At the end of the tour, participants receive a map enabling them to further explore the city on their own. Those who are eager to experience more can also combine their trip with one of the various other activities on offer. “If you really want to see Rotterdam, you should include a water

tour, and the most fun way to do this is aboard our speedboat,” says Sippens. Travelling at 100 kilometres per hour, you will experience the skyline in a heartbeat while enjoying the adrenaline rush on the Maas River during the 20-minute ride. Other less adventurous – though not less enjoyable – arrangement options include rounding off the bus tour with dinner, drinks, lunch or a high tea. Available in six languages (among them the city’s dialect!), Sightseeing Rotterdam will leave no secret as to why the cosmopolitan Dutch city earned itself a place on the list of ‘must-see’ destinations in both The New York Times and Rough Guide last year.

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Discover Benelux & France | Culture Trip | Royal Delft

The world famous Delft Blue design is almost three and a half centuries old, yet it is booming. New high quality pottery is still being made in Delft.

Iconic Dutch design Delft Blue is a Dutch icon. The meticulously handcrafted pottery is famous all over the world, and is still made to this day. But did you know that Delft Blue has a Chinese origin? TEXT: JANINE STERENBORG | PHOTOS: ROyAL DELFT

While Delft Blue is one of the Netherlands’ icons, the typical white-blue designs have a Chinese origin. “In the 17th century, Dutch tradesman brought home popular Chinese porcelain," says tourism coordinator Helen Taylor. "When civil wars threw a spanner in the works, this was no longer possible and the Dutch began creating similar designs themselves.” Throughout the years, Dutch elements like windmills and characters in traditional clothing were added to the design. “Within a few decades, it turned into the Delft Blue as we now know it.” In Royal Delft, the only surviving factory where Delft Blue has been produced since 1653, you can learn all about the history of Delft Blue and how it is manufactured nowadays. During the Royal Delft experi-

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ence you will be guided through the history and the current production process of the iconic handmade pottery. A handful of master painters and their apprentices still work meticulously on the detailed designs. “Seeing a master painter work on official Royal Delft pottery with utmost precision is a fascinating sight!” says Taylor. She gives another glimpse of the tour’s interesting contents: “you’ll learn for instance that when the paint is applied to the already baked pottery, it’s black, but once it’s fired in the oven, it oxidises, giving it its blue colour. And the more water is mixed with the paint, the lighter the blue becomes. ” Being the only factory still creating Delft Blue products, the standards are high. “The recipe for the clay we use to create

our pottery is secret. And we quality check every piece of pottery extensively before it gets labelled ‘Royal Delft’. The shape should be perfect and the design spotless.” A tiny slip of the hand can create an unwanted dot. “The imperfect items are of course still beautiful, and are available as second choice items in the shop.” Besides exploring the history and the factory, you can take part in a painting workshop (which you should book beforehand) or enjoy a delicious lunch in the lunchroom overlooking the gorgeous courtyard.

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Discover Benelux & France | Culture Trip | Amstel Gallery

Artist: Axel Crieger

Artist: Alex & Felix

Artist: Michael Torquato DeNicola

Artist: Patricia Steur

Art with impact Art is a great way to give a home, an office or other space a unique character and a flair of creativity. Finding the right works to go with your brand or personal taste can be difficult, but thanks to the Amstel Gallery, a wide variety of high-end contemporary art is now accessible to all. TEXT: MyRIAM GWyNNED DIJCK | PHOTOS: AMSTEL GALLERy

The gallery has a portfolio of professional international artists particularly from the United States, England and the Netherlands. Their works range from creative photography, thought provoking portraits, vivid contemporary paintings and everything in between.

york and is looking at opening a full gallery in Miami. She adds: “Our strength is our focus on art with an impact. A lot of new contemporary art looks alike, but we search for unique works that are different, that make a statement; art you will remember.”

Amstel Gallery founder and owner Petra Leene says: “Many of the works we have are exclusively available through us. What connects the artists is the fact they want to portray a point of view, send a message. We specialise in compelling, progressive and personal works, with a slight focus on photography and portraiture.”

Some of the artists include fashion designer and painter Mart Visser, portrait photographer Patricia Steur and designer Axel Crieger who is known for his photo collages of famous icons. “We recently also added Michael Torquato DeNicola who paints on surfboards and Mei Xian Qiu who comments on the China regime with her photographs,” Leene comments.

Amstel Gallery was founded in Amsterdam in 2008 and has expanded quickly. It now has a second office on Fifth Avenue in New

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The Amstel Gallery has all its latest works available online and by appointment you

can view the art in person at the gallery location in Amsterdam. It caters to both individuals and companies wanting to buy a single piece or a series. Many of Amstel Gallery’s artworks are also exclusively available through, a world leading online market place for art and objects.

Amstel Gallery will attend the following fairs: - Art Silicon Valley, 8-11 October - Art Miami, 1-6 December

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Discover Benelux & France | Culture Trip | Van Gogh

The Van Gogh Huis, Zundert, the birthplace of the master painter.


From village idiot to worldwide celebrated genius The irony of Vincent van Gogh's life is one which the art community knows all too well. The man who people shunned and ignored in life, who became a legend in death. Even now, over a century since his passing, we regard Van Gogh as a master artist and continue to praise his work. TEXT: BERTHE VAN DEN HURK | PHOTOS: © VAN GOGH MUSEUM, AMSTERDAM (VINCENT VAN GOGH FOUNDATION)

Ask anyone to tell something about Vincent van Gogh and the answer will usually be 'the man who cut-off his own ear'. Vincent van Gogh is well-known as a tormented and underappreciated artist, only receiving worldwide recognition and fame when he was not alive to see it. But things are different nowadays. We all love Vincent, crazy but genius Vincent. We want to see the spots where he lived, worked and got inspired. As it is the 125th anniversary of Vincent’s death, several European cities in the Netherlands, Belgium, France and England celebrate the life and works of

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Van Gogh all year long with special exhibitions and events themed ‘125 years of inspiration’.

From trader to preacher Vincent van Gogh was born on 30 March 1853, in the Brabant village of Zundert. As a child, he was a taciturn, somewhat introverted boy. After attending several schools, at 16 Vincent started working for his uncle, who traded in art. In 1873, he was sent to London, but depression officially led to his dismissal in 1876. According to Rebecca Nelemans, an art historian

specialised in Van Gogh, this was just an excuse. “He was very opinionated and had a clear vision on how art should be, and wasn’t afraid to tell people. Vincent was a complex guy, which is sometimes understood as maladjusted and unfriendly.” Initially, following the art trading debacle, Vincent wanted to become a preacher like his father. He attended a short training course at a missionary school in Laeken, a village near Brussels. In December 1878, Vincent was sent to a region in Belgium which was known for its coal industry. He

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Discover Benelux & France | Culture Trip | Van Gogh

Water Mill at Gennep, 1884

worked among the miners as a lay preacher. According to Nelemans, Vincent was so empathetic, that he started to live like the miners. “There were class differences at the time, and the church didn’t want Vincent to live with people ‘beneath’ him, after all, he was a part of the church.” Due to excessive missionary zeal and the difficulty of dealing with him, the Belgium protestant community rejected him as preacher. Vincent desperately wanted to escape this miserable period, and find his purpose in life. During his time at the mines he started to believe that he could have an artistic vocation. Vincent began to make sketches and drawings of the outdoors, miners and people of humble origins. The drawings were still somewhat clumsy but expressive and quirky. He considered most of these drawings as failures and threw them away, therefore not many works from this period survived.

A late-blooming artist Vincent started his professional artist career relatively late, only from age 30 did he start to develop his craft. He gained a great deal of knowledge about art at the time he worked for his uncle, but had never revealed a talent for painting or drawing. After moving around in the Netherlands, Vincent moved back in with his parents, who lived in Nuenen, a small Dutch town in the province of Brabant. The locals often referred to him as the ‘village idiot’. Hans Keijzer, guide of museum ‘Vincentre’ in Nuenen explains why: “At that time Nuenen

had only 2,560 inhabitants and life was tough. Everybody worked hard to survive and the preacher’s son strolls around the village with painting materials. To them Vincent was acting really weirdly.” There were interviews held with fellow villagers, so there is still knowledge about this period. Keijzer: “A fellow villager of Vincent said ‘he was as normal as anyone, but many, many people called him ‘the village idiot’. Probably because when he was looking for a place to paint, he walked back and forth looking around with narrowed eyes. Eventually, he marked the best spot with his foot and came back the next day to paint.’ Another nickname people gave Vincent was ‘het schildersmenneke’ (the painter-boy), which was somewhat friendlier.” In the two years Vincent lived with his parents in Nuenen, he created a quarter of his entire work, a total of 551 paintings. In this period Vincent often captured the harsh peasant life, all quite dreary and dark (read more about Van Gogh’s legacy in Nuenen on page 49).

