Mind Your Business: Designer Philippe Starck on his 20-year partnership with Baccarat

By Haziq Yusof 5 January, 2024
Portrait photo of Philippe starck

In Mind Your Business, we speak with business leaders and thinkers who inspire their respective companies and industries. Here, renowned designer Philippe Starck shares the vision behind his designs, his long-standing partnership with Baccarat, and more

Philippe Starck stands as a titan in the design world, revered by connoisseurs for his ability to imbue everyday objects with extraordinary charm. His odyssey from the corridors of École Nissim de Camondo to global design acclaim stands as a testament to his unyielding dedication to innovation and aesthetic perfection. The Parisian’s oeuvre, encompassing everything from magnificent hotels to the finest furniture, is rooted in a design philosophy that artfully blends aesthetic beauty with practical utility.

Photo of Philippe Starck
Starck is an icon in the world of design. Photo by Philippe Starck

This ethos is vividly brought to life in his 20-year-long partnership with Baccarat. The enduring collaboration has culminated in the stunning Talleyrand by Starck collection, where Starck ingeniously melds intricate crystal craftsmanship with audacious modernist forms.

As a prolific creator, what does the dawn of a new year mean to you?

We live only to contribute to a beautiful film, a beautiful story, or the beautiful poetry of our evolution. So, we have to work, again and again, to solve all the problems that face us.

Congratulations on the Talleyrand by Starck collection for Baccarat. What compelled you to dip into the pages of history, particularly into the figure of Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, for it?

For 20 years, I have worked on the Harcourt collection, named after the Harcourt family that goes back to an era of fortified castles, knights in armour, and battles of swords and shields. The Harcourt collection is very masculine—it is strong, heavy, and powerful. When I discovered a glass from the Talleyrand collection, I was fascinated by its shape, by the small detail that one can first put their fingers (on the glass), then (place) their lips to drink. It is so delicate, so elegant. I wanted to keep the beloved Harcourt, and to explore the modernity and humanity of Talleyrand through a dedicated collection.

The Éminence Grise is most certainly an outstanding item from the collection. How did the details of its design come to you?

Diffraction, reflection, and refraction of crystals lie in the poetry of mathematics. Crystal seduces us, makes us dream, and enflames us. All these optical games are, before anything else, mathematical equations coming from nature and fashioned by human intelligence. The Éminence Grise represents this scientific, influential, and powerful spirit.

Photo of Éminence Grise
The Éminence Grise is a highlight of the Talleyrand by Starck Collection. Photo by Baccarat

The elements of play and poetry and also power definitely shine through in the S’il vous plaît! bell. Do you think design is limited when it takes itself too seriously?

Humour is always a main parameter, as it is the most beautiful symptom of human intelligence. Humour puts everything into perspective. You can play with everything. When I create, I like to take serious things lightly and light things seriously, and always with elegance and poetry.

Photo of the S’il vous plaît! bell
The S’il vous plaît! Bell. Photo by Baccarat

You have produced many visually resplendent designs over the years. In your imagination, which is more important, form or function?

I am an absolute functionalist. I have no desire to create an object for an object’s sake. What matters to me is immediate utility and function. And among the functions, there is the meaning and influence of the object, which involves political, sexual, economic, and sentimental analysis. My products are made to live and to last.

You have been collaborating with Baccarat for 20 years. Most partnerships between artists and brands don’t last that long. What does Baccarat as a brand and institution mean to you?

I believe that to have beautiful children, the parents must be in love. It is the same for a project, partners must share the same vision and values. When I started working with Baccarat, they were a beautiful sleeper, waiting for their Prince Charming. Although I am not a prince nor (am I) that charming, I have always tried to bring a little extra magic to the crystal with my creations. Twenty years later, the collections are still absolutely timeless because Baccarat is all about miracles: a little sand, fire and humans. Its essence is flamboyant, crystalline, immaterial. It is pure poetry.

Photo of the Talleyrand Collection
The Talleyrand by Starck Collection is the culmination of a 20-year-long partnership. Photo by Baccarat

Your work covers a broad expanse of disciplines, products and materials. Would you say you have a unified theory or approach to design?

I am constantly working on more than 200 different projects with different partners at the same time. The idea, the vision is always the same—creating the most honest product or place that will last over time thanks to its good material quality, cultural intelligence, timeless elegance, and humanity. Recently I have worked on creating a space station’s crew quarter habitation module with Axiom, an astronaut training complex with Orbite, and an eco-responsible hotel concept called Oh Baby. The philosophy is always the same whatever form it takes, I am constantly looking for new solutions with the aim of serving my community.