PHILLIPPE STARCK's work is instantly recognisable to even the least design- conscious among us. Two exhibitions in Glasgow show why his reputation precedes Words: Moira Jeffrey
HE'S THE MOST famous designer in the world, but if it were possible to be an enfant terrible at the age of 50, then France's Philippe Starck would be first in the queue. b" With his floppy hair and mad staring eyes, this son of an aircraft designer is still charmingly close to his younger self. The man who never even completed his design training still shrugs off success with his trademark irony. "I" Design specialists lnHouse hosted the first British exhibition of Starck's work back in 1988, and are now celebrating Glasgow 1999 with a show in their Wilson Street premises of more than 30 pieces by Staer including prototypes and design studies. Also this month, The Lighthouse is showing Vanity Cases, a Starck retrospective where the designer's objects have been miniaturised to models the size of toys.
There seems nothing that Starck hasn’t designed. From pasta shapes to motorbikes, the 1992 Olympic flame to a Tokyo bachelor pad. Starck shot to international fame when he designed President Mitterand’s private apartment in the Elysee Palace in 1982. In the United States, his interiors became an absolute requirement for the new breed of style hotel. From the Royalton and Paramount in New York, to the Delano in Miami and the Mondrian in LA, no self-respecting supermodel would lean on a bar that wasn’t designed by Philippe Starck.
Despite the brilliance of the big commissions, however, Starck is a democratic designer — his product and furniture designs for companies like Alessi, Duravit and Fiam Italia are accessible classics. This is the man who was unafraid to design a toilet brush and who, in the 905, has designed chair after chair, making them progressively easier to manufacture and consequently cheaper to purchase.
His most recognisable product, of course, is Juicy Salif, the elongated lemon squeezer that has a life all its own. But does it work? It does, but Starck's response was typical: ‘This squeezer is made to start the conversation’.
Philippe Starck: For You From Me is at lnHouse, Glasgow, Fri 30 Jul-Tue 31 Aug. Vanity Cases is at The Lighthouse, Fri 23 Jul-Sun 31 Oct.