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A day with Philippe Starck During Milan Design Week 2024

Milan Design Week 2024 began with a bang as designboom embarked on an exclusive journey with none other than Philippe Starck. We followed the iconic French creator through the bustling streets of Milan, to get a glimpse into his world, and discover all the events and exhibitions he attended, as well as the works he presented himself. Our day began in the Cassina showroom, where Starck celebrated three decades of collaboration with the Italian brand through a captivating installation titled Somewhere Else. The exhibition showcased a series of new armchairs and ottomans, as well as a bed, in an artistic, theatrical narrative curated by Starck himself. Continuing our exploration, we made our way to the Triennale di Milano, where Starck unveiled What?, an immersive tribute to the late Alessandro Mendini. The installation guided visitors through a sensory journey, blending projections, sounds, and ethereal lighting to evoke Mendini’s creative essence and subconscious realm.

To conclude our experience, designboom returned to Cassina and spoke to Philippe Starck about his first visit to Salone, his inspirations, creativity as a mental illness, and his thoughts on sustainability and peace in today’s world. ‘If we have a dream today, it’s only one thing: peace,’ Philippe Starck tells designboom. To find out more about Starck’s creative universe and his perspectives, read the interview in full, below. 

designboom kicked off Milan Design Week 2024 alongside Philippe Starck | image © designboom

interview with philippe starck

designboom (DB): Philippe Starck, you have been and still are one of the most acclaimed contemporary creators today. Can you remember your first visit to Salone?

Philippe Starck (PS): On my first visit to Salone, I was very young, very poor, very unknown, very desperate, very alone. I was completely lost and thought: ‘I shall never be in this world because I cannot understand a thing’. I went back very depressed.

DB: What inspires you to create after all these years?

PS: Nothing, because I’m not intelligent enough to be inspired. No, there is something: We are lucky. Because, until now, we have been the most intelligent animal species in the universe that we know of. We have a fantastic story. We were born more or less one million years ago, as a very stupid amoeba. Then we became fish, we became frogs, and we became monkeys. Today, we are super monkeys. We are almost in the middle of the story because the sun will implode and we shall explode and disappear from this world. This is called evolution.

'if we have a dream today, it's only one thing: peace' - interview with philippe starck
Philippe Starck at the Cassina showroom in Milan | image © designboom

(PS continued): I love this story. I love how a stupid amoeba can invent AI, the Concorde, go to the moon, and become so creative and so intelligent. That’s why I do everything I can to help this evolution, to be part of the evolution. That’s why, for me, there are only two types of people: those who help evolution and those who don’t help evolution. I try to help. That’s my DNA, my central bone.

After, I believe that when we are born, we sign a contract with our community. We are obliged to sign a contract with our community because we don’t come from nowhere, even if we go nowhere. Billions of years ago, people were born and lived before us so that we could come to where we are now. That’s why we have a debt. You can sign the contract you want. But for me, for my own very personal reasons, I have clearly, subconsciously, decided to serve, to be a maid with a broom, and to try to clean everything dirty I see. I love it when everything is clear, beautiful and honest. That’s what I try to do. And I do too much (laughs).

'if we have a dream today, it's only one thing: peace' - interview with philippe starck
Philippe and Jasmine Starck at the Cassina showroom | image © designboom

DB: You mentioned AI. You were the first designer to use it in your work, for the A.I. chair for Kartell, powered by Autodesk. 

PS: Just a week ago, I realized that I was the first one to create a product made by AI. This was seven years ago. Today, everybody speaks about AI. But I went to see Autodesk seven years ago. The fun part was when I spoke to the machine. When I asked it: Can you help me rest my body with as little energy and material as possible? The machine took almost three years to answer. We have a movie of what happened in its brain. It’s really emotional. I am proud of that.

DB: You have witnessed the evolution of AI through the years. Will it change how we design even more?

PS: First of all, I’m not a witness, I am an actor. The machine is incredibly powerful. It’s astonishing. The machine is more intelligent than us. It’s infinite. But us, we don’t create with intelligence. We create with craziness. We create just like that (snaps fingers). With machines, you can have powerful and high-quality results, but you can’t have the primal spark of craziness, of sickness. Because, you know, creativity is a mental illness. I know this very well.

