Design

Monsieur Starck and his dream of abstraction

Philippe Starck has achieved international recognition with the design of everyday objects. In an interview, the star designer once told us why he would have preferred to become a composer. He would definitely have enough time for a professional reorientation. With this in mind: happy 75th birthday.

  • Interview
    Patricia Jell & Michael Petersen
  • Fotos
    Philippe Starck
Mr. Starck, you added a facet to your body of work with the launch of three perfumes. The designer doing scents – why was this of interest for you?

All my life, I’ve translated my dreams and visions into mate- riality. But actually I hate materiality and deep inside of me I always wanted to escape from it. Creating perfumes gives me the possibility to fulfil my dream of abstraction. Translating my intuitions, my visions into chemicals and perfumes is my favourite part of the creation process. The design of the bottle is not so important for me.

Scents transport stories. Which stories do you want to tell with your perfumes?

Even if they echo each other, the three fragrances have their own story to tell. We invented a new language, a new terri- tory, a new mental space. Peau de Soie explores the mystery that is woman. It appears to be a female fragrance, but inside is a shadow, an attractive, almost masculine heart. Peau de Pierre evokes an ambivalent masculinity; it smells like a male perfume, but within its core lies a female mystery. It’s a very complex perfume. Some will love it, and some will hate it, but this is my vision of man. And Peau d’Ailleurs is asexual; it is the smell of something or someone we don’t know yet. What I mean is that you don’t have to choose to be only a man or a woman, you can be something else, elsewhere. Each perfume represents a part of who I am, and of who we are. Depending on my mood, I wear the three of them.


How does that work: translating stories into scents and filling them into flacons? Could you tell us a bit about the creative process and the collaborations behind this project?

I’ve had my own perfume organ ever since I was young, but I quickly realised I was not a master perfumer. So I needed professionals to realise this very personal project. I have been approached by several fragrance companies over the years, but I never felt the perfect match until I met PYD. With the three master perfumers Daphné Bugey, Annick Ménardo and Dominique Ropion, we invented a new language, a new creative process to translate my dreams, my visions, my explorations into fragrances. Through their personality and savoir-faire, my words became scents.

Until you started creating perfumes, you worked exclusively with matter. What is especially important here for you?

Whether it is a toothbrush or a hotel, I’ve always thought
of the benefit my creation will bring to the person who will use it or who will go to the place I created. For me, creation, whatever form it takes, must improve the lives of as many people as possible. I like to create scenarios where people can feel more beautiful, more confident, more in love. Places are about a feeling. It’s an experience, a full experience for the body: the view, the sound, the mind, the culture and everything. To design an object or a place, I use the same parameters: creativity, rigorousness, working on a political statement, sexual statement, ecology and so on.

The iconic Juicy Salif juicer was also designed by Philippe Starck. Credit: Alessi.
The iconic Juicy Salif juicer was also designed by Philippe Starck. Credit: Alessi.
I am proud of my contribution to democratising design. For me, design has always been a political weapon to show something, a new path, a new proposal. My concept of democratic design is based on the idea of making quality pieces available at accessible prices to the largest number of people: to lower the price while increasing the quality. Now that this battle is won, I can focus on democratic ecology and democratic architecture, like the PATH project – Prefabricated Accessible Technological Homes.
You are known as a master of reduction. If we understand creating perfumes as designing the immaterial, can this be seen as a logical step in your pursuit of reduction? Even as the ultimate form of reduction: saying goodbye to matter, to materiality?

The only thing I have ever wanted to challenge is materiality, which may sound odd coming from a designer, but it’s true. I was one of the first to work on transparency and to create transparent furniture. When you create an object, you can’t reduce its materiality, its dimension and volume because you need them. However, you can choose to make it visible or not, and when it is transparent, you can decide to see it or not. Like with the chairs Louis Ghost and La Marie. This is a first step to dematerialisation. Now we can go further into the dematerialisation process. Bionism is the next essential step in our evolution and it’s already started. In the next few years, all the useless things around us will disappear one by one. Computers and telephones will be inside us, light will be just a painting giving light, stereo equipment will be inside the wall, and so on. Nothing will continue to exist. This will finally leave room for sentimental and emotional spaces. All the obligations will disappear, as bionism means having everything inside you. In 15 to 20 years, design won’t exist anymore.

You once told us you were interested in music because you see music as design that is capable of having a huge effect with the least amount of material possible. Are there any plans to compose your own music?

One of the biggest regrets in my life is not having been a composer because I am made of music. Music is the most complete abstraction. I’ve met some singers and composers, like Lou Reed before he died, and I told him: “I should pay you royalties because the quality of my work depends exclusively on the quality of your music.” Music does with sound what perfume does through smell, it is the most powerful, the fastest and the most primary vehicle to bring information to the brain. That’s why I live in music and perfume. Perfume and music are my safe territories.

rampdesign 2018

rampdesign 2018

Die Welt verändert sich. Und das Auto darf sich ebenso lebendig neu erfinden wie auch die gesamte Autoindustrie. Und da kommen das Design und die Designer ins Spiel. Wir haben dem Thema jetzt mal ein ganzes Heft gewidmet.

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