Interview Only/Once x Milk Magazine
01 – When did you start discovering the fascination of vintage (design) items? Would you like to talk about some of the vintage (design) items that influenced you?
As a passionate graphic designer, I started to notice the importance and value of good and timeless design early on ● Bauhaus designers Marcel Breuer, Max Bill or legends such as Dieter Rams or Josef Hurka and many others were designers I always looked up to ● I quickly became almost nerdy about hunting for truly unique design artifacts and became a Braun collector as well ● The more I dug deeper and the more I learned, I started to look beyond the "classics" and most obvious ones ● A key component of this "hobby" became to breath in new life into the products, which involved repairing and carefully restoring and cleaning the objects where needed ● Nothing makes me happier than seeing a truly vintage almost forgotten design product, shine and work again ● The passion soon turned into the idea of starting to share these beautiful pieces with the rest of the world and involve a small team ● The brand name and website followed soon and the rest is history ●
02 – I noticed that the online shop was launched in 2013, would you tell us how did the idea come up? How did the name only / once come up?
The idea came up quite naturally after having way too many beautiful vintage design objects and also with the passion of wanting to give these a new home ● I obviously could not use them all so I decided to create a brand and an online store starting to sell some ● The name Only / Once came up after a week of brainstorming ● The name was perfect as it expressed the values of the company ● Only / Once is about truly unique and rare selected design objects ● We fell in love with the brand name and never regretted picking it ●
03 – In the introduction, there is a line “Our shop showcases each product in as much detail as possible to portray their true and honest form” which reminds us of dieter rams, does the 10 principles of good design influence the items you pick for the shop?
While Dieter Rams 10 design principles are a good rule we try to hold onto, we do not live it extensively ● We collect items we believe are timeless and come with an outstanding design that even back in the days were main representatives of the design era and stood out due to their unseen design ● But we also collect items that were never considered as "design-objects" but turned into ones over the years ●
04 – What kinds/categories of items will you collect? Do you collect items to deal with the names of the designer?
Our shop offers timeless pieces from the 20th century ● This includes electronics, industrial items, lamps, and lights, as well as home decor items ● Some of our favorites being Braun radios and fans designed by Dieter Rams and Reinhold Weiss or timeless lamps by Dell and Hurka ● From recovered industrial warehouse lamps to clocks from schools in former DDR Germany, we take everyday, functional items and repurpose them as beautiful design pieces each with a story worth sharing ● Just to name a few of our personal highlights, we love the large Chronotechna clock and of course the Braun SK 5 and Braun Exporter 2 - both were hard to find and even more so in such a good condition ●
05 How do you collect the vintage items? Do you set any standard for quality?
We never follow a strict line of what objects we collect although we have developed our personal preference and taste over the years ● The main criteria are beauty, originality, and history ● Our principle is always to seek and offer pieces in the best possible condition ● We carefully restore products where needed and clean and polished when already in good condition ● The goal is to preserve the original charm and patina while making them look great (sometimes as new) ● If we dive deeper into it, some objects might have gotten touched only once since installed, like centrally operated industrial clocks ( link: http://onlyonceshop ●com/store/category:Clocks ) that we carefully transform into mechanical clocks that can be used in the home later on ● Other objects have been used daily when they have been bought several decades ago such as table lamps ● It always struck us how durable and greatly engineered these products are unlike today ● And then there are objects such as Braun radios designed by Dieter Rams or Reinhold Weiss that have been true design icons from the beginning on ● You can almost feel how carefully they have been used and operated, some of them are still looking like new, which is even more fascinating and feels like a treasure found when we get one ●
06 Are there any memorable stories about the items collected?
The stories behind each object are one of the most valuable parts of the artifacts and one of the reasons why we started Only / Once ● As our brand name says, each one has a different story to tell and is honest and unique ● We don't always know the background of each object but we always try to find it out ● We are for example selling a mid-century lamp designed by famous Czechoslovakian product designer Josef Hurka that once belonged to my grandmother and my mother used to write her homework for school inside an old apartment in the center of Prague ● I love Pragotron clocks which remind me of Czechoslovakia (see story on our blog.) ● Even today you can still find several clocks ticking in old school halls, railway stations or hospitals ● These clocks still carry the spirit of an era that is over 60 years old and add to the vibe of a place or even an entire city same as architecture does ● It is fascinating to see how each object has a story to tell and we are making sure that the story gets continued in another part of the world in a new home ●
07 – Have you ever thought of opening a physical store? What is/are the advantage(s) of an online shop?
We intentionally decided in the early days that we wanted to mainly run an online shop and only create temporary or permanent physical stores later along the way ● It is important to us that we offer our products worldwide and we pride ourselves on having a truly international customer base, with many customers from Asia as well ● You will also notice that our products are mostly small to medium-sized so that they can be easily shipped ● For that reason, we avoid large clumsy objects such as furniture ● This, however, might change in the future once we grow ●
08 – How would you pack your products to the customers?
As we do not have a physical store, the packaging is very important to us ● It is the first touchpoint with our brand ● Therefore it the packaging, and inner package represents is a representation of our company and we make sure it looks beautiful and clean and "on brand" ● We want to provide a truly joyful experience to the customer when the article gets opened for the first time ● We usually include a handwritten note inside of each package with a personal note for the customer ● For shipping, we mainly work together with UPS to ensure a fast and safe worldwide delivery ●
09 – I love the style of your website: clean and neat, are there any special in the design of the website interface (typeface, color use, graphics etc)?
Our website is built from scratch using a custom design heavily influenced by Dieter Rams' design and his Braun era - we focus on what is essential and try to communicate in a clean and minimalist way ● The typeface we use is called Tilde and we particularly chose it as it resembles an old sans-serif typography style used for Braun branding in the 60s ● Our colors are simple: white, orange, light grey and black - these are colors that can also be found in old BRAUN brand manuals and collaterals ● We even took the large "dot" and made it the main part of our branding that is also influenced by Braun design ●
10 – Do you have a system/practice in the styling of your photos?
We embrace minimal design and try to use similar techniques that have been adapted from over 60 years ago ● We have intentionally chosen a light grey background for all of our product photography ● It is neutral and again an homage to Braun and Bauhaus design ● Over the years we have built an entire photography studio and found the perfect setting ● We fiddled over details, such as how to best photograph a BRAUN radio, what are the angles that look best; what do customers want to see; -making sure to document all the details that matter ● After each photo shoot, we number all items and do very little photo-editing ●