Since the 1980s, Philippe Starck has captured the attention of millions with his extraordinary shapes and products. He’s one of the most important thinkers and designers of our time, as well as a sought-after planner and interior architect. His vision is a utilitarian one: To create designs that improve life for the greatest possible number of people. For this, the French designer designs almost everything from café stools to toothbrushes, chairs to entire hotels – and his inexhaustible creativity is evident in every one of his designs. In an exclusive interview, Amuse caught up with Philippe Starck to talk dreams, beauty and his new perfume, Starck.
I once read in an interview that you work at night in your dreams. How does this subconscious world influence your projects?
What I experience in my dreams is incredible, it’s so intense it feels real. I fly through the air, get to know cities and people, or see inventions, all of which do not exist-all this every night. This is extremely interesting, but at the same time exhausting, because when I wake up I’m exhausted. Sometimes I ask myself seriously what my “real life” is: what happens at night, or what happens during the day.
Actually, this is not as absurd as it may sound. Because, if you think about it for a short time, you realize that there is really no proof that life is our “real life” during the day. It could also be the other way around, right? I ask myself these questions because I like my life at night much better. It’s so much more interesting. And I often ask myself whether I have that kind of dream because I suffer from this mental illness called creativity, or whether I’m so creative at all because I have those dreams.
There is definitely a connection between my dreams and my creativity, yet I do not work in my dreams, unfortunately. Because if I could remember my dreams, I would probably be Leonardo Da Vinci and the King of the World. Sadly, however, it’s difficult for me to recall exact details. Only once or twice have I been able to this. I could still remember a desk that was in the office of French President, Francois Mitterrand. I designed this desk exactly as he had in the dream. A great product has emerged, a really good desk, which is still bought after 30 years. But this is very rare and that is also good. Because dreams are not there for you to remember them exactly or to explain them to the last detail, but our brain in them processes our memories, our unconsciousness.
It sounds like these dream worlds are very strong, and recently you started creating perfumes. Are your perfumes a means to escape this material world?
I’m committed to it, and I’m ashamed of the fact that I’m not intelligent enough to find a solution that allows me to remain abstract and to create only concepts. I’m ashamed of the fact that I have to make everything concrete, because I hate materiality. That is why I live in music, in concepts and in perfume. And when I was asked if I was interested in creating a perfume, I was delighted because I already had a fairly concrete idea of it.
You could say that a perfume has nothing fixed. It’s really amazing how much you can say about yourself with a perfume. It gives a security and lets one immerse oneself in a room, which is almost infinite. Infinity is the most beautiful concept of human civilization, which we have invented. And a perfume is infinity per se.
Tell us about the process of creation. How did the whole creative process expire and how did you find the right scents?
Actually, each of us, no matter who he is, has an opinion on almost everything. When we talk about sexuality, for example, I have an opinion, just as you have an opinion. The perfume market is very conservative and categorizes us very strongly. Nowadays, there are actually only two types of perfumes – women or men. Scientists, on the other hand, believe there are 22 different forms of sexuality!
When you think of the three perfumes that you created, do they transport you to a particular place?
This is an interesting question. However, I did not create the perfumes so they could take me somewhere else, because they are already “my territory”. If you listen to music and be fascinated by it, it is not the music you love, or the individual sounds that make it, but you love the song, because you feel good about it. You feel safe and well cared for in this bubble of music. With perfumes it is the same. You spray with your scent and it’s in your territory, and I’m sure that many people are perfumed in the morning, because otherwise they would feel very uncomfortable and unsafe. With the perfume, however, they surround themselves with a little self-assurance. Beauty comes from a complex mixture, with which one knows how to handle playfully.
Will there be more fragrances from you?
We are about to start working on three more. We have a lot of new territory to explore and I also have a new concept of the territory. This time it was about people, men and women etc., the next project will be about something quite different, so watch this space.
What is true beauty?
Harmony. Beauty is culturally conditioned – it can depend on the time, trends, on the respective culture, and on so many other factors. But harmony is a constant element. Just as man is created, his reference point is what he sees daily in the mirror, his mirror image, and, of course, the other human beings, who are fundamentally all the same. And then we also see the need to see other people, go out into nature and see waves, mountains and trees, as balancing and relativizing our own meaning. And that gives us harmony. For if you can achieve this state of structural harmony, you can say that this is really beautiful.
And what does new or true luxury mean to you?
It’s quality that arises from intelligence and honesty. What is considered luxury today is not really interesting to me and frankly, I do not like it very much. When I see something that has been created by someone who has a real vision and combines something like honesty, creativity and intelligence – that’s true luxury for me. This’s very rare, but it exists. Something I love is the elegance of intelligence; one could say the sexiness of intelligence.