" Design for life

Terence Conran, the man who gave us Habitat, has faith in Glasgow’s ability to appreciate style. As the city launches its International Festival Of Design, he explains why to Susanna Beaumont.

bronco Conran: ‘There’s always been a good Scottish attitude to the well-designer

nce the ultimate in culinary exoticism, the wok is most likely gathering dust on your kitchen shelf these days. Chances are, though, you woke up this morning under a duvet. These lifestyle landmarks have one thing in common: Terence Conran. The design- merchant extraordinaire is credited for introducing both to Britain, offering the stir-fry as an alternative to the fry-up and handing a redundancy notice to the nation’s blankets. Quite an achievement for someone who back in the SOs regarded himself as nothing more than a ‘frustrated designer.’ But then Sir

Terence Conran has always been a man with a mission to spread the word of good design. ‘My belief is simple,’ he announces. ‘If people are offered something that is well-made, well- designed. of a decent quality and that they can afford. then they will like it and buy it.’

This month Conran is in Glasgow to further proclaim the joys of good design at the city’s first international Festival Of Design. a month- long series of events and exhibitions celebrating design inventiveness and technology. Conran is only too happy to take part. believing Glasgow has always been a city Open to good design. As a young furniture designer. Conran found that


per capita of the UK population. Glaswegians most readily bought his wares.

Reading 64-year-old Conran’s CV is like taking a walk down a high street. In 1964 he opened Habitat on London’s Fulham Road. it was quickly identified as the place to shop ifyou wanted to make the 605 swing. With its lines in bamboo fumiture. coffee tables and a host of stylish accessories. Habitat woke a generation up to lifestyle.

That lifestyle moved on quickly to Glasgow. with the opening ofa Habitat in 1973. Conran’s high street empire then expanded to include Mothercare, Hepworth and British Home Stores. with Next being launched in l982. in 1990. he retired as chairman of the group that had become Storehouse PLC.

These days. Conran is a giant in the restaurant business in I995 he opened Mezzo in London. reputed to be Europe’s largest eatery, seating 700. But Conran’s commitment to design goes on. He was the driving force behind the founding of London’s Design Museum and his Conran Shop is still a byword in classy designer living. In autumn 1997. following in the Habitat tradition. Conran is to open the first UK Conran Shop outside London to be housed in the former Sheriff Court in Glasgow’s Merchant City.

Conran is confident there will be a market for the shop‘s bijoux objects and designer furniture. ‘There’s always been a good Scottish attitude to the well-designed and apart from London. Glasgow has more going for it than any other city.’ he says. He puts this energy and innovation partly down to the city’s history of shipbuilding, believing Glasgow has not rested on its nostalgia laurels since the industry’s demise.

‘The attitude is to look forward in Glasgow and that‘s different from the south’s Sloane Ranger-ish attitude to the past.’ says Conran. He also bills Glasgow’s Charles Rennie Mackintosh as one of the 20th century’s most inspirational architects-cum-designers. ‘Look at Glasgow’s Mackintosh cxhibition.’ he says. ‘ln London we’ve got the William Morris [retrospective] he was looking to the Crusades and the Middle Ages and his designs were backwards.’

Yet there is one aspect of Scottish culture

Conran is not so hot on: the nation’s cooking habits. ‘Scotland’s got the best raw materials - fish, vegetables and crustacea but you ruin them with over-boiling.’ He is out to set this to rights the Conran Shop has a restaurant. Bring on the al dente. Terence Conran is lecturing during the International Festival Of Design at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on 4 Sept at 2pm. Tickets cost £10.

The first Glasgow lntemational Festival Of Design is from 26 August-29 September. Some of the highlights are . . .

DESIGNER MASTEBDLASSES I Terence Conran The man who brought style to British households.

I Alberto ltlessi Head of the design company formed to create metal eating and drinking products.

The Burrell Collection. [2 Sept; Stratlrclyde University. [3 Sept.

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. 4 Sept.

Glasgow International Festival Of Design

I Paul Smith lntemationally- renowned clothes designer who began in a Nottingham back-street shop. Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. I 7 Sept. I iielen Teague Fashion designer behind the shop Big Clothes. Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. 25 Sept; Post Office Building. George Square. 25 Sept.

I Kenneth Grange The designer of the Intercity l25.

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. 27 Sept; Post Oflice Building. George Square. 27 Sept.

EXHIBIT'ONS Square. 2-28 Sept. Mon—Fri See Glasgow Art listings for details. [Orrin—8pm; Sat I Own—5pm; Sun I l ant—5pm. I M" Jacobson A“ The “"9“” I GDMA Designer Rooms Architect

Di Danish Design Hunterian Art Gallery. 26 Aug—29 Sept. Mon—Sat. 9.30am—5pm.

I Paul Smith, True Dl'it The Post Office Building. George Square. 2—28 Sept. Mon—Fri lOani—8pm; Sat [0am—5pm; Sun [lam—5pm.

I Objects Of Desire The Post Office Building. George Square. 2—28 Sept. M on—F ri l 0am—8pm; Sat [0am—5pm; Sun I lam-5pm.

I Glasgow Makes it: Reinventing The City Post Oflice Building. George

John Pawson. furniture designer Ron Arad and vacuum cleaner creator James Dyson share their design secrets.

Gallery Of Modern Art. 27 Sept—25 Nov. Mon—Sat I 0am-5pm; Sun [lam-5pm.

For more Festival information call 014] 204 44 I l . The Ticket Hotlin'e is on 014/ 287 0/96 and the Festival Website is at

http://www. design96. org. uk

The List 23 Aug-5 Sept I996 75