Leaving the Netherlands In March 1885, Vincent’s father died unexpectedly. A month later Vincent creates the sombre, but very expressive masterpiece The Potato Eaters, followed by him leaving the Netherlands for good. Keijzer: “After his father’s death, the pastor of the Roman Catholic Church took the opportunity to make it impossible for Vincent to find models. The priest had warned Vincent

Portrait of a Woman with a Red Ribbon, 1885 © Private Collection

earlier that he shouldn’t deal with those beneath him. Eventually, the pastor told the parishioners that he would give them money if they stopped posing. The lack of models was one of the reasons for Vincent to leave Nuenen.” Vincent then settled in Antwerp searching for female models at variety theaters, dance cafés and brothels. But a lack of money prevents him from working. Eventually Vincent receives payments from his brother Theo (who supports him his whole life), and he is able to pay for a female model which resulted in Portrait of a Woman With Red Ribbon (1885). This painting presented a complete change of style; up to this moment all his works were sombre but this portrait has bright colours. In 1886, he moved to Paris to live with his

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Discover Benelux & France | Culture Trip | Van Gogh

brother. Here the style transformation is complete and Vincent adopts clear and vibrant colour schemes and applies the paint in a wider variety of brushstrokes. Inspired by the latest artistic developments such as neo-Impressionists Seurat and Signac, Vincent becomes the post-impressionist painter we know.

A tormented painter While his works may have become more colourful, his life definitely did not. During his years in France, Vincent suffers from syphilis, tinnitus and mental breakdowns. At age 37, on the 29 July 1890, Vincent dies in Auvers-sur-Oise, a small commune village just outside Paris. It is generally accepted that he committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. There are reasons to believe that the fatal shot may have been fired during an obscure incident with two boys, but hard evidence has not been found. It was only thanks to the support of Theo that Vincent could live as an artist. Rumours say he only sold one painting in his life time, several weeks before his death, others suggest it was just after his death. What we do know is that slowly, around the end of his life, people started to see his qualities as a painter. Vincent was aware of his own potential much sooner, says Hans Keijzer. When Vincent gave a painting to his

friend Anton Kerssemakers, he is thought to have said: ‘They will eventually know my work and write sometimes about me when I’m dead. I’ll make sure of that, if I have enough time to live.’

See Vincent in the Netherlands: - Nuenen: See Discover the Netherlands: Where Van Gogh comes alive page 49. - Zundert: Vincent’s birth place. The Vincent van Gogh House is built on the exact spot he was born. It is an interactive museum where visitors learn more about his childhood and family life.

Path in Montmartre, Paris, April - May 1886.

- Etten-Leur: The Vincent van Gogh Church displays nine colorful windows which show the themes of Vincent short period in Etten-Leur, a relatively unknown period of his life. - Den Bosch: The Noordbrabants Museum has two original Van Gogh paintings on permanent display, and for ‘125 years of inspiration’ it has a special exhibition from 10 October to 20 December. - Tilburg: Vincent’s Tekenlokaal (Vincent’s art room) were Vincent went to school at age 13.

Houses Seen from the Back, Antwerp, December 1885 - February 1886.

Wheatfield with Crows, Auvers-sur-Oise, July 1890.

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The Vincent van Gogh Church, Etten-Leur.

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Discover Benelux & France | City Feature | Nuenen Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen Š Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).


Nuenen: Where Van Gogh comes alive Discover Benelux & France travelled to a small town in the Netherlands to follow the footsteps of one of the greatest and most mysterious painters the world has ever known. The small town of Nuenen, just east of Eindhoven, has a sleepy character but yet a surprising variety of Vincent van Gogh memories can be found on street every corner. TEXT & PHOTOS: NANE STEINHOFF

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Discover Benelux & France | City Feature | Nuenen

This year sees the 125th anniversary of Vincent van Gogh’s death, so we wanted to see how the Dutch are commemorating their greatest painter. We heard about a secluded rural village in the province of North Brabant, where Van Gogh spent a number of years, and jumped on the plane. With hopes for finding an authentic Dutch village with a great deal of history, far off the beaten tourist track we weren’t disappointed. Located in the south-central region of the Netherlands, Nuenen is just under two hours away from Amsterdam by train and bus (as the village doesn’t have its own train station). On our way to the village

where Vincent’s parents lived during his early-adult years, we soon notice that the whole country has already caught the Van Gogh fever. We pass several towns where the streets are lined with small easels. Almost every family has decorated their front yard with either a photocopied version of a Van Gogh painting or their own painted canvas. With only 22,000 inhabitants, Nuenen is still a little hidden gem. Van Gogh lived here from 1883 to 1885 at his parents’ house while creating one quarter of his oeuvre, including the famous The Potato Eaters. It is nestled in beautiful woodland and wide meadows, so it’s easy to see how Van Gogh got inspired to paint peasants, weavers and rural labourers. When we arrive at the town’s Van Gogh centre, the Vincentre, we are greeted by Remmet van Luttervelt who offered to be our guide for the day. Situated in the former town council offices, the Vincentre celebrates the artist’s history in Nuenen, using innovative audiovisual techniques in interactive exhibitions. We listen to his stories and read his letters and discover what the village was like 1883.

The village as a museum Next we visit the so-called ‘Outdoor Museum’, reminders of Van Gogh’s presence throughout the whole of Nuenen. Comprising of 22 locations, you can explore his past on your own initiative or book a guided tour with one of the many multilingual guides of the Vincentre. Fourteen of the locations were painted or drawn by Vincent and the other seven were mostly the houses of his ‘models’. Many of these locations have an information column installed giving you the story behind them. From the Vincentre, the ‘Vincent Affair’ in Nune Ville is just a few steps away. The splendid house was once the home of Margot Begemann and her family. When Van Gogh’s mother injured her leg in 1884, Margot helped to nurse her. Friendship between Vincent and Margot quickly grew into love and she is thought to be the only woman to have loved him. Unfortunately, her conservative sisters disapproved and the relationship ended in tragedy. The inspiring place is perfect for exploring the world from a different perspective like the painter did, and an interesting contemporary art project has been brought to life with the house’s rooms individually transformed by different artists until October.

Stepping onto the canvas Next door to the 'Vincent Affair', we find Van Gogh’s parents’ house. His father was a pastor and in 1882 the family moved to the local vicarage which was painted by

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Discover Benelux & France | City Feature | Nuenen

Head of a Woman, 1885 © Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).

Van Gogh on numerous occasions. As the house is still a private vicarage today, we aren’t able to look inside but we walk around the house to look at the tiny laundry room where Vincent used to paint. A small sandy path leads us alongside Van Gogh’s former backyard. Remmet tells me to stand on a certain point and look through the garden fence and there it is: trees surrounding and a small church – exactly like in his painting Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen. It’s fascinating to witness the same scenes that were put on canvas by Van Gogh. After a short walk through the quiet city centre, we arrive at the church where Vincent’s father used to preach – also often drawn and painted by Vincent. Here the information column with audio commentary is perfectly positioned so we can view

The Vincent van Gogh statue in Nuenen.

the site through Vincent’s eyes. It feels fantastic to stand on the exact spot where Vincent made sketches. Across the road, we find the post office where Vincent posted letters to his brother, Theo. We pass an old weaver’s house, which also returns in the paintings, and a Van Gogh statue in the town centre’s park. Here Remmet tells us a magnificent story. Van Gogh’s second house in Nuenen, where he moved to after living with his parents, once stood close to here. Now knocked down, people recently found old paint tubes in the ground which are likely to be from the artist himself.

ten, a historic water mill. On our way over, we pass the imposing Roosdonck windmill, which features as a backdrop for various peasant scenes by Van Gogh. Just next to it, we catch a glance of the former house of the De Groot family, here Vincent drew The Potato Eaters. The beautiful and secluded Watermolen van Opwetten was also painted by Vincent (Water mill at Opwetten, 1884) and now includes a great restaurant with beautiful old beams and a cosy ambience. We order the Van Goghinspired lunch with local, traditional dishes and the pumpkin soup with a mackerel sandwich and cheese go down a treat.

Lunch with Van Gogh

Afterwards, we view the water mill which is still operational and opens its doors to visitors on the weekends. Before our ways part, Remmet tells us that he met Piet van Hoorn here, who lived at the mill. The old man used to tell stories of his old friend Vincent van Gogh. As a young boy, Piet would search for bird’s nests so the artist could paint them. It was strange to talk to those who knew a man who grew up with Van Gogh himself. We expected a lot from Nuenen but not that we would get this close to the famous painter.

Then it’s time for a late lunch. A short drive from the village centre, or in Remmet’s case a bike ride as it befits a real Dutchman, stands the Watermolen van Opwet-

Weaver, 1884 © Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).

Then it was time to say goodbye to Remmet and we thanked him for the great tour and headed back to Schiphol Airport. Nuenen is a place to explore, see, feel and taste Van Gogh, which not many tourists have discovered yet. you probably can’t get any closer to Van Gogh than here.

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Discover Benelux & France | Business | Intro

72 - Drillster

70 - KeyKeg

62 - Luxembourg Bar

56 - Apollo Strategists



While the holiday season is in full swing, this is no reason for business owners and entrepreneurs to take a step back. This month, our extended business section once again reveals the professional innovation that comes as a second nature to the ventures in the Benelux and French regions. Apart from the three special segments, we also have our regular columnists and business calendar to close the business section. This month, Steve Flinders discusses the value of smart architecture and Josiah Fisk recounts an excellent customer service experience that cost him 13 euros.

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60 - Luxembourg School of Finance

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Discover Benelux & France | Interview | Marc Saluzzi


Investment funds and asset management With extensive knowledge of worldwide asset management through his work at PwC and 25 years of experience in financial services, there are few people who know more about investment funds than Marc Saluzzi. For the last four years he has been the chair of ALFI (the Luxembourg Investment Funds Association) and we asked him to tell us more. TEXT: MyRIAM GWyNNED DIJCK | PHOTO: ALFI

Luxembourg is the largest investment fund distribution platform in Europe, why it is so successful? While Luxembourg is the second largest fund centre globally, the number one, the United States, has a very domestic market, making Luxembourg the largest and most international distribution platform. With the introduction of UCITS (Undertakings for Collective Investments in Transferable Securities), providing Europe with a single regulatory framework for investment vehicles, a cross-border fund market started to emerge. Luxembourg had the dream to be at the centre of this, while other markets mainly saw the domestic benefits. Luxembourg made that bet and although it took a long time, that dream has now paid off.

