Interview with Laura BĒRZIŅA
How did you come up with an idea to create non-profit organization, which helps Baltic designers to be noticed in Belgium?
I have been living in Brussels for 9 years now, and since the very beginning, I have been involved in organisation of different cultural events, including fashion and design events. I work at the European Commission, but after office hours, I love ‘to play in shops’: my husband and I have participated in different Christmas markets in Belgium several times presenting Latvian products. It was a great experience and the best way to assess interest, see the reaction and talk to people. I was the Head of the Latvian Association in Belgium from 2005 to 2009, and after finishing my duties there I was looking for a new ‘playground’ in area of fashion and design. I have a dream to open a concept store one day, where Baltic Designerscould be presented. I passionately support our talented designers. They are not worse than well-established brands, but they need some additional support. Besides, it is not only support, I really like those designs. Colleagues always notice when I wear something from Baltics; it looks special on the usual mass production background. So, in September 2019, I noticed a venue that was rented for POP UP shops on weekends. It perfectly fitted with my needs, and I started to plan the realisation. Firstly, I was thinking of Latvian design pop up shop only. I had contacts back in Latvia and it seemed easier from organisational point of view. However, I turned idea into ‘Baltic Design Stories’ pretty soon: we as small countries with common history and past have to work together. Outside our countries, for example, here in Belgium, people can’t tell us apart. They confuse Lithuania with Latvia very often. They do not know which capital belongs to which country, and, if they have been there, mostly they have visited all three countries together, so called a Baltic trip. Moreover, it is not only in Belgium. It is not for nothing that many joint projects have launched recently, like Baltic Culture Fund and others. After the concept was ready, I was looking for a team, and in the beginning of November, together with five other active ladies, who believed in our Baltic Design Stories, we founded this non-profit organisation. Since then, the team has already changed several times, but that is normal, as we are a very new organisation and on top of that we are also non-profit, and we are still trying to find the best way to work long term. The name ‘Baltic Design Stories’ makes you think of different stories behind products and designers who create them. I believe that there is its own story behind everything, and my aim is to introduce a wider audience with it, especially outside the Baltics.
What are the activities of this Baltic Design Stories?
The main activity is to link Baltic designers with Design lovers in Belgium. Thanks to digital world, it is possible not only in Belgium, but also with wider audience. We have created a cooperation platform www. balticdesignstories.eu, where you can find our members, from their profiles you can go to their web sites and e-shops, and discover their beautiful creations. We gather Baltic Designers, who introduce customers to the identity of the Baltic design. We all know the Scandinavian design, but what is the Baltic Design identity? Through different workshops and events, our parallel and very important work is to find, formulate and present the Baltic Identity. A vivid recent example that we are going in the right direction. When I was visiting new venue for future projects, the property manager, Belgian by nationality, gave compliments to our designers. He said: “I thought that the Baltic design does not exist, I had imagined that design products look the same as 30-40 years ago. But I found that your designers create beautiful things and they could easily stand next to Belgian designers. Thank you for showing us!” However, we are community: designer must want to get involved, we do two-side communication in strong cooperation with each other. Now, in Covid-19 circumstances, we have developed more digital communication. Five or six times per year we are meeting online to get to know each other and to cover topics that are important specifically to our designers. Topics are different: copyrights, marketing, export capacity, country knowledge etc. Very important is to physically show design products, so people can appraise work of designers by themselves. One or two times per year, we are planning to organize our own POP UP projects. Apart of these projects, we are looking for cooperation and infrastructure partners. It could be an existing concept store that would be interested in welcoming Baltic Designers for a shorter or a longer period. There can be different ways in cooperating with us. Just ask and let’s brainstorm together! We are also preparing our online selling platform; at the moment, we don’t have an online shop. News will be coming soon.
What is your role in the organization?
I am the founder, the visionary and the Chairman of the Board.
What do Baltic Design Ambassadors do?
The main task is to connect designers to our platform and community, to see and develop opportunities for them. To help perform our activities and to achieve our goals. Currently, we are looking for our Ambassadors in Lithuania and Estonia, Linda Berzina who could spread information about us and introduce new designers to our mission. Currently we have only Latvians in our team! We receive a great support from all three Baltic Ambassadors and Embassies in Belgium, as well as from honorary consuls representing Baltic countries in Belgium.
How many jewellery designers do you represent? Could you name them?
At the moment, we represent following jewellery designers: Daili (LT), Andris Lauders (LV), Verba (LV), Maija Vitola (LV) and Enameli (LV).
How do you see the role of Baltic Design Stories today, when COVID19 has changed our lifestyles? How are you helping designers in these uncertain times?
Our main role to connect a Baltic Designer with wider audience is now getting even more important in designers’ paths. We are developing our web site, a cooperation platform, and we are planning to open an online selling platform soon. We, as a community will meet online throughout the year, and we will see how to work better together in order to meet our expectations and achieve our goals.