MINI Voices x Studio Rens


Stefanie van Keijsteren and Renee Mennen. Together, they form Studio RENS, a design studio that develops collections in which research into material and colour predominate. Studio RENS looks at and researches by-products and waste with new eyes for their clients – mainly in the industry. They look for raw materials and use them as a starting point for design or research.


For the designers, it all starts with the investigation of production processes. Stefanie: “We dive into the production line of a factory or the heart of a company. The place where things are made. That is our starting point and our source of inspiration – we take in everything we see and encounter. And then, we look at where we can make innovations. Renee enthusiastically explains how this works: “When we walk through a factory, it is simply wonderful to see what is happening there. We look at the products and machines in a completely different way. We create our own framework, and it feels like a candy store. A lot happens at that moment because there are so many possibilities!”


Material and process are the starting point, not the product. This means that the 2 women don’t always know where they will end up in their project. Renee explains: “We design the other way around. We do not start from the idea that we are going to make a certain product. Take ceramics, for example. We look at its properties and processes. And we intervene in those processes, for example, stopping the painting process earlier or not applying an opaque powder coating, which makes the colours different from ‘normal’. These interventions, and the answers we get from them, result in a design. So the process dictates to us what the product should be. And if that is a functional product, for example, a vase, fine! But it can also end up in just research because that fits better. Then the research is the end product.”


For Studio RENS, the sustainable use of resources has crept into their working methods over the years by looking at what rejects manufacturers have in storage. Stefanie: “We are always looking for a carrier for our experiment or research. We believe that it is not up to us to develop a new material every time, but we should focus much more on what already exists. Both in the material and the knowledge behind it. Why should we reinvent the wheel? Rather, we look at how we can give new life to the things that already exist. In this way, we look for a new function for existing raw materials.” Renee: “As a result, we are not constantly producing new things. We use what we have and design with it. It is such a waste. Because the quality of materials such as carpet is often beautiful, but then the colour is out of date. And then the manufacturer rejects it.”


As outsiders in a factory, the designers see things that others no longer see. They let coincidences lead them by what is there at that place at that time. Renee knows where their strength lies: “We try to look further and do things differently than others. People say this is not possible, or these things do not match, so we try it. Sometimes too much technical knowledge of a certain production process or material can be a hindrance. We don’t want to know too much because that keeps us from our own research. We want to look at the boundaries and see how things that are illogical beforehand can be combined.”


There is still plenty to discover and explore, according to Stefanie. “We have been working with Studio RENS for a while now and it made us find out how many companies in the industry have to deal with waste and surplus. There is simply a lot of leftover material, and a lot is still thrown away. That is a great challenge for us. Also to get companies out of their set patterns and generate new insights. And we can do that in all sorts of areas and with all sorts of materials. But if I may choose? I would be very curious to work together with the paint industry. To see if we can deal with discolouration and make car paint more durable. We are very curious about that.”