They are two wanderers who travel the world together in search for special treasures. We’re not talking about heavy crested chests on the bottom of the sea, but the kind that comes in pretty jewellery you can wear around your neck. Meet dynamic duo Laura Hoppe and Andrea van Well behind jewellery brand À la.
Palm trees, golden turtle shaped jewellery boxes, palm tree jackets, beautiful bangles and necklaces: take one swift look around their office and you’ll know that these two are true collectors. Laura and Andrea want to tell stories about adventurous places they’ve visited through the products they bring home. We couldn’t wait to snoop around their desks, ask some questions and see where the magic happened.
How important is it that your office looks presentable?
Andrea: “Very. There is always that possibility of a client dropping by at the last minute to check out the latest collection.”
Laura: “That’s true. The other day our office was packed with teenage girls, giggling and going through our new designs. So cute.”
Clean desk policy or inspiration everywhere?
Laura: “My desk is definitely the messiest. The struggle is real! Andrea always completes a task before she starts with the next one. I always do sixteen things at the same time. It’s what works for me.”
Andrea: “Haha, that’s true, she always makes a mess in under a minute!”
Where did you gather inspiration for your office style?
Laura: “A lot comes from visiting vide greniers [brocante markets] in France. If we’re traveling anywhere, we always check if there’s a flea market in the area. After we travelled to India and Indonesia together, we visited France before we went home to look for treasures.”
Andrea: “From the South of France through Belgium and ending in Holland, we stopped at every market we could find. We’re always on the lookout for unique gems. They’re what inspire us to make new products so we like to have them around. For inspiration, we’re usually browsing Pinterest and flipping through books as well.”
You buy a lot of local products to resell at home. How do you know what is going to work?
Andrea: “We have one question we always ask: do we want to have this in our own homes?” If the answer is yes, we buy it. If it is no, we don’t.”
Laura: “We also try to listen to what people want. We had a lot of small business clients coming in and commenting on our business card holder. We take that into consideration when we’re considering new items to produce.”
If you could only take five items from your desk or office, what would you bring?
Andrea: “My computer, all the magazines with features on our brand, the prayer bag where monks would keep the few belongings they owned, a very old necklace of a seahorse, and a small statue of a guy.”
Laura: “We found that little statue at the same place where we discovered our first batch of glass and gold jewellery boxes. We had found one set of them and in every store we went, we would ask if they would know where to get some more. On Andrea’s last week in India, we met a store owner who was walking around in a boxer shorts, claiming he knew where we could find a batch of these boxes. We were quite suspicious but followed him in his underpants through small, dark alleys, haha! We ended up in a big courtyard and saw six hundred of the jewellery boxes. We checked each and every one of them to see if they were in good condition. We still have a picture of that moment. Sitting on the floor, covered in dirt, but smiling.”
Is it important for you to work in a beautiful environment?
Laura: “For me, it is. It gives me motivation and inspiration.”
Andrea: “I have to say that you get used to it, though. It’s not that I really look at all our collectables every day and consciously think about how good they look.”
As most people in start-ups do, you work quite long hours. How do you keep a fresh mind on long days?
Andrea: “We have to walk the dog, which gives a necessary, welcome break.”
Laura: “And we try to surprise each other every Wednesday by having lunch at a new spot every week.”
Are you hoarders?
Laura: “Yup. We pretty much invented the word.”
Andrea: “You’d have to look at our homes!”
What’s your big dream?
Laura: “To start an online diary of our low budget travels. Our secret plan is to take artist Jasper Krabbé on one of our journeys, to show him – and our readers – where we go when we visit India.”
Andrea: “To show them how refreshing and inspiring it is to travel like we do. You don’t need a lot to discover new things.”
PS. CHAPTER FRIDAY is always searching for the best stories behind piles of books and Sharpie pens. Want to see more? See the desk of illustrator Milou Neelen, Marie-Stella-Maris creative Edith Beurskens, blogger Desirée from VosgesParis and jewellery designer Lenneke.