'if we have a dream today, it's only one thing: peace' - interview with philippe starck
Philippe and Jasmine Starck with the Somewhere El-S armchair | image © designboom

DB: Craziness characterizes you as a designer. Is it important to you?

PS: I don’t inject craziness into my work. I am crazy. I am pathologically neurodivergent. That means I have a real mental sickness, which is the source of me. I am this. For me, I have tried all my life to find the pure elegance of thinking,of relationships with others, of love. I know that besides love, one of the most beautiful symptoms of human intelligence is humor. Because humor is an incredible weapon. It’s infinite, the power of humor. That’s why, naturally, I have it, and naturally, I use it.

DB: Has your design philosophy evolved throughout the years?

PS: Frankly, no. I don’t know why. I was very young, a small teenager, when I had the idea that creativity is everything. For me, there was no doubt, it was not a question that I shall only create to help my community to have a better life. It was really something I never even discussed. My consciousness is very vulgar, very stupid. My subconscious is a monster. It’s impossible to control. That’s why I never decided anything in my life. It was just like that. I just create what I can now. That’s all.

'if we have a dream today, it's only one thing: peace' - interview with philippe starck
‘I don’t inject craziness into my work. I am crazy,’ says Starck | image © designboom

DB: How do you choose the right collaborators?


PS:
It’s very easy. There are some parameters. First, when we have a meeting, even by Zoom or by phone, I immediately feel if the person wants to work with me, wants to make something for the people, or for themselves. Do you want to give something or do you want to take the money and put it in your pocket? Then, I need to have real sympathy, tenderness, and respect for this person. Because when I work, when I create my things, I don’t prepare a product or project. I prepare a Christmas gift for this person. I need to love the person.

I never go to dinner with my partners, I never go on holidays with them, I don’t have sex with them, nothing. But we have a fantastic long-term relationship, where we have a lot of fun because I love saying only stupid things. With many of my partners of 30 years, we never spoke about the project. We were crying from laughing. In Venice, I have a meeting with an incredible man, Alexandre Allard. We have a huge project, and we have four days together. We will not speak, even for a single minute. But we shall dream, we shall love, we shall cry. There will be this love connection. From this love, the project will crystallize, naturally. 

'if we have a dream today, it's only one thing: peace' - interview with philippe starck
Philippe Starck with Cassina CEO Luca Fuso | image © designboom


DB: How can we be more ecologically conscious and responsible in design?


PS:
We have no choice. Sustainability is not a question. It’s not a trend. It’s urgent. It’s an absolute priority. It’s a question of life or death. I have pushed so many things for sustainability especially: organic plastic, eco-plastic, replacements for animal skin, and things like that. I pray every day. Because it is black and white. If people consider ecology as a trend, we are dead. Because what is trendy is out of trend. If, in three years, ecology is out of trend, we die. It’s simple.


DB: Do you have a dream project? 


PS:
I don’t take part in any project which is not made with very high vision. That doesn’t mean I always succeed, I am not God. But I try. If we have a dream today, it’s to have peace with Israel and Palestine, peace between Ukraine and Russia, peace for the next war between China and the US. Today it’s only one thing: peace. Calm down. There is a hysteria.

Do I dream about a project? Not really. I do it because it’s the only thing I know how to do. We have to understand what the priorities are. We spoke about the priority of ecology. Now, we speak about the priority of peace.    

'if we have a dream today, it's only one thing: peace' - interview with philippe starck
Philippe Starck at the Triennale di Milano | image © designboom

'if we have a dream today, it's only one thing: peace' - interview with philippe starck
Philippe Starck at the Triennale di Milano | image © designboom

'if we have a dream today, it's only one thing: peace' - interview with philippe starck
Philippe and Jasmine Starck at the Triennale di Milano | image © designboom

'if we have a dream today, it's only one thing: peace' - interview with philippe starck
What? by Philippe Starck | image © Gianluca Di Ioia

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