PHILIPPE STARCK // SPHERE COLLECTION
Philippe Starck counts among the world’s most influential designers at the moment. Under his STARCK BIOTECH PARIS label, he has released a plethora of projects, from from everyday products like furniture to architecture, including hotels and restaurants. Also naval and spatial engineering projects such as mega yachts or a habitation module for private space tourism. Through it all, Philippe Starck continues to surprise and push the boundaries of contemporary design.
With that said, we are delighted to engage the Frenchman in our exclusive SPECTR interview. Especially since Philippe continues to move constantly and never rests in one place for long. Nevertheless, the cosmopolitan designer has an antipathy against large crowds and prefers a rather quiet atmosphere. This is also reflected in his four main choices of residences across the globe, which all share a laid-back sense of remoteness: The historic town of Sintra in Portugal, the small eyeland of Burano outside Venice (known for its artisan glass blowers). Also on the Spanish island Formentera as well as the French hamlet the Cap Ferret and its Bird Island near Arcachon, where Starck raises oysters. It is in these secluded places that the designer finds the quietude and peace of mind that are fundamental to his creative process.
Asked about his craft, the soft-spoken Frenchman does not consider himself a designer in the classic sense. Much rather, he identifies as a creator and an explorer. His work always follows the same mission: a creation, regardless of shape or form, always needs improve the lives of the largest possible amount of people. The places and objects designed by Starck must be functional most of all, and considerations of ‘prettiness’ come second.
As a common denominator in all of Starck’s designs, the concept of dematerialization looms large over his work. “Less is more”. His products always aim to extract the maximum out of a minimum, most of all when it comes to his signature eyewear collection. Which makes sense, since the main focus with eyeglasses lies on the face of the wearer, not the product itself. “Human first”, as Starck calls it. True to this legacy, his latest Sphere collection of eyewear follows the same reductionist aesthetic. And it took four years to develop, also due to the minimalist yet highly functional hinge design.
In our SPECTR interview, Starck takes us on a journey involving philosophy and dialectics, which we often try to reign back to the subject of eyewear design and technology. But then again, the designer tends to be more concerned with the bigger picture of where mankind as a whole is headed and how he can make his personal contribution. Welcome to our Philosophy Talk.
Hi Philippe, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. You are an inventor, creator, architect, designer, artistic director. What title do you most identify with?
I would really not call myself an architect or even a designer. Because I’m not interested in architecture or design. I’m interested in life and most of all how I can help people.
So what does that make you in the end?
I would describe myself as a creator and explorer. In order to find the best possible solution for a specific task, it is helpful to attain an outside perspective and a certain emotional distance to objects you are working on.
Once you said, “Nobody has to be a genius, but everybody has to participate.” What exactly did you mean?
Every human being enters into a contract with society starting at birth. As a human, you can benefit from society in many ways, but you also need to make your own contribution. It doesn’t require you to be a genius. Nobody has to be the second Einstein. But everyone has an obligation for making a creative contribution.
But is creativity not limited by nature to an artistic context?
No. Creativity can and must be omnipresent, it’s required everywhere. Art is probably the least creative territory in society today.
You mentioned a personal obligation, what is yours?
I have two activities in my life: I create and I love my wife. And both together are a full-time job.
Let’s speak about the act of creation. How can your design philosophy be described?
My work follows a constant drive towards creativity. Every day from 6 o’clock in the morning to the first bottle of champagne we open usually at 7 o’clock at night, I’m alone in front of my desk, dreaming. And drawing my projects. Creativity to me is the only existing religion. The only way to live and the ultimate drug.
That sounds rather involving.
It does not leave much of a personal life. I’m constantly engaged in some project or other. That tends to be rather difficult for people in my private circle, since I’m constantly unavailable in some way. I’m like a ghost.
But a ghost with tangible products, including glasses. When did you launch your first eyewear collection? And how did you actually get the idea to design glasses?
I designed my first collection 26 years ago with Alain Mikli. Previously I’d been asked to design by other labels but did not really see a way in which I could be of service. With Mikli, I instantly sensed a sense of passion. This feeling that he was born to design eyewear. That really resonated with me and my vision to develop a unique hinge, so I came onboard.
What is special about eyewear design compared to furniture and interior design?
Let’s take a chair for example. It’s an object completely separated from humans, so the design is purely externalized. Looking at eyewear, on the other hand, you are designing the impression and personality of a person wearing the glasses. For this reason, I’m strictly against crazy designs and oversized logos. I don’t want people to hide behind their glasses. Eyewear should enhance a person’s being in a subtle manner. Ultimately, I design people’s faces, not just eyewear.
Based on this philosophy, what kinds of values does STARCK BIOTEECH PARIS represent?
Creativity, high technology, high vision, intelligence, timeless elegance and minimalism, which also coincides with an environmental consciousness.
On that note, you have created the term “bionism”. What exactly is the underlying concept?
Bionism is not a final state for mankind, but rather an important step in our evolution.
For a few years, scientists have believed that humans have reached a threshold in our evolution. We’ve reached a limit, with our body and using our brain. In order to be able to advance further and become more intelligent, we need access to intelligence from external sources. We need to become bionic.
But what is the motivation?
As a species we are obligated to become more intelligent. It’s the only future hope for mankind. There is no other. And we are already on our way. It will not take long before we can perform tasks with our (mere) thoughts such as switching light on and off.
That’s a nice segue into talking about actual products. Your Biolink hinge has been rather successful. Why did you come up with a new concept?
From a biomechanical perspective, the Biolink was really the best hinge. But due to its complexity, the manufacturing aspect proved rather exigent, which made the resulting eyewear rather expensive. But I’m really trying to make products for everybody, not just people with money.
In terms of final products, your new collection is called Sphere. What is different?
With Sphere, we wanted to develop a hinge technology that is equally impactful and meets the same quality criteria, but at 30 percent less manufacturing cost. So we developed three optical and two sunglasses styles around the new hinge concept. The main idea was to completely eliminate screws or soldered elements. The frame’s front sections are crafted from Gravity Evo material and work in harmony with our titanium hinges.
What is the idea behind Sphere?
A sphere is a perfect object. It is at the same time stable and unstable. Strong and free and also timeless. Our Sphere hinge is, like all good inventions, rather simple. The best with less: thanks to this minimalism, we have attained a sense of timeless elegance with Sphere. So we consider Sphere not as a style but rather the result of philosophy as well as technology.
The STARCK BIOTECH PARIS frames are always rather lightweight. Do you work with organic plastics?
I’m extremely familiar with this segment and I can guarantee one thing: there really is no organic plastic at this point with all required solidity or other important parameters, although several people claim the opposite and the level of ‘eco washing’ is rather high. Instead, I’d rather put the relevance of eco plastics in eyewear manufacturing into perspective.
For what reason?
Let’s look at the overall outcome. Our eyewear frames weigh only a few grams and are worn between five to ten years. We can’t compare with single-use plastics.
So that also factors into the environmental footprint?
Timelessness is really one of the most important criteria a designer needs to be able to meet. That is true ecology. STARCK BIOTECH PARIS is not about fashion or luxury. We want to offer intelligent, technical solutions, because that’s what is really sexy. STARCK BIOTECH PARIS is a sapio-sexual brand.
Find out more about the brand Biotech by Philippe Starck here.
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