Sustainable Designs in Careful Curation by Copenhagen Concept Store Yume
It was a lucky coincidence that I happened to walk into the Yume concept store in Copenhagen the other week and started a conversation with its co-founder Marie Engberg on our mutual passion for sustainable design. With me back at the Stockholm office, we continued a digital discourse.
With a background in the design industry and 10 plus years of experience working within the field of design, PR, communication and marketing, Yume co-founder Marie Engberg decided to quit her job and leave for New York and Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012.
During that time, she met dedicated people that were keen to combine their passion for design, arts and fashion with their love for this planet, which lead Marie to make changes towards a more sustainable career and lifestyle herself.
One thing lead to another, and well back in Copenhagen, she and business partner Anja Holm decided to open up concept store Yume in 2017 – an IRL and online destination for sustainable designs only.
What is the story and key motives behind Yume, and how would you describe your business?
– After moving into my current house – a townhouse from 1886 in the centre of Copenhagen – it really dawned on me how tricky it was to a) find sustainable design and b) find beautiful sustainable design to decorate your home with. And I decided that this was where I could put my knowledge to good use. I founded Yume with my business partner, Anja, last year and we have since then been working on our mission to bridge sustainability and design.
– We want to show the world that it is possible to find both beautiful and sustainable design, and we have thus curated a collection of design for the home and for your life. It is our core mission to make sustainable design readily available and to curate, sell and storytell about sustainable design.
Tell us about Nordhavn and why you chose this location for your store and studio.
– Nordhavn is Copenhagen’s newest city area with a decidedly sustainable focus. Sustainability is thought into everything from infrastructure to houses. The plan is to have small electrically driven busses taking people from one part of the area to the other – with no other transport than bikes as an alternative. (Read more about Nordhavn here). It was important to us to choose a location that would support our core mission, bridging sustainability and design, and we really do believe that Nordhavn does just that on a city area-level.
Greenwashing is an increasing problem as more and more brands are using the term ‘sustainability’ rather irresponsibly in their marketing. What are your thoughts on and experiences from this?
– It is something that really has proven a challenge to us as well. When we first started out curating our portfolio, we didn’t think it would be this hard, but it really is. Once you dig deep and go through various brands, their storytelling and their take on sustainability, you quickly realize that there are exceptionally few really good ones out there. We ourselves make a huge effort to be transparent in what we do, and open about our choices and limitations as we seek out the best of the best for the sustainability-minded, design-savvy consumer.
– We also experience a high degree of skepticism when people enter our store and we start explaining our sustainable concept to them. It’s when we start pointing towards the rugs made entirely out of recycled plastic bottles, or the line of ceramics that we’ve found via UNIDO – a specialized agency under the UN – that people understand and fully believe that we are, in fact, sustainable. And once we mention that we provide 10% of our profits to other partners, that’s when we really win over the hardcore skeptics.
“It’s when we start pointing towards the rugs made entirely out of recycled plastic bottles, or the line of ceramics that we’ve found via UNIDO – a specialized agency under the UN – that people understand and fully believe that we are, in fact, sustainable.”
How do you separate the ‘faux sustainable brands’ from brands with a deeper commitment towards ethical and eco-friendly practices? Hence, what in your opinion marks a truly sustainable brand or product?
– This has been a huge challenge for us. With a commercial mindset and an academic background, we actually found it necessary to come up with our own framework for evaluating brands. We call this the Yume Compass (read about it here).
– On an overall basis, we work with sustainability on a social and environmental level, meaning that the ideal sustainable product or brand caters to both sides. Thus, a truly sustainable brand or product is one that performs well both socially (fair wages, good conditions for workers etc.), and environmentally (upcycled/recycled materials, innovative sustainable materials, handmade/made with respect for resources etc.)
How do you source the brands and products you represent at Yume?
– When we first started out, we did all of the research ourselves. We then teamed up with UNIDO, which is an agency under the UN that works for increasing competitiveness in 3rd world countries. They helped link us to quite a few skilled craftsmen and designers in especially the Middle East that we are now featuring in our portfolio.
– Fortunately, we have now reached a point where we are constantly approached by sustainable brands and designers who are interested in teaming up with us, but we are still doing a lot of research ourselves, constantly being on the lookout for new sustainable materials and interesting concepts and brands.
You mentioned an exhibition in November that you are curating – what can you tell us about it?
– We have been asked by Denmark’s biggest design market, FindersKeepers to curate a huge space for their next market in one of Copenhagen’s biggest event spaces, Lokomotivværkstedet. At the exhibition, which will be down the centre of the event space with a total space of 84 x 8 meters, we are showcasing what we believe to be the best within sustainable design that is fit for a modern lifestyle.
– We will also be showcasing the materials behind the products, as a lot of the designs we’ve curated don’t in any way scream ‘sustainable materials’. However, you will get to know that most of them are made of recycled and upcycled materials – or new innovative sustainable materials like used yoghurt pots and ocean waste (it sounds ugly but it’s not).
What do you consider to be the sustainable brands to watch right now?
– For a more innovative approach, we’re huge fans of the Danish brand Wehlers, who is a b-corp certified furniture company with a meticulously thorough approach to sustainability – even the plastic tips at the end of each leg on their chairs are made of ocean waste. And their dining chair, Alternative, is beautiful to look at and a delight to sit in.
– When looking abroad, we like how a determinately modern universe like the one of LRNCE puts forward traditional craftsmanship from Marrakech, and brings new life into old techniques, while at the same time making sure that there’s plenty of work for local craftsmen and a local community.
What’s up next for Yume?
– We’re moving more towards doing our own co-labs, as well as consulting and curating the way we’re doing for FindersKeepers. We’re also initiating co-labs with more NGOs. Next spring, we’re doing a pilot project with the Danish NGO, PlanBørnefonden. The idea is to connect our business mindset and our design knowledge with the skills of remotely located local craftsmen in Uganda and Kenya. Hopefully, the project will result in beautiful pieces that we will be selling in the future.
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