bedMATE of the month #18: Gijsje Ribbens

Every month we visit a creative and inspiring person. She or he is the 'bedMATE of the month'.

The bedMATE is the most iconic item in our collection. The extra long cushion serves as a headboard, but also as a cuddle buddy, a friend who provides support.

We crawl into bed with the 'bedMATE of the month'. We take a look at their home and their colorful (bed)rooms. In conversation we discover how they experience the SUITE life. What's going on in their heads? Where do they get their inspiration from? And what color do they dream in?

This month, all-round creative Nicole Huisman visited Gijsje Ribbens: creative director, stylist and founder of RiRa Objects and mother of toddler Koos.

'Sometimes I don't really understand how I have time to do so many different things at the same time.' I meet Gijsje at her home, on Java Island. With a lot of daylight coming in and an unobstructed view over the IJ, a super nice place to be, let alone to live. We sit at the table in the living room and discuss what is on Gijsje's mind. 'I am creative director, stylist and founder of RiRa Objects, an online place where we sell handmade objects by Sabine Marcelis, Vincent de Rijk and Jonas Lutz, among others. I spend most of my time designing and creating images for fashion brands, from lookbooks to campaigns and videos. For example, I am the permanent image director of KASSL Editions, a jacket brand.'

Gijsje studied fashion design at the art academy in Arnhem and graduated as a fashion designer. 'I haven't touched the sewing machine since I graduated. Almost immediately after graduating, I started working at Vogue, eventually as a fashion editor. After six years in Vogue, I started my own business, my first project was creating the brand concept of KASSL Editions. Fashion design, styling, creative or art direction: for me they are different expressions of the same thing I enjoy doing most, namely creating an image or vision.'

Gijsje has a clear visual language, if you ask me: playful, strong and mature. She is not afraid of color. 'I can really get excited about color, I think selecting the colors for RiRa products is one of the nicest things there is. I like all colors, if combined well. And that for someone who used to only wear black! I really like sober colors combined with more eye-catching colors. I don't believe in flashy or cheap colors, I think that's snobby nonsense. In terms of use of color, for example, I think the work of John Chamberlain is fantastic.'

RiRa is a great example of a Covid success story. 'During the pandemic, the lives of Bart (the 'Ra' in RiRa and also founder of KASSL) and me suddenly came to a standstill: after busy years with a lot of travel, we were suddenly confronted with our own house and interior. We missed a place where you can buy special things, handmade and in an accessible way - without 'price on request'. And something that makes you happy, it was quite an exciting and uncertain period of course. Bart and I had worked together on many fashion brands and it felt very good to have a break from that fashion rhythm with those unrelenting seasons, but to look at design with our fashion eyes. Moreover, the Netherlands and Belgium are chock full of good designers.'

About fashion versus (interior) design: 'I really like the design world: there is still a lot for me to discover, the people are open and nice and the pace is not so cutthroat - the atmosphere at the Salone is so much more cheerful than at fashion week for example. I think the meetings with designers and the visits to their workplaces are one of the nicest things about RiRa. That said, I think expressing yourself with clothes or thinking about what other people say with clothes is the most fun thing there is.'

I look around the house and what I see makes me very happy: a warm family home, with room for fun & design. There is a large, piglet-pink RiRa bowl on the table, there is a cozy yellow rug on the couch ('We still have to upholster the couch, so for now'), the floor in the kitchen is blue, the house is toned- down with pops of color. 'We haven't put a lot of thought into the design of our house, it just came about this way – we are renting this house and I can imagine that if we buy a house the design and furnishings will be more carefully considered. But right now it's mainly toddler-proof and a mix of hand-me-downs from my parents, lots of books and records and stuff from RiRa. I'm already fantasizing about a house with lots of light, high ceilings and a beautiful kitchen and bathroom, plus the floor of my dreams! What I would immediately take with me if there is a GOD FORBID fire is the portrait of my sister and me by Rineke Dijkstra that hangs in the hallway. But I also enjoy the chairs by Muller van Severen for KASSL and of course the objects by RiRa – they still make me happy!'

Gijsje was also the first bedMATE to opt for a completely white bedding set. With a jade-green bigDOT, that is. 'I think sleeping in clean, crispy bedding is wonderful: for me personally, bedding should be white, that makes it extra crispy and clean and cloudy. For Koos's bed, on the other hand, I like it if it is very playful and with lots of color, just like the rest of his room.'

Besides lazing in her white cloud, Gijsje likes to go out at the weekend. 'Our weekend ritual is to be the first to arrive at the playground at the Herenmarkt in Amsterdam together with our friends Maxime and Gordon. Lost beer bottles reveal that there was still a party in our favorite playground 1 hour before us. One of us gets croissants from Niemeijer, another gets coffee, I try in vain to read the newspaper and our children fight over the swing.'

The trick if you want to apply color, but are new to the game? 'I understand that people find color exciting, it is easier to make everything 'matchy matchy'. But I can really like a house that is completely white with, for example, a colored bed and 1 colored bowl. Or a completely beige house with 1 large colored chair or sofa. I think it's about finding the right proportion and not using too many different colors together.'