In relation to your work at ALFI, how would you define its key missions?

asset managers will be key to manage these assets and provide investment solutions and expertise to these investors.

Through ALFI we first lobby regulators in Luxembourg, Brussels and other key distribution markets for fund access to make sure they feel confident with our Luxembourg UCITS products. Secondly, we do promotion in the form of conferences, seminars and briefings at home and abroad in current and new markets. Furthermore, we offer education to our members on for example the latest tax developments or regulation changes and commission surveys and studies. Lastly, we also promote savings and investments to the retail public via press releases, podcasts and videos on our website.

What is it about asset management that personally attracts you to it?

In which areas of asset management do you expect to see the most growth in the next few years?

In the ’80s the industry saw the opportunity to turn asset management into the third pillar of the financial services industry after the banking and insurance sectors. Asset management is the most global of the three, and this international dimension appealed to me. Moreover, it serves a purpose, it is part of the arrangement of society as asset management is not just a means of investment. This makes working in the industry very rewarding.

There are three major current trends that will help asset management progress in the future. Firstly, there is the global emergence of the middle class who will want to invest. Secondly, the real economy in Europe is currently financed by banks, but capital markets are taking over. Asset management will have a role to play in this transformation channeling savings to fund this. Lastly, more pension systems are put in place, especially in Asia and Latin America. As they develop,

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Discover Benelux & France | Business | Serge de Cillia


The insider’s view of banking in Luxembourg Luxembourg national Serge de Cillia has spent his entire career in the banking sector, with experience in areas such as retail banking, private banking, international wealth management, training and education and quality management. Currently he is CEO of ABBL (the Luxembourg Bankers’ Association) and shares his wealth of experience for this issue of Discover Benelux & France, giving us an insider’s view of the Luxembourg private banking world. TEXT: SERGE DE CILLIA | PHOTO: ABBL

The current economic and market environment in which Luxembourg-based private banks are evolving is undergoing profound changes. Indeed, private banks have to respond to increased and ever-changing regulatory requirements, such tax transparency as well as forthcoming suitability and anti-money laundering requirements. Luxembourg took decades to steadily build its financial sector and its supervising authorities. Its private bankers are specialised international financial intermediaries matching client business and objectives with investment opportunities in a fully compliant manner. With over 300 billion euros of Assets under Management (AuM), representing around a six per cent market share of international private banking, Luxembourg

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is one of the leading wealth management centres in the world and first in the Eurozone. Luxembourg private bankers have the advantage of being multilingual, multicultural and familiar with international business, tax and regulatory environments. They also have access to a broad range of financial service competencies in Luxembourg, including wealth planning, asset management, regulated investment structures and vehicles, philanthropic undertakings, microfinance, and more…the socalled ‘Luxembourg tool box’. Today, one of the main challenges Luxembourg private bankers face is that the financial crisis has to some extent led to a

‘renationalisation’ of financial markets and a tendency towards less rather than more financial integration – in Europe and worldwide. This financial protectionism is hurting small open financial centers like Luxembourg. There is little Luxembourg can do about that but it may be worthwhile raising this issue: integrated financial markets are beneficial for the economies in Europe and elsewhere and protectionism is hurting them. It is therefore important to draw the right lessons from the crisis: the risks associated with international capital flows must not be controlled by simply reversing financial integration. Serge de Cillia, CEO of the ABBL

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Discover real Private Banking At SEB Private Banking, we acknowledge that everyone has a unique set of challenges. It’s why we do not offer ready-made solutions, concentrating instead on developing meaningful, long-lasting financial relationships and making the effort to really understand you and your requirements. Our international network of private banking offices will look after all aspects of your family business finances, from daily transactions to long term investments. Its services cover everything from tailored financial management, through to helping you to optimise the legal and tax structures within which your assets are held. As one of the world’s strongest banks and with more than 150 years of experience in private banking, we have just what it takes to ensure your future prosperity. To find out what SEB can do for your personal wealth, contact us in London: Our SEB Private Banking Team +44 (0) 20 7246 4225



Sweden • Norway • Denmark • Finland • Luxembourg • Switzerland • United Kingdom • Singapore • Estonia • Latvia • Lithuania

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Discover Benelux & France | Business | Apollo Strategists

Strategic communication for business excellence Authentic branding and effective corporate communication are at the heart of any successful company. It can help to increase value, drive innovation, boost sales, enhance credibility and improve employee wellbeing. To achieve this in the best possible way, there are the communication strategy experts at Apollo to help your business. TEXT: MyRIAM GWyNNED DIJCK | PHOTOS: APOLLO STRATEGISTS

Based in Luxembourg, Apollo Strategists continuously strive for excellence within corporate communication. It has a wide range of clients, including public institutions, local businesses and international firms. Distinguishing themselves from other communication strategists, Apollo doesn’t work as a project-based agency. Instead, it builds relationships with its clients for a long term cooperation. Founder and general director Pascale Kauffman says: “Communication agencies tend to concentrate on communication instruments rather than the strategy. We are here to fill that gap. We are not your typi-

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cal agency that launch a communication project or marketing campaign, instead we are the ones who do the ground work before anyone else comes in.”

Filling the communication gap Kauffman has 12 years of previous experience working in corporate communication, particularly in marketing, development and sales and has an additional five years’ experience working as head of communication and PR at the City of Luxembourg office. She says: “I realised there was a gap in many communication strategies. Tradi-

tionally, these grow organically with the company, but now with an increased spectrum of media outlets, communication teams are often working under high pressure from project to project. They don’t have the option to really dig deep down and consider the overall direction.”

A relationship of trust Focussing on long term partnerships, Apollo Strategists take a determined approach to their work. Kauffman: “When we talk about ‘we’, we mean the client and ourselves. We don’t work from the outside and walk away, we walk along the path with them. This also means we don’t

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Discover Benelux & France | Business | Apollo Strategists

simply try to accommodate wishes, but really consider what a company needs and sometimes we need to be critical to progress together.” Apollo Strategists starts by working very closely with their clients to uncover the essence of the company, their culture, values and goals. It features analysis and audits of weaknesses and strengths of existing PR and communication teams. Then Apollo will devise a strategy, help with restructuring and setting up temporary management of new communication teams to implement the policies. “After an intense first period, we transition to a stage where we will either continue to walk along with clients or advise them when needed. We of course keep a close eye on the developments within the company so we can instantly give an optimal service that our clients can trust if a question arises,” she explains. “A good, authentic communication strategy will help to increase value for shareholders, protect a company against a crisis and attract talent.”

A strategy in action Recently some of Apollo’s clients were caught up in a crisis situation. Kauffman continues: “While the business is highly secured, some customers deal with a level of natural risk due to the industries the clients operate in. When they were hit by a crisis, it was our job to go through a series of key communication positions to handle the situation.” When a crisis is caused by an incident with international implications, it may turn into a week-long, 24-hour ordeal. Apollo helps the companies to swiftly react and eventually recover completely. “We were able to protect the brand and the people, humans with real emotions, inside and outside the company and continued to do so until the critical peak of the crisis was surmounted,” she adds. During crises, the future of a company can be at stake but there is a way to avert this. “Work like hell while staying calm on the outside,” she says. “When events arise,

Apollo Strategists founder and general director Pascale Kauffman.

you have to make enormous decisions at the right moment while being under immense pressure. Had we not, together with all stakeholders, reacted to crisis in the exact way we did, some companies may not have reached as quickly the industry leadership position they have today.”

Adopting strategies This sense of accomplishment is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job, but Kauffman also finds it very satisfying when a communication strategy is adopted naturally. “We come up with strategies that suit a company, so it is very rewarding when staff really like our results and work with our advice naturally.” Apollo Strategists is located in Luxembourg and has a diverse portfolio of clients including leading law and architecture firms, aviation businesses, global technology companies and cultural and govern-

mental organisations. Working together with creative partners such as research companies, advertising, design and event agencies, Apollo ensures successful implementation of tailor-made, end-to-end solutions. Apollo provides its communication consultancy in English, French and German. Workshops or verbal communication can also be given in Luxembourgish and Italian. +352 26 20 28 38 33

On 17 September 2015, Apollo Strategists is holding a workshop on ‘branding’ at Neumünster in Luxembourg City, see for more information.

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Centuria Capital Luxembourg managing director Thierry Grosjean.

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Discover Benelux & France | Business | Centuria

Excel your business in Luxembourg If you are a business owner or want to create a new start-up, Luxembourg is a very attractive country to base yourself at. Located at the centre of Europe, with many of the continent’s major capitals a short flight or drive away, and a thriving international business scene, it is no surprise that the Grand Duchy attracts many business professionals. TEXT: MyRIAM GWyNNED DIJCK | PHOTO: CENTURIA

Relocating to Luxembourg for business purposes can be a daunting task. Working out the legal requirements, tax frameworks and business regulations for a domiciliation can put extra stress on your (professional) life, in particular as an entrepreneur with a new start up. To take care of these issues, Centuria Capital Luxembourg can help your business to get settled in more quickly and efficiently. “We work as a domiciliation agent in the classic term, helping business get started in Luxembourg, but have evolved to do much more than just that,” says managing director Thierry Grosjean.

