"Freedom is the only style. That is why I never speak about beauty or beautiful products but 'good products'. Nowadays, we have so many challenges; it is not really a priority to care for beauty. The only way for us is to focus on an ethic and ecological behavior." - Philippe Starck
Philippe Starck is the kind of designer who is known as much for his iconic designs as for his political messages. True to his name, his words are stark – devoid of any superfluity. He speaks from his heart when he says his duty as a designer is to be "subversive, ethical, ecological, political, and humorous."
Born on January 18, 1949, to an aeronautical engineer father, André Starck and mother, Jacqueline Lanourisse in Paris, France, Starck's obsession with questions of materiality began early. His designs caught the eye of the famous Pierre Cardin who offered him a job as the artistic director of his publishing house.
But destiny had other plans and Starck went on to set up his own industrial design company called Starck Product, which was later renamed Ubik, working with manufacturers across Europe. So impressive was his work that in 1983, François Mitterrand, the French President at the time, chose Starck to refurbish his private apartments at the Élysée.
Soon he was on his way to becoming a celebrity designer whose prolific designs included products ranging from furniture, kitchens, and lights to hotels, mega yachts, and even planes. He designed many hotels the world over including some iconic ones in cities like New York, Los Angeles, London, and Rio de Janeiro.
(Above: Ara table lamp)
But it was under his concept of "democratic design" that saw him do some revolutionary work. The concept led him to focus on well-designed, mass-produced consumer goods rather than one-off pieces. Starck's aim was to ensure that his products were not the reserve of the elite, but accessible to the common man and he went about putting his utopian idea into practice by increasing production quantities to cut costs and using mail order.
From democratizing designer hotels to infusing his bold vision into everyday objects like shoes, toothbrushes, and even lemon squeezers – Starck's work is a testimony to his ethics.
His environment and ecological concerns, his obsession with improving the lives of as many people as possible, his enthusiasm for imagining new lifestyles, his fearless political messaging through his designs, and his bold take on technology are legendary.
The man, who began his journey with FLOS more than 25 years ago, has produced many iconic lights for us including the Guns table lamp (image below), the Superarchimoon floor lamp, and the recently unveiled Esther LED lights collection at the Salone del Mobile in Milan.
His collections are housed in museums across Europe and the United States. In 2011, more than 660 of his designs were inventoried in French public collections.
Designer, inventor, creator, public speaker, author, visionary, and above all a humanist – Starck is all that and much more.