Three entrepreneurs from Holland on their hunt for style and the great things in life.
“We’re more than just a store, through our “Hunt” we try to establish a feeling of classic timelessness with a solid emphasis of quality and distinctiveness”
During their law study in 2009, Joost van Dongen and Joost Kral where searching for something extra. They found out that studying law wasn’t satisfying their creativity enough. So the started with The Hunting Ensemble. A blog with interesting articles about architecture, music, art and fashion. They experienced that working on their blog was awesome and that they could do whatever they wanted. In comparison to their study they had no boundaries with The Hunting Ensemble.
A short while later they expanded The Hunting Ensemble with a online store with products for men. Their first collection where ten pairs of shoes that they bought with money from their savings account. True entrepreneurs with a great idea!
Two years ago they met with Thijs Hupkens who is a freelance photographer and filmmaker. By being inspired by each other they decided to work together and Thijs became the third owner of the Hunting Ensemble.
Nowadays The Hunting Ensemble has a great collection of clothing and accessories from brands like Norse Projects, Ontour, Han Kjøbenhavn, La Paz, Vanishing Elephant, Études Studio and Velour. And this year they’ve even opened a very nice store in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. A nice town in the south of Holland.
I met with the guys from The Hunting Ensemble some month’s ago. They had just opened their store and I was very amazed by their style and products. Which can be best described as a blend of modern vintage and minimalistic with a touch of nature and the outdoors.
It’s awesome that Joost van Dongen was willing to do an interview with us.
Can you tell something about yourself?
My name is Joost van Dongen and together with Joost Kral and Thijs Hupkens we own The Hunting Ensemble. I live in The Netherlands (Nijmegen) and I’m 24 years old. I just finished by master Dutch Law at the Radboud University Nijmegen. I love to sport and I’m a sucker for good quality made items. Not only new or modern (such as clothing and tech devices) but also the old stuff. I own two Vespa scooters a rare V50R model from 1970 and a V50 Special from 1974, the special is a bit more modern and is manufactured in Germany (but the colour is bright orange ;). I think you can call me the creative brain. I do most of the pre-selections for the collections, search the web for new exiting stuff and make contact with potential new brands. I made the website and control marketing on various platforms.
I met Joost Kral during my study Law and we became close friends. Joost is 29 years old and also lives in Nijmegen. Joost Kral keeps a close eye on our budgets and targets. How do we invest our money and were can we save some. He takes care of a large part of our administration and very important keeps a strong focus on our goals for coming years.
Thijs is an old school friend from Joost Kral and is co-owner for almost 2 years now. He works as a freelance photographer and filmmaker. With this experience in film and photography we really spiced up our photography on our site, which is really important. Besides that Thijs helps to focus on the concept; where we are going and how to accomplish our goals.
How did you guys came up with the idea of starting Hunting Ensemble?
I think Joost and I needed something to express our creativity in. Law can be quite abstract and theoretical. With our own business we feel like we have no boundaries and can do what we want. It sounds a bit lame maybe but I think it’s really true: the sky is the limit.
I started The Hunting Ensemble in 2009 as a blog. I blogged about architecture, music, art and fashion. I always had the idea to make it bigger than “just” a blog but wasn’t sure in which way. When Joost Kral and I were studying for a difficult law exam we came up with the idea to start our own webstore. We both put some savings together and bought ten pair of shoes (I’m really passionate about shoes and I think I’ve got more pairs under my bed than the average woman). We split up the forthcoming tasks: I would built the online store and focus on the graphic design and creative concept while Joost Kral would took care of finance, administration and efficiency.
We make a strong team, where everyone knows what he has to do and knows when we need to help each other.
Why the name Hunting Ensemble?
The name Hunting Ensemble stems from the “Hunt”, the way I personally thought what blogging entailed. I would hunt the Internet on topics and subjects I found interesting and would select the most intriguing things that caught my eye (or ear). Like for instances, I arranged interviews with unknown musicians and gave them a platform to promote their music (for example English sing and song writer: Daughter: http://www.ohdaughter.com/ ). But also cool art like the sliced pixel project from Dutch designer Victor van Gaasbeek. Or something totally different but very impressive gang photography by Robert Yager.