A personal approach Centuria specialises in tax restructuring, company incorporation and administration and company accounting and tax services. It is run by a young and dynamic team that focuses on the needs and interests of its clients with a guarantee for quality and excellence. Apart from that, it also offers additional services like through the Family Office. “We attract many high net worth customers and entrepreneurs. We can help these clients on a personal level via our Family Office, coming up with tailor-made solutions for each client’s individual needs,” Grosjean continues. The Centuria Family Office offers services such as financial, fiscal and succession

planning and compiling asset and liability statements. “Added to this we can help with small activities such as personal registration and advising families on the schools available – we are a complete agent,” he says. Centuria can apply their expertise to many different kinds of companies, including commercial enterprises, holding companies, wealth businesses, security firms and specialist investment funds.

Geographical advantage Business domiciliation in Luxembourg can be a more efficient option for companies because of the international character of the country’s professional landscape and its global outlook. “People manly relocate here for geographical reasons. They want to start a real company with real desks, management and staff all in Luxembourg in total transparency with both the country of origin and Luxembourg. Many of our customers come from Europe, like France, Germany and Scandinavia, as well as from the Middle East,” Grosjean explains. The experts at Centuria offer services related to domiciliation, legal and tax structuring, company incorporation and accounting. With its nine years of experience, Centuria can obtain documents faster, advise on business and life questions as well as administrative matters. He says: “For us it’s all about creating a relationship of trust with our customers, they need to know that they can

count on us, especially concerning high net worth customers.”

International business hub Centuria Capital Luxembourg was created in 2006 as a professional finance service. It later on moved into domiciliation activities and administration services. It opened its Family Office in 2013 and last year it set up a brand new Business Centre. “In 2014 we moved from our central Luxembourg office to a larger building in Leudelange in the south of the City of Luxembourg. Here we have created a real Business Centre for our customers where we provide workspace for small businesses and individuals,” Grosjean continues. The Business Centre is the perfect place for a business to locate themselves, either temporarily or for a longer period of time. The options range from renting out a single desk space, to hiring a small office set up. He concludes: “We can provide almost everything alongside our normal services. It is the perfect space for new businesses to set up and because we bring internationally-minded business professionals together, people will also benefit greatly from the networking opportunities that the Business Centre presents.”

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Theoharry Grammatikos, Professor of Finance, Corporate Finance course.

Masters of the financial future The Grand Duchy has punched well above its weight in the financial world for decades, and the Luxembourg School of Finance is working to ensure that situation won’t be changing anytime soon. TEXT: MARTIN PILKINGTON | PHOTOS: LUXEMBOURG SCHOOL OF FINANCE

It’s perhaps surprising that in a state where banking and finance are at the heart of the economy, Luxembourg’s School of Finance was only established 12 years ago. It actually predated by a year the University of Luxembourg of which it’s now a fully integrated component, the country’s inhabitants previously seeking tertiary education beyond its borders. “We were started with support from both the government and the Banking Association in Luxembourg,” explains Julian Presber, one of its managers: “Originally we offered part-time courses to bank employees and finance professionals, to allow them to upgrade their qualifications to a Master’s

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degree. When the university was created we introduced a full-time course."

Professional and friendly “Our focus is students getting a Master’s qualification in their chosen area, but also professionals getting a Master’s to supplement their previous qualifications, doing so on a part-time basis that’s ‘professionalfriendly’. Part-timers tend to have families and houses and all those things people have between 30 and 40, the age group we’re looking at; full-timers tend to be between 25 and 30," Presber says. The Banking and Finance Master’s, that was the LSF’s initial programme, is a

broad, classical banking and finance course. Two years ago, at the behest of the Private Banking Group within Luxembourg’s Banking Association, the school developed a Masters course in Wealth Management, together with an Executive Certificate Programme in Wealth Management targeting senior wealth management professionals. Clearly the relationships with financial institutions that began at its foundation remain key to the school’s ethos. “Student contact is all important, with professors, other students and practitioners,” continues Presber: “So while our Master’s courses are based mainly on classroom time, our approach seeks to marry the ac-

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Discover Benelux & France | Business | Luxembourg School of Finance

ademic and theoretical with the real world, the professional side.” He cites as examples of this with the annual autumn colloquium organised with Clearstream Banking, and the presentations held weekly throughout the academic year where companies or subject matter experts spend an hour explaining what they do and how they do it.

Jos Van Bommel, Professor of Finance, Investment Banking course.

‘A total experience’ Running parallel to classroom courses are seminars where visiting practitioners and academics, experts from around the world, are invited by the school to talk about a subject to students and faculty: “It’s designed to be a total experience, not just classic classroom-centred study. At the Clearstream colloquium there’s a great mix of students, faculty and professionals, and the exchange of knowledge goes both ways.” The recent success of their Executive Wealth Management Programme is another way the school has forged stronger links with practitioners, senior bankers with at least seven years’ experience updating their knowledge in a certificate course with 20 days of class-time spread over four months. The interchange with financial institutions benefits all the stakeholders. “We work hard to strengthen our connections with the financial sector, it helps students get good jobs afterwards, maintains our expertise here, and in return helps the sector,” says Presber: “Deutsche Bank, who fund a Chair in Finance at the school occupied by a renowned professor, have hired at least one of our students to get every year; Clearstream provides internships and they too usually employ one graduate. Schroders Asset Management host between five and ten interns annually, hiring the majority afterwards; likewise Franklin Templeton, another global asset management player with which we have a partnership, employed a student.”

International outlook Close contact with practitioners helps students build their careers, and so in future years may the networking facilitated by LSF’s international outlook. The part-timers are mainly working in the Luxembourg market, but in the Banking and Finance full-time

class of 36, only three or four students typically come from the greater region, the rest are attracted from across the globe. Those overseas students bring their particular cultural insights to the school, a situation mirrored in the academic staff where half are visiting professors bringing with them scholarships developed in many of the world’s leading universities. Even a finance school’s success isn’t measured just in figures, though student numbers doubling over the last few years is impressive. For the LSF the greatest success is melding the too often separate worlds of academia and high finance: “There are clear synergies between the school and the financial sector, academic work and experts in the practical field: the challenge is to capture them,” says Presber: “To do that we must do things of value to people, and get the juices flowing through contact and exchange in different and dynamic ways.”

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Discover Benelux & France | Business | Lawyer Services

Photo: Christian Kieffer / ONT Luxembourg

Prospering lawyer services in the Grand Duchy The Luxembourg Bar is one of two orders of legal professionals independent of the state and the magistrature, endowed with the status of legal person. Each order enjoys territorial competence in one of two geographic areas, Luxembourg or Diekirch, where the barristers for each must be registered. TEXT & MAIN PHOTO: BARREAU OF LUXEMBOURG

Regarding the numbers of barristers, the Luxembourg Bar is the more significant, with more than 2,230 lawyers, as compared to 34 in Diekirch. Within that total, some 1,000 are women. There is enormous diversity, with more than 35 different nationalities represented. Over the last ten years and more, the number of lawyers and of major international firms has risen, as well as European lawyers practising under their original status, who have established themselves in Luxembourg.

linked not just to the financial sphere but equally, to name a few, to the telecommunications sector and its ‘data centres’, to the insurance and re-insurance markets, to ships sailing under Luxembourg’s colours, or to the investment industry. The lawyers belonging to the Luxembourg Bar meet the expectations and needs of the actors and decision makers in these activities, whether that be with advice or in dispute resolution in the courts or otherwise.

Just as those in the economic and financial worlds have done, the Luxembourg Bar is responding positively to these changes and to that dynamic, working with them in a constructive manner. Socially and culturally diverse, it is the open, modern, young and international qualities that in turn bring it originality and strength.

This, along with Luxembourg’s central position within the EU, explains why there is such a significant ratio of lawyers per head of population in the Grand Duchy. In addition to such spheres of activity almost half of our barristers litigate in other fields such as civil, family, criminal law and commercial law.

The Bar’s importance and its renown, nationally as well as the internationally, are

In spite of the many specialisms required within the diverse activities in which the

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Bar is involved, it is totally dedicated to the preservation of the profession as a single unique entity. Alive to the evolution of laws and of jurisprudence, the Bar offers several – free of charge – continuous professional development events every year. Supplementary conferences and seminars in particular topics and subjects enrich the training of young barristers. Thanks to its relations with other Bar Associations within the EU, the Luxembourg Bar enjoys fraternal and preferential contacts with the Bars of other countries and continents, in particular that of Mali which sadly is currently having to live through difficult times. The Luxembourg Bar willingly and fully embraces the role of the Bar for the capital of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and is its ambassador wherever in the world it operates.

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Thank you to all who have contributed to the unfolding of our success story in Luxembourg. Banking & Finance | Capital Markets | Corporate and M&A | Employment IP & TMT | Investment Management | Litigation | Real estate | Tax


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Discover Benelux & France | Business | AS Avocats

Luc Schaack, Partner at AS Avocats, Member of various philanthropic organisations,

Pria Nayagu, corporate law, IP.

former honorary correspondent of UNHCR for Luxembourg.

Rachel Lezzeri, medical law, construction law, inheritance law.

Gilles Boileau, criminal law, contract law.

