Realistic Dreamer - Dreamy Realist


Interview with young designer Bent Fierens

On a grey autumn day in October – the kind we, Belgians, know all too well – we enjoyed a conversation with young, Belgian designer, Bent Fierens (24 years old), that brightened our mood. Brains behind design concept, Ficci, Bent shared his thoughts, episodes of his fresh journey into the Belgian design landscape. He talked about his dreams, plans for the future, his identity as a novice designer and took the time to reflect on the current wood and furniture industry. 
Pursuing furniture design, I discovered a balance between my technical mind and the creative inside of me
Bent Fierens
Q: Bent, tell us a bit more about yourself and your journey into becoming a furniture designer
A: After enjoying an education in product development, I graduated as in furniture design at VOMO, Belgium, in June 2023. I am a product developer, a problem solver, through and through, I have a very functional way of thinking, but there’s also a very creative side to me. Since childhood, I’ve felt the need to creatively express myself and be very hands-on. My experience working as a student in a furniture store sparked my interest in furniture design. I decided that I wanted to follow my heart and find a career that brings me joy, that makes me feel good. Pursuing furniture design, I discovered a balance between my technical mind and the creative inside of me. 
 Q: Do you see these different parts of yourself expressed in your design process and designs? 
A: Yes, I do. With my graduation project, Ficci, I search to offer a solution to today’s polluting fast furniture industry. Ficci is an expression of the ‘solutioneer’ inside of me and combines my creative side and innate need to be part of a positive change. 
Q: Tell us a bit more about Ficci
A: Ficci offers a circular and flexible alternative to the fast furniture industry. It’s a system that consist of one functional piece that serves as an easy-to-use building block for different design options. Ficci is circular DIY. The building block is a basic structure that can be combined with different design extensions, creating various furniture pieces like stools, a bench, a closet… The design extensions are trend sensitive to answer to the need for change that fast furniture fulfils. Clients rent these extensions on a subscription-based platform, which makes altering designs and refurbishing to different times and tastes easy. In this way, one’s furniture remains trendy and part of a circular network. The entire Ficci concept is reusable, made out of mostly reclaimed and sustainable materials and is easily accessible to design dummies, like making an Ikea piece is, for example. 
A design process consists of continuous ups & downs. Don't give up, persevere, in order to, eventually, create & have a positive impact
Q: How did the process of developing Ficci change you as a person? 
A: “Oh, that’s a good but tough question”, Bent laughs. During the design of Ficci I grew my knowledge and understanding of what circularity truly means and entails. I became more confident about which tactics you can apply to create circular furniture. The more I dived into it, the more I became aware of the problems at hand, but also discovered solutions. This increased my drive to pursue circular design. I learned that a design process consists of continuous ups and downs. You must not give up in order to, eventually, create and have a positive impact
Q: What are the drives and values you put into your designs? 
A: I’m really driven by the search for circular solutions. I want to be part of the movement that pushes forward circular stories within the furniture industry. I believe in the importance of sustainable design. It’s better to not produce at all than to add to the abundance of products that aren’t beneficial to our world. I have a special love for everything DIY. I’d like to design furniture and solutions that people can easily access and make themselves. Another important value for me is community. I tried to create this by making Ficci part of a subscription-based platform and introducing the rental and reuse idea. I see Ficci as a project that’s open to the ideas of other designers as well. Something that unites different ideas and points of view. 
 Q: How would you describe Ficci in 3 words? 
A: “You keep on hitting me with the difficult questions”, Bent laughs. I’d say: “Make it better”. And, if I can add another 3-word phrase: “Have some fun!”. 
I'm a realistic dreamer & dreamy realist
Q: Haha, thank you for that little mind game! Could you find 3 words to describe yourself as a designer/creator? 
A: The mind and word games continue! I would describe myself as a realist and a dreamer. 
 Q: A realistic dreamer who's a dreaming realist and the dreamy realist who’s a realistic dreamer! 
A: Haha, yes, both at the same time! I’m a realist because I don’t want to be blind for the big problems our world faces today. And I consider myself a dreamer, because I think it’s important to have the courage to find solutions for these problems that often feel overwhelming. The third word I’d use to describe myself is that I like to enjoy life. I think this comes to life in my love for working together with others and the joy I feel when I can present my work and receive feedback. I love seeing how my work inspires others and makes them think. I feel joyful when I hear opinions and questions that, in their turn, make me think and improve my designs. 
I experience a creative outlet as an inexhaustible source of energy that gives you the drive to continue to search, find & create, without feeling the need to expect anything in return
Q: In the beginning of our conversation, you talked about the importance of having a creative outlet, how do you see and experience this? 
A: I experience a creative outlet as an inexhaustible source of energy that gives you the drive to continue to search, find and create. When you find something that you genuinely love and put energy into this, it gives you energy back, and you act without expecting anything in return. It nourishes different parts of you. I believe that, if people would search what this inexhaustible source of (creative) energy is to them, much beauty would come from this and the world would be a beautiful place to live in. 
Q: It certainly would be! We love the gems of wisdom you’re sharing with us. Do you have any advice for other, young people, taking their first steps into the world of furniture design? 
A: I’d say: “don’t be afraid to ask questions, ask for input and help”. I’ve always been someone who wants to do everything on his own. Who sort of has this attitude of not wanting to bother anyone, “I’ll take care of it myself”. Learning to ask questions is something I still really need to grow in, but I recognise the value of having a network and people to rely on. You’d be surprised with what people can mean to you and your creations. 
Q: What do you think young designers can contribute to the industry, to companies that already have a long life behind them? 
A: I think that young people have the ability to look at problems in a very different way than older generations do. We have a fresh outlook. We can offer new ideas. New ideas that the industry could use to create progress. Youngsters of my generation grew up in a very different world, an online world that requires different approaches. I think that the coming together of generations, of youngsters and industry, can be a very valuable asset. The interaction of cultures and ideas can offer new and different insights and approaches. We can all learn so much from each other.
The industry unites companies that have been around for a long time & became established values. You don’t become an established value overnight! It takes time, work, resilience, overcoming setbacks.
Q: And what do you think young designers can learn from the wood(craft) and furniture industry? 
A: There’s so much to learn! I think the industry can teach us to become better and tougher negotiators, apply a stronger business mindset. Young people are sometimes easily pushed around, haha. The industry unites companies that have been around for a long time and have become established values, and you don’t become an established value overnight! It takes time, much work, resilience, overcoming setbacks. Because these companies carry these well-known and valued names, they have a sustainable character. Consumers take better care of their products, want to hold onto them longer. These companies have a leading role when it comes to sustainability and durability, compared to many new players – especially fast furniture brands.  
The industry is a rich collection of knowledge, earned through trial and error, failure and success. Having the opportunity to, for example, attend an open-day in companies, like we used to do in school, offers a great opportunity for youngsters to learn, gain realism and become more aware of the daily realities in the industry. With this awareness we can adapt and improve our designs. 
Another key the industry holds, is the richness of craftsmanship, of carefully made products. Giving importance to high quality materials & the way in which products are designed
Bent Fierens
Q: Bent, what are your desires for the future as a designer/creator? 
A: I have many dreams! But being the realistic dreamer I am (chuckles) I’d like to continue my search into how I can have a positive impact as a product developer and designer, especially in circular design. I’ve made it my mission to look for solutions for the fast furniture industry. I’d like to grow Ficci, but would also like to support other circular projects. And I’d like to continue to nurture my creative outlet, maybe through the creation of collectibles that are creative, innovative and more abstract.  
Beautiful projects from a dreamy realist! Thank you for sharing dear Bent!