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Given the chaos that has assailed the world’s markets this week, it might seem a little crass to mention $300 trash cans. But the Danish firm Vipp held a swanky event in Manhattan last night, hosted by another of the country’s famous exports, supermodel Helena Christensen. Proceedings included an auction of Vipp bins customized by art/culture/design/music gurus such as Jenny Holzer, Karim Rashid and U2 front man, Bono, who contributed a bin (left) containing unpublished lyrics from the band’s new album and which sold for $30,000 (proceeds went to charity.)
Before the auction, I chatted to VIPP President Kasper Egelund, about why now is in any way a good time to launch a line of super-expensive garbage cans in the U.S.
"There are many reasons we shouldn’t come to the U.S. now!" Kasper admitted gamely. "The dollar’s horrible, as well as the markets... But in the beginning, when you have more expenses than income, it’s okay that the dollar is low. And why start when the economy is down? It’ll go up. We build while it’s low and hopefully when we go out of recession in a few years time, business will be great." Plus, he added, Vipp's is not exactly a mass market. "The target group we’re aiming at will be hurt by the economy, but it’s still a niche." He puts that niche at around 10% of the American population, a figure that seems somewhat optimistic to me.
Egelund also argued that the design and craft of each Vipp bin makes it an object to treasure forever, or at least for 20 years or so. That, he says, makes it a worthy investment and he likens his long-held family brand to the likes of Apple or Audi, which have embraced high-end design principles as core brand propositions. "It’s not a trash can; it’s furniture. It’s a design piece," said Egelund. "If you buy a car, you get transportation. But if you buy an Audi or a Porsche, you get details and emotions. Our product has functionality and an emotional design that connects the world to the consumer."
Who knows whether an American audience will decide that spending $300 on a garbage can is a good idea. With the news that New York's unemployment rate rose to 5.8 percent from 5 percent in July -- the largest monthly increase in more than 30 years -- and a figure that doesn't take into account any of the recent upheavals on Wall Street -- it could well be that this move doesn't work out as Egelund envisages. Many of the target audience might just prefer to keep their disposable income in their pockets. Still, at least the Food Bank for New York City and Chernobyl Children's Project International got hefty contributions from last night's event -- over $50,000 was raised in all.
What comes next? The Bloomberg Businessweek Innovation and Design blog chronicles new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.