A specialist of law With legal cases being as diverse and complex as people themselves, being a generalist can sometimes shine the light on solutions that may go unnoticed by a specialist working from a particular view point. One such legal generalist is Luxembourg-based AS Avocats. TEXT: MyRIAM GWyNNED DIJCK | PHOTOS: AS AVOCATS

AS Avocats is an independent, medium-sized general law firm – a choice that the partners have consciously made. “Our clients appreciate that we do not only specialise in one area of law. We can offer wide ranging services and are not restricted to a specific field,” says Nathalie Weber-Frisch, partner at AS Avocats.

prevention too. She continues: “We propose workshops for our clients to give extra information that can help them do things right and progress in their respective positions. This ‘educational’ role expresses itself in both continuous guidance and advice at specific moments.”

Diverse portfolio Thanks to its size, the firm can maintain close relationships with its clients. Knowing them personally helps to create targeted, tailormade solutions. She says: “Clients don’t just come to us when a problem arises, they will also call us for advice or direction. It is a proactive and reactive continuous relationship that we have with clients.” AS Avocats’ proactive stance goes much further. Rather than just helping a business with their current legal issues, it works on

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Set up in the 1970s, AS Avocats was founded by Roland Assa as a litigation law firm. It then developed expertise across other areas. “We offer our lawyers the possibility to develop in their chosen area of law. It is important to have competent people, and it helps us to diversify naturally and offer a full range of services to our clients, thanks to the diversity of our lawyers,” Nathalie WeberFrisch explains. Most of the firm’s clients are either small or medium-sized companies or individuals with

a high personal net worth. Areas that the firm often touch upon are medical responsibility, civil law, inheritance disputes, corporate and tax law, labour law, administrative law, investor protection and construction law. It also deals with mediation and national and international arbitration, particularly in the corporate field. “An arbitrator must handle important cases without having any risk of conflict of interest with one of the parties. As an independent lawfirm, we can guarantee this neutrality. Big international transactions are most of the time handled by the big law firms as counsel, and thus they cannot sit as arbitrators in these cases,” she says.

Comprehensive approach Taking a wholesome approach has also beneficial in the area of inheritance. For example with family businesses, contractual problems

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Discover Benelux & France | Business | AS Avocats

Roland Assa, Founding partner of AS Avocats, Honorary Vice-Consul of Danemark,

Sarah Vazquez-Lopes, labour law, contract law, family law.

Arbtrator registered with the Luxembourg Chamber of

Nathalie Weber-Frisch: Partner at AS Avocats, Member of various philanthropic organisations,

Jonathan Michel, administrative law, civil law, banking law.

President of the Foundation Kiwanis Luxembourg.

or succession can cause a situation to get blocked and harm the future and the existence of the company. “It is in the best interest of the client to solve a situation as a whole, instead of looking at individual issues. Sometimes the problem the client thinks he has is not the real issue. It is the lawyer’s role to deduct the solution out of the bigger picture.” Knowing people on a personal level is another great advantage. “Small details can change entire strategies, notably but not only in tax law. Thus, it is important to know which client may need more guidance or which one will deliver you all the information at once. This avoids unwelcome surprises further down the line and greatly benefits clients.”

the facts – and are still – not completely understood and researched.”

Valérie Demeure, insolvency, bankruptcy, guardianship law.

political context our law firm decided to change its strategy in appeal.” Instead of fighting the conviction on points of law, the team at AS Avocats, notably Roland Assa and Rachel Lezzeri, took a medical approach and researched the drug with doctors and medical professionals. “It turned out the effects of Propofol and the Propofol Infusion Syndrome that sometimes appear when administering the sedative were at the time of

Delving deep A recent medical case perfectly exemplifies how AS Avocats sets itself apart. It involved several doctors who used a drug containing Propofol as a sedative on a child, who subsequently died. Several doctors were initially held responsible in criminal court, but appealed the decision. “This was a very sensitive case, and at the time the drug was very much in the public eye because it was implicated in Michael Jackson’s death. Within this

In the end the doctors were cleared on appeal. “After showing our evidence, even the public prosecutor asked the doctors’ acquittal, which is extremely rare,” she says. “This case really illustrates that we go into depth and even delve into other areas, not just law, to help our clients.”

Social engagement Apart from being experts in their chosen area of law, the partners and lawyers at AS Avocats also take part in social work and non-profit organisations, for example, Nathalie Weber-Frisch, Lu Schaack, and Gilles Boileau are volunteers in the board of Directors or Ethics Committees of different Luxembourg non-profit organisation. Luc Schaack is furthermore very active in Asia and Africa, and is currently running a project in India to help transfer knowledge to millions of students.

Radia Duquennois, corporate law, labour law.

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Discover Benelux & France | Lawyer Services | Allen & Overy

Henri Wagner, managing partner.

The anniversary event at Neumünster.

Challenging, questioning, improving Celebrating its 25th anniversary in Luxembourg this year, the international law firm Allen & Overy has seized many opportunities over the last quarter century. Complacency stifles growth and new approaches are needed to face a changing world. TEXT & PHOTOS: ALLEN & OVERy

“Working for one of the leading law firms in the world and living in one of the world's most economically and politically stable countries has been comforting, but to thrive over the next 25 years we need to remain ambitious and entrepreneurial. Hence, a major part of my job is to challenge our people to think deeply about what we do and how we could do it better.” explains Henri Wagner, the firm’s managing partner in Luxembourg since 2008. He adds: “It is important that our people and clients know that we are hungry to build on existing successes; trying new ideas to maintain our market leadership by differentiating ourselves from the competition.” Building stronger partnerships with clients is also a key ambition. “We want to be a trusted advisor in the fullest sense, offering strategic as well as legal advice,” says Wagner. Having a deep understanding of the mi-

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cro detail of laws and regulations gives an original point of view on the full implications of macro trends, input that is valuable to management boards as well as frontline managers. With Allen & Overy’s global capacity and local expertise, they have access to a broad view of global developments impacting the business environment. In addition, Wagner notes: “We talk to our clients and ask them to be as frank as possible about how they view our work. This can be a tough experience for us internally, but it helps us find out where we are not good enough and how we can perform better. We are gratified that our clients’ enthusiasm for this process demonstrates their willingness to foster a long-term, transparent relationship.” More impetus is also being given to Allen & Overy in Luxembourg’s five international desks in New york, Hong Kong, Moscow,

Buenos Aires and London. For complicated, cross-border transactions, they provide legal expertise and cultural insight from around the world, supported by solid knowledge of the Luxembourg environment. The legal industry has had to grapple with businesses’ needs. Today the context is more international, transparent and complex, this reality is reflected in the firm’s strategy to be at the forefront of innovative legal and business development, taking the lead in the most advanced and complex forms of cross-border legal work. “We have become more than just top quality lawyers. We are also transaction managers, strategic consultants and risk advisers,” he concludes. +352 4444 551

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Discover Benelux & France | Innovative Enterprises | Eldee Expo Experts

Exhibition stands for anywhere in the world Visitors that go ‘oooh!’ Isn’t that every stand owners dream? Eldee Expo Experts’ services allow you to shine at any fair around the globe. All you have to do is to present yourself on the spot! TEXT: JANINE STERENBORG | PHOTOS: ELDEE EXPO EXPERTS

When representing your company on a fair, you aim to radiate professionalism, reflect your company’s character and focus on the potential client in front of you. A stressfree start to the fair is key. What if you could forget about your worries and have everything arranged for you? From filling out forms and the actual stand design to even training your crew? Eldee Expo Experts has 39 years of experience in stand building all over the world. Their personal approach, quick communications and immediate actions allow you to have a professional and personalised stand on any location. “In every country, different safety regulations apply. Over the years, we gained knowledge of rules in many different countries. Having this knowledge allows us to

react quickly to our clients requests,” explains owner and director Caroline Drost. “Besides that, we take care of every aspect of the stand, such as design, promotional materials, the final construction… everything. If a location is far away, we cooperate with our highly professional local partners. So, no worries for our clients! They can just show up at the fair and start presenting their business.” Despite their expertise and global working area, Eldee Expo Experts is still a typical family company. “My father started this company and I took over 11 years ago. Personal approach has always been key to our services. Our clients get assigned one contact person, which makes the process more pleasant and easier for everyone,

plus it allows us to work fast. And we always reply quickly to a request, because in the world of fairs, every day is deadline day.” Eldee Expo Experts are specialised in design stands, which are completely custom made. “Between the first briefing until building it, is usually three months. We have to design it efficiently, because putting up the stand is like building a house in two days! It includes carpet, lighting, audio and more.” For quick solutions, Eldee Expo Experts offers modular stands. “We have them in stock, they are available in many different sizes and are easy to personalise."

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Discover Benelux & France | Innovative Enterprises | KeyKeg

The perfect draft Anyone who works in the drinks or hospitality industry knows them all too well: the big cumbersome beer kegs that are difficult to move when full, and always in the way when empty. But there is an alternative that is both user friendly, better for the environment and keeps drinks fresh for longer: KeyKeg. TEXT: MyRIAM GWyNNED DIJCK | PHOTOS: KEyKEG

KeyKeg is a single use, ‘one-way’ keg for beer, wine and other drinks that makes the traditional metal kegs obsolete. They use the innovative ‘bag-in-ball’ principle for better taste and freshness. The kegs are made from plastics, so they can easily be compressed and recycled after use so they take up far less storage space. There are many other benefits to using KeyKegs for brewers, distributors, bar owners and also the consumer.

