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Creating magic via hard work
PHILIPPE Starck is as humorous and wacky as the products and spaces that he designs. He has been flying nonstop with his wife, Jasmine Abdellatif, and rattles off a list of places, from New York to Paris to Portugal, then to Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, then back to Paris and Portugal. "We have been on planes so much, we are dead, like ghosts," he jokes.
The irrepressible Frenchman was on a whirlwind trip to Singapore to meet guests for M Social, his latest hotel in Singapore. He also designed The South Beach luxury hotel on Beach Road.
"That's life," he says with a shrug. For years, Singapore did not have any Starck-designed hotels, and now in a span of a year, there are two.
Ticking all the elements
M Social, located at Robertson Quay and overlooking the Singapore River, ticks all the design elements that are typical of Starck. "I imagined the hotel to be a cabana, or a love shack along the river," he reveals.
In the driveway, there are two giant peanut steel sculptures, and a cube which looks oddly placed, but doubles as additional luggage storage.
The hotel's restaurant and bar, called Beast & Butterflies, is a colourful space, with 40 tablets mounted on the wall, projecting contemporary artwork.
The furniture, designed by Starck, features tan-coloured leather armchairs interspersed with retro-style checked sofas, and on the tables, clusters of lava lamps add a contemplative touch.
The 293-rooms are split into four categories: The Nice Room, The Nicer Room, The Big Room and The Bigger Room. The Nice and Nicer Rooms, which start from 19 sq m, have 4m-high pitched roofs and the latter comes with a terrace.
The Big is a duplex-style loft, while The Bigger Room is similar, but with an attached terrace.
The rooms are, depending on how you'd like to interpret the size, either cosy, or tiny. Starck admits that when he was first shown the rooms, he was very surprised by their small size.
He has said that it takes him a day and a half to design a hotel, but for M Social, he took longer. "The rooms are like a small townhouse, but to arrive at this magic, I had to do a lot of work." Naturally, he says that he can live in these rooms, but more importantly, "I can show that a room with a small footprint can be interesting, sexy and of high quality."
He says his hotels are all successes because they are full of life. "There are so many beautiful hotels, but they are so boring, like a museum. After an hour there, you feel like you want to commit suicide."
Instead, when he steps into any hotel, he expects it to be like home, "with friends welcoming me, and not to have something that is trendy or designed. It should be a place that should feel full of life, have lots of things that are diverse and eclectic which will appeal to young creators", he explains.
With a career that spans 47 years, Starck is arguably, the world's most prolific designer, having done 744 projects to date and counting. They span residences, hotel and restaurant interiors to everyday items such as furniture, clothing ranges, vehicles and bathroom ranges.
It is difficult to pick his most iconic piece but a safe bet is the Juicy Salif citrus-squeezer.
He ponders when asked if everything he uses at home is designed by him. "I was just thinking with Jasmine the other day, that everything we have, from the house to the plane, the car, the glasses, the shoes are all made by me," he says. "It is astonishing eh, but it can only be done by someone who works all day and night."
For the record, Starck works 12 to 14 hours each day, "until I'm close to burning out".
Yet, he confesses that he doesn't care for design or architecture.
"I'm more fascinated with human evolution, what happened in the last four billion years, and what will become of us, four billion years later."He is designing and creating so many products simply because "I want to participate in this evolution."
His own worst critic
Starck adds that some items are useful and some are useless, but "in life, I always try to be useful".
At 67, he shows no sign of slowing down or stopping. He says he cannot. His creativity is somewhere between "a mental sickness and an addiction". He works alone, and is constantly challenging himself. "I think I never do well enough, or what I do is not intelligent or the right thing," he says.
Starck adds: "I'm my worst critic, that's why I continue to work. When you are happy with what you do, you are dead."
Perhaps he is just being modest when he says all this.
Probe him on his creation process and he says that he is always "flying in my head - I'm the best pilot of imagination".
He explains that he is able to see any finished project in his head, and his brain is like a fast-speed computer.
He works on his own terms, and advises: "Never prostitute yourself. Always be yourself."