The Mavericks


WORDS Steve Smith PHOTOS Shavan Rahim

Dutch sustainable furniture brand Planq is bridging the gap between contemporary design and environmental consciousness. We caught up with them on a recent trip to SA.

If you were able to attend the Cape Town Furniture Week in mid Feb, chances are you would’ve noticed these two meandering around the various showrooms and spaces that were part of this growing Mother City designfest.

Anton and Dennis Teeuw are twin brothers based in the city of Gorinchem in western Netherlands and they were invited to Cape Town by VISI’s sustainable design partners Circular Squared. The reason? Well, if you are looking for an example of how to run a successful and innovative business that has sustainable design at the forefront of every decision it makes, then these guys are it. What better way to learn how to do it than from some folk already doing it and doing it well. Anton and Dennis took part in two Cape Town Furniture week panel discussions, sharing their experiences, challenges and successes.


There are two basic parts of their business – one, furniture design and manufacture, and two, materials manufacture under their Rezign brand. Their self-developed Rezign veneer is made from the various waste materials – anything from old jeans and suits, to PET and recycled leather – and is used as tabletops, seats, and cabinets.

We chatted to the Anton Teeuw to find out more about their journey, their approach to sustainable design, and what the future holds for Planq

Tell us about Planq’s journey as an idea and into a business. What inspired you … what motivates you?

“Actually we started the whole journey without any plan. I was studying architecture butI always felt a bit annoyed that we were still focusing on the old-school way of making buildings using conservative materials. So I decided to set-up my own thesis plan together with an NGO called Pamoja Projects, I studied in Amsterdam but focused on the necessity of life in Kenya. I looked at its economy and saw that the agricultural sector was the biggest sector with crops like maize and rice. These crops were being burned after harvest, but  their fibre was pretty interesting and strong, so I decided to use it as a raw material to make a new sustainable type of board … a Planq. My thesis won a second prize in Amsterdam in 2015 and then I applied for a Circular Design challenge with a similar concept, using reeds from the Amsterdam cannels and biobased binders. We won the award by making a kind of 3D puzzle chair out of these panels and I simply put the chair on stage and sat on it as a proof of concept that it was strong enough.

“This was a spin-off for the project “Planq” and Dennis and I decided to set-up a company. No business plan, no big plans, just a good idea and a lot of motivation! 

At the same time I became a father at the age of 20, which was a very big motivation as well. I had to get my shit together and if I was going to work at something, then let’s do it in a good way. I did not want my daughter to be born into another generation of conservative ways of making buildings, furniture or design. During the day it was studying and family, the evenings and weekend were for earning some money by working at a bar and trying to make a business out of this Planq project, that would eventually become a furniture brand.”

So how hard has it been to make Planq into a successful business? Sustainability is often regarded as an expensive exercise, isn’t it?

“To be honest, it wasn’t easy. In the early years we took side jobs to earn money as mentioned, but our idealism kept us going. I think that is mainly where building a business is all about – keep on going, hold your back straight and if you fall down, make sure you fall forward. At least then you will have learned something and got further on the road.”

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in pursuing sustainable and circular design, and how have you addressed them?

“I think mainly the market expectations. We have all become used to newly made, high-tech materials, but working with recycled products is like working with natural products. A piece of wood for example is always different and always has to be treated differently. The outcome is also therefore different, and that is where we have to be aware of. Also something made of recycled waste is not cheaper. In Dutch sustainability is duurzaamheid and duur means expensive, as it does Afrikaans. So the word is saying it can be more expensive. Otherwise it would have been goedkoop-zaamheid and, as youy know goedekoop means “cheap”.

And how did you find yourselves here on the Southern tip of Africa? 

“We got contacted by two cool guys from Cape Town – Sean Weldon and Brad Armitage from Circular Squared who were very keen to learn more about Planq. After some online meetings and then meeting in the flesh at Dutch Design Week, we made plans come to SA. They told us there were many opportunities in South Africa with our technical knowledge and sense of design. So we thought  lets go and give it a try! And that’s how we now got even involved in helping the Circular Squared platform to an next level.”

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