Better quality KeyKeg was founded in 2002 and it is now trading in 54 countries. Anita Veenendaal, chief commercial officer at KeyKeg, told us more about the products and success of the company. “Traditional kegs use gasses

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like carbon dioxide and nitrogen to create pressure for a steady flow. However, these gasses touch and mix with the drinks inside and affect flavour and quality: they will go off quicker and carbonated drinks can go flat.” With the KeyKeg principle, pressurised air or CO2 is pushed in between the outer wall and the inner bag of the keg. This way, no harmful substances ever touch the drinks and there is no need to use propellant gasses. “With our KeyKegs, the quality and flavour you get at the bar, is the same as you would get directly at the brewery. It will also stay that way for far longer compared to traditional kegs, up to five weeks,” she explains.

Thanks to this improved shelf life, it is now easier for bars to offer more choice of drinks to their customers. Even if the KeyKeg is already in use, barkeepers don’t have to worry about having to finish it within a few days. “Our KeyKegs are also ideal for places that are hard to restock, for example cruise ships. They can now serve fresh, quality beers for weeks.”

A clean environment Apart from improved flavour, there are also many environmental and practical advantages to using the one-way KeyKeg. Veenendaal continues: “Taking care of the environment is very important to us – almost everything we do revolves around reducing our carbon footprint,

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Discover Benelux & France | Innovative Enterprises | KeyKeg

Anita Veenendaal, chief commercial officer at KeyKeg

through our products and through the way we run the company.” One advantage is that KeyKegs don’t have to be washed with chemicals after each use. Instead, the plastic kegs can simply be pressed together and recycled. “Currently our top-of-the-range Slimline KeyKegs are made from 30 per cent recycled material and we are working towards getting this up to 60 per cent. Eventually we want to adopt a full, high tech recycling line.” Lowering the impact on the environment also expresses itself through a reduction in transport cost. Because KeyKegs are lightweight, more can be transported in one go using the same energy and no fuel is wasted on returning empty kegs. “This leads to savings of up to 60 per cent per transport – a very significant reduction,” Veenendaal says.

KeyKegs is already in development. “We invest in our people, our corporate culture and we spend a very large part of our budget on research and development and innovation,” she says.

KeyKegs are suitable for beer, wine, sodas and other drinks. With the KeyKeg technology drinks on draft will have the same quality and depth of flavour as meant by the producer.

This certainly has proved to be a strategy for success. Currently the company has two factories, in Europe and in America, and is looking at opening many more in the next few years. “In our seven years of existence we have grown by at least 40 per cent year-on-year. By 2018 we aim to have eight different production plants, so we will be closer to our customers and reduce our transport costs even further,” she concludes.

But it also comes down to less waste of the drinks themselves. “In traditional metal kegs, the beer flows up via a spear. These never go to the very bottom so for every keg about two glasses are wasted. With KeyKeg you can use all of the contents, practically to the very last drop.”

Constant innovation Part of the company’s success is its drive for innovation and a new generation of

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Drillster is an adaptive, assessment-based learning tool that helps you memorise knowledge and ensures you preserve previously gained knowledge more effectively.

Drill down your knowledge We spend our lives learning, whether in school, at university or corporate trainings. But for how long will the new knowledge stick? How do you quantify how long knowledge is retained? Here is a tool that will help to keep the information fresh in everybody’s mind: Drillster. TEXT: ROSANNE ROOBEEK | PHOTOS: CHRISTIAN SCHULPEN

Drillster makes learning fun and keeps knowledge at the forefronts of our minds. It is an adaptive, assessment-based learning tool that helps you memorise knowledge and ensures you preserve previously gained knowledge more effectively. A great deal of scientific research has been done on how our brains work and what happens when we learn – and forget. Drillster has applied these lessons to help us maximise the return of the time and money we spend learning.

Knowledge retention algorithm Adaptive learning tools are widely used, but they often focus on the past. Learning is seen as a one-time intervention. Take

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for example a school exam: you study a lot, take exams and afterwards put away the books that you will probably never read again. “Knowledge is power. How fantastic would it be if our learnings are organised in a way that helps us to keep this knowledge ready?” says CEO and cofounder Marco van Sterkenburg. Thomas Goossens, chief technology officer and co-founder, developed an innovative algorithm that can calculate how and when your knowledge fades away if you are not maintaining it. On the basis of your learning history, Drillster uses predictive analytics in a personalised way. “Having your knowledge ready can even save lives. Say you are a doctor helping a

patient in an emergency, looking up information takes time you don’t have,” Van Sterkenburg says.

Gamification Drillster presents learning material via the web on computers or via an app on mobile devices. Questions are presented to measure how well you master the learning material. “By using gamification, we made Drillster like a quiz – easy and fun to use,” Van Sterkenburg says. Drillster provides immediate feedback to your answers, boosting the learning effect. By determining the order and frequency of each question, you will learn easier and retain it better. Finally, Drillster calculates

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Discover Benelux & France | Innovative Enterprises | Drillster

Thomas Goossens and Marco van Sterkenburg

when knowledge declines and can send out notifications just as you are about to forget so your knowledge will always remain up-to-date. Scientific research has shown that using Drillster yields ten per cent better results in 40 per cent less time.

Target groups When Goossens created the system, he initially thought about using Drillster strictly for memorising purposes. Drillster could be used by language institutions to help learn languages like Chinese and Japanese where a great deal of memorising is necessary. But Van Sterkenburg, the commercial driver behind Drillster, discovered that there are many more uses. In addition to focussing on the education market, Drillster now also goes after the corporate market, targeting all sectors where it is necessary for people to demonstrate a certain knowledge level. “The corporate world is starting to realise the importance of organising permanent education for their staff. Employees are increasingly required to certify or remain

compliant with industry standards,” Van Sterkenburg says.

Corporate and education market Once you access the data of a whole department or even from an entire company, you start to see the extent to which trainings have been successful and you can see whether you actually are in compliance with the regulations. “For banks, for instance, this makes Drillster a very powerful tool,” Goossens says. “Let’s say an institution is obliged to be compliant with certain laws or regulations, you can exactly see what level of knowledge your staff possesses over a longer period of time instead of just in a snapshot that shows the percentage of employees that completed a mandatory e-learning.” The education sector is also catching up, as a great digitalisation of learning methods is taking place where more emphasis is put on lifelong learning. To prepare students for their exams and improve study results, Drillster measures a student's

proficiency level and ensures complete memorisation. Students are able to receive notifications just when proficiency levels are about to decline, allowing students to brush up in time and be well prepared for a test or exam.

What can we expect? Individual consumers and students might be the end-users, but they are not necessarily the ones to purchasing the cloud service. Drillster delivers the technology mostly to its clients, which include corporates (banks, insurance companies, airlines, and energy markets) or educational institutes like publishers, schools and universities. Drillster is on its way to become a household name in memorisation and hopes to conquer the international market soon. The only thing that you will forget is that there was a time – when there was no Drillster yet.

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Discover Benelux & France | Innovative Enterprises | ContactCare

Long-term excellence It is ContactCare’s mission to provide the business community the most optimal customer contact, resulting in better results and a positive customer experience. With great success: in their five years of existence they have won several awards are in the top 100 fastest growing companies in the Netherlands. TEXT: BERTHE VAN DEN HURK | PHOTOS: CONTACTCARE

Simply said, ContactCare is a contact centre. Specialised in customer contact and relationship management, ContactCare offers various services to improve accessibility to its clients and to create professional customer contact. They facilitate shared platforms for both small and large organisations. Combining excellent service with continuously innovative technical contact centre software solutions, made them as successful as they are. “We are innovative, efficient and result oriented,” says Jasper Meerding, owner of ContactCare. “But also, humanness and empathy are important values. Our employees are always friendly and helpful.

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They take the needs of its client and the potential customers very seriously and encourage cooperation and partnership.”

ment. By communicating through different channels and speaking to customers in a service-oriented way, customer contact became optimised.

Unique selling point Over the last few years, several changes took place in the market. For example, donot-call registries had a significant impact on the company Meerding ran before the start of ContactCare. Because of these developments, Meerding had to do something and took a very bold step. He decided to no longer focus on outbound projects only and started ContactCare in 2009. Meerding expanded the services to facilitate organisations in the field of customer contact and relationship manage-

Potential customers can choose through which channel they contact the company, which lowers a contact-threshold and makes the company more approachable. “We distinguish ourselves by providing a complete customer care package,” says Meerding. “Having a one contact point is pleasant and comfortable for our customers. We have developed a one-stopshop, where services can be combined with each other. For example, telephone service, customer service, outbound, VoIP

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Discover Benelux & France | Innovative Enterprises | ContactCare

and contact centre software. This ensures effective handling of customer contact and customer satisfaction.”

Squla online learning ‘Squla’ is great example which shows how ContactCare helps start-up organisations to grow by giving their customers an excellent customer service. Squla is a new online learning programme for primary school pupils. It is intended as a tool to encourage and stimulate each child at their own pace through a progressive form of education. Squla asked ContactCare to ensure that their customers are provided with consistent and service-oriented information. But that is not all. At the beginning of each school year it holds a major campaign to attract new customers and retain existing ones. Through of the use of various media ranging from television, internet, and for example sending introduction packages to all Dutch primary schools, the market share of Squla increased considerably. This use of off- and online channels required a multichannel approach where the customer chooses how and when he wants to get in touch with the organisation.

handle all kinds of projects (from law firms to retailers and government agencies), ContactCare is also keen on transparency. According to Meerding it is equally important to be transparent, as well as efficient and reliable. “We provide all the information around the customer's contact moments. We are more transparent than any other company about the contact we have with potential customers. Therefore everything is known with our client. It creates a trust.” ContactCare is a specialist in customer contact and an extension of the clients. They require continuous interaction with the clients and thus create a relationship of trust. This way ContactCare creates a strong position in the market. ContactCare believes in long term relationships not only with its clients, but also with their employees. “The personnel turnover of employees in a contact centre is usually very high. We have ensured that our staff have a lot of varied work; this keeps people working longer with us than with any other contact centre. Because our employees have so much experience, ContactCare can offer an even higher quality.”

