DOMINATING THE PLASTIC CHAIR
SPEAK AIR speaker for Lexon
Designing a good chair is a benchmark requirement for a designer, believes Quitllet, whose pieces include the vaporous Dream-Air chair and Silk armchair for Kartell, the Elle and Tabu chairs for Alias, and the Tube chair for Mobles. “The chair [as an archetype] is inscribed in a framework and places you in a new reality”, he says. “If you don’t manage to dominate it, it’s obvious you haven’t succeeded.” However, he encountered complications with the sumptuous, injection-moulded Cloudio – named after Kartell’s president, Claudio Luti, which is composed of abstract, organic shapes. “The machine uses 300 tons of pressure to move the plastic round, filling one shape at a time – it takes three minutes to produce a chair”, Quitllet explains. “Technically, a mistake could be made, even though the computer calculates that we can do it. We found it better for the plastic elements to touch, so we’re changing some of the shapes. It’ll now look more like intersecting soap bubbles and create another optical game, playing with the fluid flow of the plastic.” The new version is due to be launched in Milan in April.
Despite the setbacks, Quitllet is not giving up on injection moulding manufacturing. “Some people say that moulding is limited and that we have to go to 3D printing. But we can still find other possibilities; it just depends on your capacity to dream.” Quittlet loves working with plastic and is concise about its potentiality. “Plastic is coming along in stages, perhaps tomorrow it will be ecological”, he muses, adding that he has been working on a bar stool for Vondom (for whom he developed an outdoor collection in 2014) called Brooklyn, using a single piece of polypropylene. “I was thinking about how I could make a timeless, elegant stool that everybody wants to have in a bar, without it being a ‘design stool’,” he says.
Brooklyn barstool for Vondom
MANY & VARIOUS
Another continuum in Quitllet's signature aesthetic is his framing of objects. This encompasses the K Ray lamp – a hollowed-out shape suspended in a frame that he co-designed with Starck for Flos, as well as the I Shine and U Shine vases and Light Air Table Lamp, all for Kartell. The object-framing idea similarly inspired his Dream Tools collection of transparent, crystalline desktop items for Lexon. “When you put these pieces together, they form an infinite bar, a kind of extrusion”, he says of the growing family of objects. In 2016, Lexon is launching Dream Machine, a pencil-sharpener; Liquid Pot, a framed pot for desktop paraphernalia; and three electronic products: Speak Air, a Bluetooth speaker with an aluminium exterior encasing rippling lines of injected plastic that Quitllet describes as “a bit like sound waves or vibration”; the cubic Ona Radio, named after his daughter; and Ein-Stein – a stone- like shape held in a frame. “Today we’re choosing the technologies to produce Ein-Stein and deciding how to reduce the price to the lowest level so as to attain an affordable item of the best quality”, informs Quitllet.
Being an industrial designer is, for him, about bringing life to objects at the most reasonable price points. “I always try to find the soul of the piece and of the material, because we’re going to share our existence with it”, Quitllet says. As an example, he cites his elegant stainless steel cutlery collection for Christofle entitled L'Âme (soul), also a homonym for the French word for blade, lame. As he says, “Christofle has long been producing high quality silverware in an artisanal way, but it’s too expensive to explore any longer and therefore needs to be made industrially. My idea was to synthesise this background story into the knife’s blade, which is like a mirror reflecting the past to the future. Then came the rest of the collection, which features hand-cut, mirror-like finishes, reminding us of the human intervention in the industrial product.”
IN PRAISE OF THE OBJECT
Exalting everyday objects through premium design is something that Quitllet ardently believes in. Following his IPI tableware for Air France, he has designed another collection, Fluide, that is being mass-produced for takeaway food. His starting point was folding a sheet of paper into four lines to obtain the sleekness of the infinitely stackable shape. “The idea is not to design rubbish”, insists Quitllet. “You're going to take it, look at it, and think: Do I throw it away or keep it and show it to somebody else? In everything I do, I try to capture the energy and value of a unique piece of art and find a way to translate that into the industrial process.”
Quitllet is a visionary designer whose ideas materialise mentally. “I really see the image in my mind and decide what I want”, he says. “When it’s clear, I make a sketch so as not to forget. Then I know how to follow the project to the end. I’m always open to any positive accidents that happen en route but I’m not gambling to find an idea. I go ahead, for sure.” That doesn't mean that ideas always spring forth easily. It can be a struggle, as was the case with his cylindrical, multi-part candle and incense holders called Eva for Designer Box, which are being unveiled at MAISON&OBJET. “I wasn't focused because the project was more artisanal than what I like to do”, he admits. “But I found this idea of shaping the inside of the extrusion, using the nerves that structure the tube. The inside is quite erotic and sensual.”
Also being previewed at M&O is Stone, a chair for Habitat composed of injection-moulded polypropylene that will form part of Habitat’s autumn/winter collection. And – in contrast – a singular chair designed in collaboration with Alex Rasmussen, president of Neal Feay, an aluminium manufacturer based in California. “It’s a unique item handmade by a robot”, says Quitllet, refusing to disclose further details. “I want to humanise and domesticate machines to make poetry. We’re planning to explore various methods for producing other pieces using a robot, so that we can bring them into wider use. We just need to find a way to make the process faster and cheaper in order for the product to be available to everybody.”
Besides fantasising about such challenges, Quitllet's personal passion is designing cars. He and his team have conceived a futuristic Porsche convertible that he intends to propose to the German car company. “The idea is to have the top in aluminium and to change the colours”, he enthuses. “I’m always pushing design to the limit.”
MAISON&OBJET takes place in Paris from 22 to 26 January 2016