Interview with Michiel Van Mierlo, Good&Mojo Co-Owner and Brand Ambassador
Good&Mojo - empowered by it's about RoMi -, is based along the oldest canal in Amsterdam, and has been creating homeware and lighting for your home since 1993, with hard work, dedication and enjoyment above all. They get their
inspiration from the city life, while also drwing ideas from nature. They love simple yet strong design and pure materials. And they aim to do good by creating sustainable products and helping people at the same time.
Do you believe that your environmental commitment is valued by 21st century customers? Will you consider it a competitive advantage?
We are convinced that our commitment is valued by our customers. Even though some of them might not even be aware of it (they choose our items for their design, technical practicalities and not always because of our sustainable engagement), once they learn about our commitment to sustainable materials, they are always enthusiastic.
We certainly believe that it is a competitive advantage but we also know that this commitment will be expected by any company in the near future. Probably in a few decades, the environmental friendly companies will not stand out, but the environmentally unfriendly ones will be scrutinized. At least, it should be the norm. Anyway, customers are pushing companies to commit to sustainable ways of productions. And new game players are changing the stake of current industries. Tesla is an inspiring example and we are sure that many others will raise their voices in the coming years.
Your enviromental commitment is complemented by your social responsibility by helping the disadvantaged through the Wakawaka Foundation. What is Wakawaka? Tell us about this beautifull project.
We are very committed to our partnership with WakaWaka. It is a Dutch foundation, which was established in 2010, when the founder visited South Africa for the Football World Cup and was shaken by the amount of people still using dangerous kerosene lamps. These lamps, on top of polluting and being costly, are very unsafe and can fall over very easily and can cause tremendous damages, killing a serious amount of people every year (from burns to lung cancers). Through crow-funding he developed the most-effective solar lamp and donated it to places in humanitarian crises.
When we heard about this great foundation, we thought it was the perfect match for us and this is how our motto came to life “Buy Light, Give Light”. For every Good&Mojo lamp sold, we donate 5% to the Foundation. We have been able to donate more than 1300 lamps until now. Which will not only help one person but an entire family. One light helps the little boy to study in the darkness of his hut, it helps his parents to cook and his older sister to walk safely after sunset, all these with a cheap, safe and sustainable light. The current projects we support are located in Bangladesh, Chile and Rwanda.
Let's talk about your product. You manufacture lamps with raw materials selected among the most sustainable options such as cork, bamboo etc. What is the criteria used to select these raw materials?
Indeed sustainable materials are at the core of our lamps. We select very carefully each material and we test it several times. It happens often that materials, which are amazing by their sustainability, look and feel, do not go through because they are not edgy enough. We want stay away from a “hippy, year 70’s” look, which can be very easily associated to sustainability. We provide modern lighting, with an urban touch. Using sustainable materials is not always easy because we work with suppliers and even social work places where making lamps is not common.
We look for particular materials: for example, we introduced our Yosemite and Yellowstone lamps which are made of paper-pulp. This material is also used for egg boxes and it was quite a challenge to make a sample big enough for an industrial shape lamp. But we found a way and now we even got a Design Award for it! So yes, it is a lot of hard work and an open-mind, but the conversation it opens up our suppliers is so interesting! They are often passionate about new developments on top of supporting their family or local community.
Yosemite (left) and Yellowstone (right) lamps are made of paper-pulp, innovative and sustainable.
A whole virtuous circle! New 3D printed sustainable materials keep being launched into the market. Do you think 3D might revolutionize the industry in the long term?
I do think that 3D will be democratized in the long-term. For now, it is still complex and expensive to produce, but for sure, 3D technology is an amazing tool to replace lost or broken parts. Along with more sustainable materials, customers are getting tired of the fast-life of the items available: “Don’t repair it, buy a new one!” which is ridiculous but cheaper. Something is wrong with this and we will know it.
3D is perfect to replace parts that are not produced anymore. 3D production would also change the waste that traditional manufacture implies: you would order a 3D model on an APP and you will print it yourself. No waste, just the right amount. Same goes for fashion: the machine will only produce with the amount fabric needed. And the fact that these materials can be reused and reshaped is also very interesting. So yes, it might be a serious revolution but I think that we will have a few decades go before we can all grasp this technology.
We can observe that the design of your lamps follows very different patterns from one model to another. What inspires these patterns? What others ecodesigners' work has inspired you?
Our design team travels the world to discover new materials but also get inspired for new models. Our founder Rob van Dijk and our creative director Norma Lugten are the designers of our lamps and they do get inspired by everything around them. It often starts with the material itself and everything you can do with it. Old, traditional techniques are also an important point of our design. Hence our motto “Back to sustainability”.
Our Sagano bamboo lamps are weaved in the traditional Vietnamese way. We are about to launch several models in Rotan, which an ancestral techniques from Asia. We are always looking toward the future but we do not want to forget years of craftsmanship. Our goal is to provide sustainable materials, with traditional techniques combined a modern look! We are also focused on the use of the lamp itself. Lamps can be decorative items but they have to be practical. Each model is designed for a specific used in mind.
Sagano lamps follow traditional Vietnamese bamboo weaving techniques.
After more than twenty years in the world of design with both the already consolidated It’s about Romi brand and after the creation of Good&Mojo, what balance do you make of your evolution during this time? How do you face the future? Will you keep specialized on lamps?
We have indeed become very passionate about lighting. Good&Mojo has opened up so many possibilities of news challenges and growth, but we have to stay at the core of what we are good at. All those years of experience, we are implementing them in Good&Mojo, because we trully believe that it is the future and we are sure that it will outgrow our other collection Citylights. That translates in the short-term into putting a lot of effort to make Good&Mojo even more succesful: we are launching in September our new collection that will double in size, with new materials like volcanic rock, naturecast.
We just finished the new catalog with more than 50 pages, which brings the collection to a higher level. We also want to make the technicalities of lamps easier for the end-consumer. Who knows what kelvin, lumen is? Very few people and it is a major matter, especially if you feel concerned with sustainability. We are also looking into making our whole production process even more sustainable. We are talking less and less in turnover and more in number of WakaWaka given. The social side of the development is very inspiring and motivate us on a daily basis. One thing for sure is that we have enough ideas to go on for decades!