Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Would you Wear Clothes Made out of Dust?

by Lara Smallman

Philippe Starck. Photo by

Can the French bad boy of the design world that is Philippe Starck really save us from ourselves?

That's the question I found myself pondering over as I watched British TV series ‘Design for Life’ on YouTube. In his search for some fresh talent to join his Parisian agency, Starck, who ranks as one of the world's best-known designers, has chosen to look to England for inspiration.

Renowned for his lavish yacht and hotel interior designs, his 'green' rhetoric comes as quite a surprise, I must say. ‘Democratic, ethical, sustainable, ecological’ - all this coming from someone who has, for decades, been at the centre of the oh-so-fickle world that is product design. His vision, his approach, in fact his very raison d'être are all a far cry from the Philippe Starck we all thought we knew…

‘You will try to help your tribe, your society, your civilization to have a better life’, he declares (in an awfully cute French accent) as he instructs his British protégés to invent a product, which is both accessible and eco-friendly, and at the same time, constitutes a positive contribution to society.

Must-haves of the future?

His philosophy of sustainable design sparks some quite extraordinary product proposals. From floating cities, and smart meters, to clothes made out of dust, and recyclable tampons - clearly some are more appealing than others.

Listening to Starck wax lyrical about escaping the materialist world we live in, one could easily have mistaken him for a politician or ever a philosopher. Quite amazingly, in a programme devoted to design, neither trends nor profit margins are mentioned. Of course aesthetics still play a big role, but always as second fiddle to purpose and sustainability.

I have to admit I did have my doubts. But a bit of research reveals that Starck is more than willing to put his money where his mouth is. He has come up with a novel concept of his own, one he calls ‘Democratic Ecology’. His personal wind-turbine can generate between 20 and 60% of the energy needed to power a home. It’s made of transparent polycarbonate, whose outstanding impact resistance means it will stand the test of time and rough winds. It comes in at €400 or $633, which, when compared with the cost of what’s currently on the market, is a relatively affordable domestic turbine.

The question is: Could you see yourself using any of these products?

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