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November 14, 2012

Starckism comes to Mumbai

The world’s most celebrated designer would have made a great actor or stage director. At the recent press conference held by luxury developer, Lodha Group, to announce their exclusive partnership with yoo inspired by Starck, the internationally known design company, to launch Lodha Evoq, Mumbai’s first signature residences with interiors by Philippe Starck, the iconic designer pleased the audience with his antics and comic repartee with yoo co-founder John Hitchcox. The sense of humour that wends its way into his design sensibility was on display here, much to everyone’s delight, creating an imaginative narrative, much as he does as a designer

Starck has surprised and shaped fabulous fantasies in his designs. Over the last three decades he has created from the everyday to the unconventional, from furniture to mail-order homes, from motorbikes to mega-yachts and has even given artistic direction for space-travel projects. He has been a champion of ‘democratic ecology’, by fabricating affordable wind turbines for the home, solar-powered boats and hydrogen cars. He has designed Port Adriano on the south coast of the island of Mallorca which has become one of the Mediterranean’s main luxury leisure harbours. And yet, he firmly propounds the theory of ‘democratic design’, creating quality products that are affordable by almost anyone. His ‘budget’ hotel brand, Mama Shelter, follows the ‘new social values such as discipline, honesty, intelligence and humour’ that he expounds, together with the ethics of simplicity that he maintains as an important principle for the creator. “Tomorrow will be less,” he said.

Starck believes in forging communities that cross over geographical boundaries and now, with his latest project in Mumbai, he makes the city part of the yoo design community worldwide….

Excerpts of an interview, in heavily French-accented English, with Shirin Mehta, in Mumbai…

How will your Indian project be different?
It will not be totally different. I am very passionate about the spirit of Indian people. We will work with an architect, with the culture. This is very important, to be more harmonious. We can arrive with our philosophies….we have to share it, we have to learn also from the people and from the country. The one thing is that we have to avoid making clichés or a Disneyland. We are not here for that.

This is a special project… a sort of haute couture. A couture designer, he will have always his values, but he will adapt his dress to the woman who will wear the dress. It’s what we do. I work on very sensible details, it is a way of thinking.

How do you feel about India?
I tell you I love India. Me, I don’t love the country, I love the people. I love France, I love French people. I love the value of the Indian people because they have much abstraction, imagination, they are very spiritual. That’s my way to live also.

What about Indian creativity and design?
I know Indian craft because I was here a long time ago. Now, if you ask me about Indian design I know that that it is growing very fast. As a rule, I know nothing about design because I work alone and I cannot tell you about Italian design or English design or American design or Indian design. But I expect a lot of new ideas and new visions….

Tell me about your own design philosophy….
My own design philosophy is very simple. I believe that when you are born you have to deserve to exist and one of the ways for me to deserve to exist is to serve. For some reason, I still don’t know why, I have to make design. Probably because my father was very creative, he was a famous aircraft builder. He was famous between the two wars – the Starck plane was well known. I learnt from him that the only clean business is creativity, because you have no employees, you have no slaves, you have just yourself finding new ideas to help your family, to help your tribe to have a better life. That is why I make so many different things; it is not the design which interests me, it’s how to help. Design for me, it’s a vehicle, it’s just a tool to explore the territory of life. That’s all.

Do you realise that projects in India can get held up for years?
It’s not me who builds, it’s the company. I have no power over the timing of things. It is not a problem for us because we build timeless things. The right thing is to have the right quality, the right architecture, the right style and to have all that for the next century – longevity, timelessness, transmission, even heritage, are all important….

About your theory of ‘democratic design’, in India, how many people can afford a Philippe Starck design?
My position is to be able to make for everybody, which means poor and rich. I make a hotel, I make a toothbrush for two dollars, I make a yacht. In India, it will be the same if people give me the opportunity. Today, the Lodha Group has asked us to make something which will be high quality. Tomorrow, I hope somebody asks me to make together the best furniture at 10 dollars. I shall do it with pleasure.

How far will your commitment to ‘democratic ecology’ feature?
We respect all ecological parameters; that is normal now….

When will we get a chance to buy a Philippe Starck chair in India?
You will write in your magazine that I am very open to all the people who are interested  in democratic design and we shall do it with them. There is a big demand for quality products at affordable prices.

There is a demand here as well, in India….
Yes I’m sure and there is good knowhow here to do it…. Democratic design means raising the quality, giving a good price and making it available to everybody. This, I think, is utopia. It is a perfect concept…. I’ve spent my life on that.

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