For Squla it was important that the service is at a high standard at all times. Each potential barrier must be removed during the ordering process for the potential customer. Being involved in the instruction and coaching of the ContactCare agents has been very effective for Squla: on the one hand it gave a feeling of control, which is important when choosing to outsource customer contact. Secondly, the agents got a better picture of the client. Through their involvement in the product, potential customers and the objectives of media campaigns have increased. ContactCare has direct insight into the CRM system (customer relationship management); allowing them to help the customer quickly and effectively. Because of this, a question is quickly answered and the client can continue with the programme.

Not just a contact centre ContactCare is unlike any other contact centre. Not only are they flexible and can

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Discover Benelux & France | Business | Columns


How paying a parking ticket became my alltime best customer experience. Not long ago, in the tiny French town of Marmoutier, I got a 13 euro parking ticket. There wasn’t even a no-parking sign. Since it was a rental car and I don’t live in France, my first thought was to tear up the ticket. But rental car companies can hunt you down for unpaid tickets, and when they do the cost is far higher. So I decided to pay. There was just one problem. Marmoutier wanted a check for euros. My checking account is in US dollars. And getting a cheque in euros would cost more than the amount of the cheque. It so happened I came home with exactly 13 euros in my pocket. I took this as a sign from the universe that I should do what everyone knows you should never do: mail cash. Did I really think this would work? Of course not. If the cash even survived its overseas journey, some chiseling clerk was sure to pocket it on arrival and destroy the evidence. I was confident I’d be hearing from the car rental company about my unpaid ticket. Confident, but wrong. About six weeks later, a large envelope with French stamps arrived in my mailbox. Inside was an official-looking form documenting payment of the ticket and a thankyou note from the parking commissioner.

But what got my attention was the third document: a letter from the mayor of Marmoutier himself, complete with seal and signature. In the magnificent flowery style of high French officialdom, he praised me for my honesty, perseverance and virtue. He fervently hoped I might visit his town again. He practically made me feel as if I’d be greeted by a brass band. So why do I count this as my all-time best customer experience? Because it so far exceeded my expectations. We usually think of negative expectations as bad, but when you’re communicating, they can be a huge opportunity. My advice? Always take advantage of that opportunity, especially because low expectations are so easy to exceed. I also have this advice: never park in the town square in Marmoutier.

Josiah Fisk

Josiah Fisk is the head of More Carrot LLC, a clear communications company with offices in Boston and Luxembourg.

Space, place, flair and freedom TEXT: STEVE FLINDERS | PHOTO: JACK HOBHOUSE

I was very struck by a BBC television programme on architecture a few years ago. In it a home-seeking British couple was invited to the Netherlands to see some innovative housing designs. They were unimpressed. They just wanted to live in the same kind of executive cul-de-sac as hundreds of thousands of others. Are British unimaginative in their approach to personal and professional space? In particular in relation to badly thought-out workspaces which can have such a negative impact on individual and group mental health, as well as productivity. Perhaps it is about how open we are to others. Walking along a residential street in an English city, I usually get just a tiny peek into the residents’ living spaces. In Amsterdam there are no lace curtains: I may see into an often stylish space as if the occupants are saying: 'This is who and how we are, and we hope you enjoy sharing it for a moment as well.'

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The same programme showed us the creative, fun and worker-friendly office spaces that the employees themselves had designed at Interpolis, the big Dutch insurance company. When two of them were invited to spend time in a London open plan office, they said that a week was enough to drive them half-crazy. There are signs of change. The philosopher Alain de Botton is also concerned by the quality of our environment and, through his ‘Living Architecture’ movement, has commissioned leading architects to design holiday rental homes. The latest addition to this series is an excitingly eccentric work by the British artist, Grayson Perry. That middle-class couple should give it a try. We need workspaces where we can interact spontaneously with colleagues as well as formally in meetings; and where we can work alone and undisturbed. Employers who say this is more expensive, never seem to count the

productivity cost of constant interruptions and distractions, let alone the psychological cost of staff having no control over their environment. We need space to work and a sense of place for our work too. It’s time to bring not just ergonomics but also flair and freedom to the workplaces of the people we manage.

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Discover Benelux & France | Business | Calendar

Photo: Lisa Raisa Ferrari

Photo: Lisa Raisa Ferrari


How to act in times of crisis Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2-3 July Learn everything you need to know about the complex processes that arise during a crisis and find out what successful crisis management entails. At this year’s conference at the CIP Institute, participants get the chance to gain new knowledge from academics and professionals, making it an event that is bound to stimulate your mind and prepare you for the future. The ultimate marketing and sales event Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 12-15 July The Research, Sales and Marketing Programme (RSMP) is specifically designed for bringing industry professionals together who work in leading generation, marketing, sales or research. Every year the event is bursting with fresh expertise, stimulating ideas and new skills – the ideal environment for networking with fel-

low marketing enthusiasts. The International Conference on Economics, Society and Management Paris, France, 20-21 July ICESM 2015 aims to bring together researchers, scientists, engineers and graduates to exchange and share their experiences, ideas and research related to Economics, Society and Management, as well as discussing the practical challenges and their solutions. This is the ideal platform for people who wish to share views and academic experiences in an intellectually rich environment. Libramont Agricultural Fair Libramont, Belgium, 24-27 July The Libramont agricultural, forestry and agri-food fair is one of the biggest of its kind in Europe with 1,800 exhibitors and

brands on an open-air site covering 300,000 square metres every year. Discover the rural world from a variety of angles whilst focusing on keeping things green and sustainable. Libramont caters to industry-professionals and newcomers alike. International Conference on Urban Climate Toulouse, France, 20-24 July The aim of this conference is to provide an international forum where the world’s urban climatologists can discuss modern developments in research and the application of climatic knowledge to the design of better cities. Whether you are a skilled scientist, a business professional or just a curious listener, the ninth edition of the Urban Climate Conference provides you with exciting visions of a greener future.

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Discover Benelux & France | Culture | Skûtsjesilen

Skûtsjesilen: a great tradition Sailing is hot in Holland. Whenever the weather is good, everybody seems to do it. And if you visit the northern province of Friesland in the summer, you are bound to see some special flat-bottomed sailing boats: the skûtsjes. TEXT: MARION DE GRAAFF | PHOTOS: MARTIN DE JONG

Every summer these skûtsjes take part in an exciting race called Skûtsjesilen. In the olden days the boats were used to carry freights over the shallow waters in Friesland. They sailed with peat, manure or soil onboard and moved like ferries: often taking the same trip back and forth. The first skûtsjes were built around 1860. They were based on different types of existing ships and combined certain features. This resulted in the skûtsje, a fast sailing boat with a flat bottom and two leeboards. It carries two large brown, beige or white sails, which used to be made from hemp.

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Most of the skûtsjes were ten to 14 metres long and had a loading capacity of between ten and 20 tonnes. Oak wood Skippers lived on the skûtsjes together with their families. Life was hard: loading and unloading the ships was tough and everybody helped out, small children included. The living space was just over six square metres and had a very low ceiling. In the one or sometimes two bedrooms many family members slept together. The early skûtsjes were made out of oak wood. It required good craftsmanship from

a carpenter to bend the rigid wood. They used fire and a lot of strength to do this. Later on the ships were manufactured from metal, making them stronger and easier to form. A big advantage of this new material was that the ships could sail for longer; they did not have to be berthed in winter anymore and wait for the ice to melt. Struggle With the arrival of the 20th century, motor engines were used more and more to power the ships. Many skûtsje skippers tried hard to keep in business, but it was a struggle. As World War I broke out, trans-

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Discover Benelux & France | Culture | Skûtsjesilen

port by traditional skûtsjes was revived because of fuel shortages: after all, wind is free. The same thing happened during World War II but these were the final working years for the skûtsjes.

of exploring the museum is by taking an audio-tour. Outside, in the museum shipyard lies the Aebelina, a replica of an old oak skûtsje. It frequently sails with tourists, school groups and guests on board.

Afterwards many of them were rescued and transformed into houseboats and remained well maintained. In 1945 the skûtsje organisation SKS was founded and their main goal is to preserve the unique sailing vessels for the future. This has been done ever since by organising an annual two-week skûtsje sailing competition during the summer, this year held in the last two weeks of July.

Racing During the summer, sailors from famous Frisian skipper-families battle on the shallow and deeper waters of the province, just like their ancestors battled for daily living by transporting cargo. Racing as a sport is nothing new for the skûtsjes. Back in the day, when business was slow (in springtime, before the harvest) and the weather was fine, the skippers tried to make a little extra income by partaking in a race. Organisers of fairs or events hoped to attract more spectators by hosting the skûtsje races.