But the “Hunt”, without me knowing at the time, also reflects our current philosophy as a store. We hunt and gather what we think are the best pieces of the brands we carry and support those designers that infuses our inspiration. In fact, I still believe we’re more than just a store, through our “Hunt” we try to establish a feeling of classic timelessness with a solid emphasis of quality and distinctiveness.
When did you started with Hunting Ensemble?
The Blog started in late 2009, I think. I was very interested in blogging and invested a lot of time in creating an own site and learned how to deal with everything just by doing it. I searched the web for cool content and reached out to interesting persons and invited them to tell something about their passion or work.
The start of the shop was in mid 2010. The combination of a blog and shop is a strong one. You attract people with original content and also provide a platform where those people can buy something. The rest is “history” things went really well and we started to expand in multiple ways from shoes to bags and also introduced clothing to our store.
What products and brands do you sell?
Our clothing line is formed by Norse Projects, Ontour, Han Kjøbenhavn, La Paz, Vanishing Elephant, Études Studio and Velour. Our selection of shoe brands, besides the great footwear that Vanishing Elephant also offers, consist of Centre Commercial and Fracap and SeaVees.
We also have a wide range of accessories, like the unique Han Kjøbenhavn sunglasses, D.R. Harris colognes and shaving equipment, MWC watches and Nato straps.
To complete our quest for general cool stuff, we try to endorse local designers. We have for instance The Big Chop available from Danny from Kessel, a thick pistachio or hard oak chopping board where a iPad can be placed or the special lamps from Meneer Knip and Bert van der Beek.
How do you get inspired?
I truly believe the Hunting Ensemble is more than just a webshop and store. I know it may sound a bit cheesy or overly thought over, but it simply comes down to a way of living in where we found our comfort. And in which we think other men feel at home. The sort clothing we appreciate also stems from our general interest and preferences. For instances, we love outdoors and hiking, but like sports and gadgets and technical stuff just the same.
The importance of quality without being smug is perhaps one of the most returning parameters within our thinking and taste. So, everything from music, films to art and, of course, fashion, inspires us really.
You have just opened a shop in a Dutch town called ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
How’s life over there?
‘s-Hertogenbosch is a great place to have our store. It really has been growing when comes to unique stores and cultural events. Of course, there’s still the main generic run in the mill shopping district, but there are also up and coming alternative shopping streets. Like the Snellestraat, where our store is located. And naturally, the fact ‘s-Hertogenbosch is a true ‘Burgundian’ city of the south, with great beer and food, also helps! There is a lot to discover in ‘s-Hertogenbosch so definitly worth visiting!
What do you recommend when in ‘s-Hertogenbosch?
Our neighbors from the Snellestraat of course. Stores like The Vintage Room, with there playfull take on decoration and design, Re-issue, the best sneakers from ‘s-Hertogenbosch supplements us greatly as we don’t sell sneakers, Crème, one of the best coffee places of the town with a great laid back atmosphere and Eetbar DIT, who serves the best lunch and diner.
Do you have another location where people can buy your products?
Yep, we do! We have a great collaboration with Six and Sons, a small store located at one of the most finest shopping streets in Amsterdam; the Haarlemmerdijk. Six and Sons sells a selection from our collection along with great vintage furniture and likewise products. Our collection is available there so the people visiting Amsterdam can see, try and buy our products.
We also have a nice selection of their products, like flavoured Daneson toothpicks, some really cool journals and Falcon enamel plates and cups.
What would be your ultimate adventure?
Our ultimate adventure would be to set up our own successful clothing line and to expand our store (and dare I dream, stores?!) while retaining our initial driving force of quality and distinctiveness.
What’s next for The Hunting Ensemble?
Well, maybe our ultimate adventure haha. Our own clothing line could be fruition if we keep it to just a small selection. We’re plentiful when it comes to specific ideas for clothing, so inspiration wouldn’t be the trouble! Besides this we want to grow in the way we represent ourselves. Developing our photography and perhaps making our own short films. Film has always peaked our interest and Han Kjøbenhavn really inspired us with their films.
You can visit The Hunting Ensemble website for more inspiration.
We would like to thank Loes van Duijvendijk for the photography.
By Paul – October 28th – 2014