Thorsten van Elten

Thorsten van Elten's new online design store specialises in vintage East German posters, toys, animal figurines and accessories, ideal for alternative Christmas gifts. Willkommen!


London-based German retailer Thorsten van Elten disappeared off the face of the design scene last year leaving us bemused as to what had happened to him. Having shut down his online store Theo, van Elten became something of an enigma prompting wild speculation as to his next venture.

Well, now he’s back, having spent a few months scouring Germany for vintage posters, toys and accessories for his new self-titled online shop 'You can take the boy out of Germany, but you can't take Germany out of the boy,' he quips.

ABOVE: 'Boar Family', £39. Hand-carved wooden animals in a forest setting
BELOW: Vintage East German film and public information posters, from £20

Having previously championed UK-based designers including Ed Carpenter, Alexander Taylor and André Klauser, this time around van Elten has focussed mainly on products from his homeland. Particularly interesting are the East German illustrated film posters, produced between the 1960s and 80s, which eschewed photography for hand-drawn imagery. Their naive graphics and typography hark back to more innocent times before computers and Photoshop ruled the roost.

BELOW FROM LEFT: 'Squirrel Matchbox Animal', £5; Miniature wooden 'Ford Sedan 1919', £16.50; Push-up wooden 'Wackeltier' dinosaur toy, £5.95

Cute hand-carved animals, miniature painted vehicles and toys from the Ore Mountains also show the signs of the craftsperson’s hand, making them very attractive to those who yearn for something tactile in the digital age. A quirky blog shares van Elten's travel finds.

So if you’re looking for Christmas gifts with real personality, step away from Amazon, pour yourself a glass or two of Glühwein and point your mouse in van Elten’s direction. We highly recommend it...