Museum In Eernewoude there is a museum about skûtsjes where you can see for yourself what life was like aboard them. There is an exhibition displaying hundreds of skutsje parts and tools and in the small library you can browse through the collection and look at pictures and blueprints. Various workshops show the skills of the blacksmith, the sailmaker and the carpenter. On an old sound recording you can hear two skippers arguing after a collision. A great way

Nowadays the Skûtsjesilen is a big event. Many spectators watch and cheer while enjoying the picturesque Frisian scenery. These big ungainly ships with their brown sails, leaning over when the wind is strong, are a magnificent sight to see. If you are around this summer, come over and experience it yourself.

See the skûtsjes competitions Two organisations are responsible for the summer competitions that take place every year on the Frisian lakes. The SKS organises the races for skûtsjes that represent a particular village or town. The rules regarding measurements and authenticity are quite strict: only 14 skûtsjes can participate in the SKS-contest. There is also the IFKS, the ‘open’ skûtsje championships. Their only rule is that the hull had to be built between 1895 and 1939. The IFKS-race therefore has more participants, around 60 who compete in four different classes. The SKS summer competition takes place on 18 to 31 July (see and the IFKS competition is held from 1 to 8 August with the final on 10 October (see

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Out & About There is no month like July, with its lively street festivals and creative events. Pack a light bag, step into your summer shoes and head off to one of this month’s many adventures in the Benelux and France, offering a combination of historic nostalgia and cutting-edge performances. Witness the re-making of a witch trial, shake the night away to Latin American rhythms, or simply escape to a medieval castle. TEXT: CAROLINE EDWARDS | ABOVE PHOTO: ROTTERDAM UNLIMTED, BELOW PHOTO: VIANDEN MEDIEVAL FESTIVAL

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Discover Benelux & France | Culture | Out & About

Photo: King Richard Arno Declair

Photo: Ursula Kaufmann

A procession in royal splendour Brussels, Belgium, 30 June and 2 July Every year, the Ommegang passes through the streets of Brussels in a perfect reconstruction of the arrival of Charles V and his court in 1549. Wander through Brussels’ streets as they become filled with people in medieval costumes representing characters from older times. Hundreds of extras take part in the reconstruction of the Ommegang: on foot, on horseback, with flags and driving carts, passing through the very centre of Brussels on their way to the Grand-Place.

Avignong Festival Photo: Christophe Raynaud De Lage

ativity in the performance world, with its mix of new and old theatre performances. Experience both traditional dramatic performances and experimental shows. For 69 years the festival has boasted talented performers and today Avignon is still one of the most recognised events of its kind.

Fashion week in Amsterdam Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 3-13 July Mercedes-Benz FashionWeek Amsterdam offers a combination of fashion shows of upcoming talents, designers and commercial labels and brands. Explore the latest trends of the catwalk and get a chance to meet some of today’s most innovative designers, while enjoying everything else the Dutch capital has to offer (see page 16 for more information)

The Tour de France Netherlands, Belgium, France, 4-26 July This year the 102nd Tour de France will have its Grand Départ in the Dutch city of Utrecht. Moving down the country towards the Dutch coast and heading inland in Belgium, it then takes a south western direction towards Vannes in Brittany. The peloton then flies to the Pyrenees to criss-cross Southern France towards the Alps in the East. Expect plenty of cobbled portions of the Belgian stages, some exhilarating climbs in the Alps and breathtaking views thorough the whole race. Made up of 21 stages, the world’s most famous road cycling tour will cover a total distance of 3.360 kilometres this year.

Avignon Theatre Festival Avignon, France, 4-25 July Each year Avignon becomes the international meeting place for innovation and cre-

North Sea Jazz Rotterdam, the Netherlands, 10-12 July The North Sea Jazz Festival brings together more than a thousand musicians and per-

formers in one of the most prominent events on the Benelux jazz scene. Despite its relatively big size, North Sea Jazz still maintains an intimate atmosphere, allowing the audience to fully immerse themselves in the music, which becomes more varied each year. Not only do you get to listen to various types of jazz, you are also exposed to other genres such as soul and funk.

Photo: Rotterdam Unlimited

Photo: Rotterdam Unlimited

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Discover Benelux & France | Culture | Out & About

Bastille Day France, 14 July Commemorating the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, a grand military parade marches along the Champs-élysées, attended by the president and other political leaders, making it a grand attraction to witness. As always, the event finishes off with impressive fireworks displays and public dances throughout the whole of France. Gentse Feesten Ghent, Belgium, 17-26 July This music and theatre festival which lasts for ten days every July, called the Gentse Feesten (Ghent Festivities), is said to be one of the biggest city carnivals in the world with approximately two million visitors. Who needs to go to Rio when you can do to Ghent? Rotterdam Unlimited – a celebration of diversity Rotterdam, the Netherlands, 21-25 July This July the city of Rotterdam will be transformed into one big party with culture, music, dance, art, spoken word and of course… the Summer Carnival. There will be many performances around the city focussing on non-Western cultures, and you don’t have to pay a penny to take part (see page 40 for more information).

cious music during the Vianden Medieval Festival. It also boasts a medieval market with handicraft exhibitors, surprising gifts and historic gadgets and delicacies set in the stunning surroundings of Vianden Castle. Beselare Witch Parade Beselare, Belgium, 26 July Inspired by a witch’s trial that is said to have taken place, the Heksenstoet or Witch Parade features more than 1,000 costumed participants showcasing witches from wellknown fairy tales, as well as characters from local legends. Music and dancing goes on all night, culminating with the nail-biting recreation of the witch trial. Held every two years on the last Sunday of July, this unique event is not to be missed. Amsterdam Pride Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 31 July – 02 August Amsterdam Gay Pride remains one of the biggest and best celebrations of its kind in Europe. Enjoy a fun week packed with parties and events, including the famous canalparade, where 80 vessels soak up the Dutch sun and put on a show with their onboard DJs, show-stopping themes and plenty of smiles, pleasing all spectators on the banks of the Prinsengracht and Amstel River.

La Villette open-air cinema Paris, France, 24 July – 25 August Why not enjoy the warm summer evenings with a film under the stars? The annual open-air film festival in Paris is a chance to enjoy one of the city’s best parks, as well as the French love for cinema, as the sun goes down. Just gather on the grass with a picnic, surrounded by friends or family, while the stories unfold on the big screen. Vianden Medieval Festival Vianden Castle, Luxembourg, 25 July – 02 August Knights, ballade singers, minstrels and jugglers come together for medieval tournaments, historic plays, fire shows, calligraphy workshops, birds of prey displays and viva-

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Photo: Philippe Baert

Photo: Vianden Medieval Festival

Photo: Vianden Medieval Festival

Photo: Philippe Baert

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Discover Benelux & France | Culture | Columns


Emerging art scene unseen TEXT MATT ANTONIAK | PHOTO: WIELS

I am often waxing lyrical and boring my mates about the art scene in the Benelux region; how great it is, how much talent there is and so on. Well now WIELS has weighed in with Un-Scene III to lend some weight to this argument.

agery to an interest in craftsmanship and the decorative. In other words, there’s a little bit for everyone. Converted from an old brewery and opened in 2007, WIELS has become a flagpole of the Belgian art scene, and Un-Scene III is not just

another fine exhibition on the WIELS roster, but it also demonstrates the gallery’s commitment to promoting and strengthening the local Belgian movement. Un-Scene III is on display on WIELS, Brussels until 9 August 2015.

The bumper third instalment of Un-Scene (after the previous two exhibitions in 2008 and 2012) presents 13 shrewdly chosen young artists who are either born or work in Belgium. In the previous exhibitions, the title might have been a comment on the arts in Belgium. The wordplay suggests an unseen Belgian art world, or even the lack of an art scene – a non-scene. In this iteration the same interpretation cannot be made. Belgium has now rooted itself firmly within the international arts scene, and in this exhibition we are presented with a ‘slice of a scene at a particular moment’. Indeed, it is but a slice, but a compelling and thoroughly diverse slice nonetheless. On show are videos, paintings, photographs, ceramics and even the odd table covered in slime. And they tackle themes as broad as the impact of digital im-

Brussels caffeine fix TEXT & PHOTO: AMéLIE TIMMERMANS

It all started in London. Here, quality coffee has become ubiquitous and I could find a fantastic brew with my eyes closed. Back in Brussels, this was not the case as coffee consumption habits are not quite as sophisticated yet. Compared to London’s coffee snobs, many Belgians still drink coffee from a Jeri can, in large quantities but without much taste. Urged to source the perfect cup for my new caffeine addiction, I went on the hunt. This proved surprisingly fruitful. Located in a picturesque townhouse at a stone’s throw away from the Royal Palace, I found My Little Cup, an adorable coffee bar. Launched by two coffee fans a year ago, this place is golden. Nicolas, the winner of the Belgian Latte Art Competition, will serve your brew with a mastery of technique. Music and chitchat with the baristas confer a very friendly

vibe and the guys also bake homemade pastries. So far, I have never been disappointed. I also really like Hinterland, a newcomer, opening just last month. Organic tea and coffee, healthy finger food and eco-friendly packaging sets it apart. The Arabica beans from Peru have a subtle acidity and a well-rounded body. The smoothie menu deserves equal attention with its original blends: believe it or not, a blueberry and kale drink is better than it sounds. This ‘urban refuge’ is also popular with artsy types as many students from a nearby art school come here regularly. For some nostalgia go to Maison Renardy. This family business has been involved in the tea and coffee trade since 1912. It has a lovely traditional tearoom in Ixelles, perfect for breakfast. This is my go-to address for freshly

ground coffee beans with a choice of nearly 40 different types from all around the world. The quality of the products is also matched by an impeccable service.

Coffee beans at Maison Renardy.

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