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Designer  |  Paris


Designer, architect, art director, inventor and world design luminary, Philippe Starck has created a global empire based on exploring human interaction with the world we live in—and how he can improve it.


Over the course of Philippe Starck’s thirty-five-year career, this polymorphous and unconventional designer, who dreamed of being an astrophysicist or a composer, has poured his boundless enthusiasm into making “poetic products and places” to inject a sense of fantasy into our lives. Oozing in brilliant chaos, Starck has amassed a prolific design portfolio over the years, where he describes his design philosophy as, “subversive, ethical, ecological, political, humorous: these are the ideas that I explore in the creative process”.

As a child in Paris, he spent hours beneath his father’s drawing-board, sawing, cutting, gluing, sanding, dismantling toys, bikes, motorbikes and various other objects. Hours spent taking apart and putting together, reinventing the world around him. His father, an aeronautical engineer, gave him the desire to create. His mother gave him a poetic vision of the world, an “elegant approach to life” that he calls panache. Following his mother’s advice, he studied design at  the famous Camondo school in Paris.

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Fascinated by the concept of “democratically designed” yet high-quality objects, his early iconoclastic designs caught the attention of Pierre Cardin in the early 1980s, who offered him a position as artistic director of his publishing house. Soon after, Starck set up his first industrial design company, Starck Product, and began working with key international design houses such as Alessi, Kartell and Driade, seeking ways to produce cost-effective, mass-produced consumer goods rather than one-off pieces reserved for the select elite. Fascinated with objects of all form and function, his portfolio expanded to include everything from toothbrushes and staplers, to sophisticated eyewear, furniture and high-speed vehicles; his highly acclaimed Kartell Louis Ghost chair sold over a million copies.

Philippe Starck’s first foray into interior design was in 1983 at the request of French President, François Mitterrand, who asked him to refurbish his private apartments at the Élysée Palace; the following year, he redesigned the iconic Café Costes. Philippe Starck is also credited for creating a new genre of hotels, including the cutting-edge Delano in Miami, the Mondrian in Los Angeles, the St Martin’s Lane and the Sanderson in London. In 2008, he was commissioned by the Parisian luxury palace hotel, Le Meurice, to breathe new life into this historic jewel and to restore Le Meurice’s heritage to its rightful prominence, focusing upon considerations of colour and light, a new interpretation of furniture, a play on transparency and movement. This project also marked his first collaboration with his daughter, Ara Starck, a Saint Martin’s School of Fine Arts-trained artist who painted a monumental canvas which hangs over the hotel’s elegant tea salon. 

In the same year, Philippe Starck embarked on another crusade to democratise quality “designer” hotels with an  affordable price tag. Starck brought this generous, humanist concept to Paris with the budget-chic Mama Shelter, a highly successful concept that has now expanded to other European cities. He then went on to overhaul the historic Royal Monceau hotel, following a legendary demolition party which saw the city’s ultra-fashionable crowd breaking every fixture in sight.

Also adept at creating cutting-edge restaurant design concepts, Philippe Starck designed Bon (2000), Mori Venice Bar (2006) and Le Paradis du Fruit (2009) in Paris, along with many other notable international projects. More recently, he designed the funky Ma Cocotte, a warm and welcoming refuge for antiques enthusiasts that opened in September 2012 at the Saint-Ouen flea market. In 2013, he followed with Miss Ko, a trendy, eye-popping Asian concept with a mysterious, tattoo-covered woman as its star heroine. 

When Philippe Starck designs a hotel or restaurant, he pays as much attention to what isn’t there as to what is, creating spaces which visitors, the “actors” of these places, will then inhabit and transform. As he comes into a new era of his career, he sees his own role in life to create a better world for future generations, considering it his duty to share his subversive vision for a fairer world, where each of us must contribute to the bigger picture. He says, “Nobody is obliged to be a genius, but everybody is obliged to participate”.

Photography: Courtesy of Philippe Starck Design

Interview first published in RedVisitor Magazine: Issue One - Purchase Now

M O R E   I N T E R V I E W S  . . .