Checking in with ubiquitous designer Philippe Starck
He transforms the ordinary. Hundreds of objects we touch, use, and work with every day have been reimagined and redesigned in Philippe Starck’s vision. From the Microsoft optical mouse and the cult-object Alessi juicer to aTokyo skyscraper,the Paris-born designer-turned-architect is the best-known advocate of New Design, the aesthetic that blurs the distinction between the utilitarian and the artistic.
Educated at the École Nissim de Camondo, Starck opened his first design firm in 1968. Specializing in Pop Art-inspired inflatable objects, he later collaborated with fashion designer-turned-industrialist Pierre Cardin in his nefarious attempt to rule the world through mer- chandising and monograms.
Starck went independent in 1975 and, by the 1980s, he had become one of the best-known and in- demand designers in Europe, even designing a private apartment for François Mitterrand, France’s then president. Starck’s stylized and streamlined vision, organic shapes and fabrications became the defining standards of high-gloss interior and industrial design; his empire is now all-inclusive, embracing furniture, appliances, clothing, luggage, motor- cycles, lighting, motor scooters and yachts.
In 1988, he began a long-term collaboration with former Studio 54 impresario Ian Schrager. His mission: to restore and redesign the Royalton Hotel on NewYork’s East 44th Street. Starck took the slightly seedy and down- at-heel hotel and transfigured it, turning it into an art-filled playground for the artistically minded, luxurious, visually stimulating, utterly modern and completely fresh. In doing so, Starck and Schrager re-defined and re-energized the entire hotel industry, creating a new category of design-intensive “boutique” hotels, destinations for both celebrities and aesthetes alike, and opening the door for a new generation of architects and designers to put their person- al stamps on the once-stogy hospitality industry.
More than anything, what the Royalton Hotel—as well as the numerous boutique hotels that have followed—has done is provide a reflection of Starck’s greater design philosophy: if a thing is worth making, it is worth making it beautiful.Whether a Starck design adorns a desktop or alters an entire cityscape, like his landmark design of the Asahi Brewery—now a Tokyo landmark—everything Starck creates is intended to make a powerful and appealing visual statement.
Recently, such statements have seen an unveiling at Paris’ Le Meurice Hotel. “I wanted Le Meurice to move to a different beat, a warmer, more welcoming, more glamorous heart,” he explains of his new furniture schemes that now populate the hotel lobby.“I see this hotel as the most French of places, where everyone must feel at home. I want to shake it up, to make it a new destination where people will come to enjoy a time out, a lunch, a drink, or be transported by the gastronomy.”
And speaking of shaking things up, Starck’s latest hotel project, SLS at Beverly Hills, will undoubtedly have a huge impact on L.A. tourism and nightlife when it opens on La Cienega Boulevard later this year.Working with real estate entrepreneur and film producer Sam Nazarian of SBC, the mastermind behind clubs like Hyde, Area and S Bar, Starck is creating the first of a new chain of hip luxur y hotels. In addition to its numerous other amenities—including a number of “fitness suites” with built-in personal gyms—SLS at Beverly Hills will offer an in-house gallery of art and objets d’art curated by dealer Murray Moss.
“The world and what I call the ‘global tribe’ which travels it are very different from when I designed my first hotels,” says Starck about his new venture.“What I am creating for SLS will be incredibly timeless, chic, bold, and ultimately humane, designed only to bring happiness in an elegant way.”
Scheduled to open this summer, SLS will make its debut just in time for the frenetic season of awards, film festivals and fundraisers that define the L.A. social whirl.