Designer's Free Zone: Direct contact with people.
I want to keep it small like a craftsman because I need to be involved in the development of the project. Otherwise, I get frustrated.
Dear Matali, how was the design scene when you started your career? Can you compare it to today?
It was completely different. We were just a few designers. Philippe Stack was already there and he opened a lot of different doors. It was not like in Italy. In Italy you have masters of design and the young generation finds a little bit harder visibility because masters were always there. You could ask anybody to name few designers and they are able to do that even if they are in other industries in Italy. But in France people knew only Starck and that's it. I don't know why, sometimes I say design is in between Art Déco culture and engineering which is quite strong in France. That's why working on theindustrial design field was quite difficult for us. I think you still have to fight for power. There are big differences being an architect and being a designer in France. We didn't want that power like architects because we wanted freedom to act. Thus we refused that power. We are doing our work with pleasure.
It's still there, the freedom you’ve mentioned.
Yes but i think it is quite important in France. You can see the diversity of the design scene here. When you get out of the school today you have a lot of designers. But you still have a lot to do for small and middle enterprises expanding what design is about. Design is still not seen as a strategic tool. That is a pity. Most of the time designers arrive in the process quite late. It could have been different.
Isn’t it the most popular method to use design thinking as a strategic tool by different industries today? There are a certain amount of company investing on that. Do you believe in that?
I don't quite believe in this idea. You cannot copy design thinking to a specific group of people or area. The methodology has to be very different from one project to other. It is more about using the marketing tools or using the marketing language. It is a specific way of acting and talking because designer does not need to explain the methodology. Some people try to make it a little bit clear by saying it would be applied very easily, you have some rules etc… But I am not quite sure it is a good thing to be done.
Can you tell us about your team?
I have a very tiny team of four people. I want to keep it small like a craftsman because I need to have direct contact with people. I am so passionate with this and I need to be involved in the development of the project. Otherwise, I get frustrated. You can't do the work I am doing if you have a lot of people around you. If you want to engage things you need to be in a little group.
How long have you been living in Paris? Why did you choose the neighbourhood, Belleville?
I live in the east side of Paris at least for 25 years. I prefer east Paris because when I go out I want to see the things still remaining to be done. It is also a place where life is really visible. Sometimes you have difficulties and you just go out and see the people outside. It brings you a really different approach to life. That is how you become more involved in life. The neighbourhood is in Paris but it has its own identity. It is very mixed and you have quite a lot of artists living there. I like this idea of living in the middle of the city.
It is very surprising to see these huge courtyards in the city.
These courtyard that we are in right now is more possible to see in the east part of Paris. This was a printing factory before. You can still find some of traces of its previous function.
What is on your table right now?
I am working on a textile project right now, it’s quite new.
What is your experience with textile?
I already did a project for Okaidi, a French company. Textile design is far different from industrial design. It’s quite interesting because people asked me to do something I’m not supposed to do. I like to work with people we share the same value.
Do you prefer being in a long lasting relationship with a brand?
Yes I do like to work like that because as a designer if they chose you, it means that you have something to say for this brand. Moreover you find the tuning of the way how you collaborate. You know where to go more easy project after project because you know the person better. I think the project becomes stronger thanks to this relation. I am pretty sure that people are willing that too.This can be explained as creating a community, in social sense. In political sense, it is very important to feel safe.
In Voyage to Uchronia project, you were also questioning the idea of creating communities our society.
Yes, we were living in a community and now we are living in a society. Do we miss something in between? In fact the idea of an emerging society is exactly the beginning of industrial design. I am sure that by questioning what could be done with a designer and what design could do in a social point of view as it was a project shown in an art gallery, not a design gallery. I was much more free to question and materialize the project. It was more like an installation, you could sit and be inside of the shapes. I feel it was more an installation.
It was more of an art project than design.
It was actually an art project. I like to be on the border that is why I made this installation. Then I did a film for this project. When you could go as far that there are no limits you just do your project as you feel. It is quite interesting to have the possibility to do that. I always have a kind of an artistic part depending where you are working, where you are shrinking the piece. You have different ingredients and suddenly you could push the artistic ingredients more with this project. You have to combine this in a different way.
You are also influenced by the materials within this process.
At the end, the material is the fact. I don't want to exercise like in schools. In schools, people are asked to do a project with a specific material like a mission. I don't think people like to buy mission. They like to buy objects. I really prefer to find the attention first then find the material which is helping me to achieve for giving this attention to people.
But you use a specific language from interior design scale to product design scale.
I like this idea because at the beginning of my work, it was quite hard that nobody could understand. Nobody is used to read a diverse piece of work. I use a way to look at the project’s aesthetic and the function but as soon as you try to do something else then people get lost.
Your hands are pretty much on everything from exhibition, spatial, product design and even architectural design. How do you manage it?It's not a matter of managing. It is more a matter of finding partners to do that.
What do you do right for finding right partners?
I'm not trying to find partners, generally they find me. I just do my work at the best I can and I try to find a way to bring my own approach. At the beginning of design school, most of the time people asked me to do something I never did before. I like that people feel free to ask me things which is normally not in my area. As long as you have a strong approach then you can materialize it in a different way. If I'm working on the idea of sharing things, then I can do it in domestic scale or urban scale. As a designer I think that the more complex thing is to find this ingredients and to know how to implement them into works.
Do you think that there's an organic network developing around you? Is it spontaneous?
Most of the people who works with me are singular people. I am proposing singular projects and then people come and would like to do a project with me in a way. They have strong personalities and they really want to engage per person but they are not directly connected together.
The definition of space no longer exists as working and living culture shifted into a new mobility. This kind of a new mobility is also legible in your works.
Even 20 years ago I was really interested in the idea of living the appropriation as a person. It was not appropriation for creation but it was an appropriation to use things to organize the space. That is very important for me because I really like “the person” to be active, to be able to be autonomous, to be aware of things and to act on the trending because of the rise. I think people must be active because as soon as you are active already at home then you become active outside. I always believed in that. You can really feel that people are more engaged when they already have another attitude in life. My first step was to achieve to that point at the space called “home”. 15 yeas ago it was not possible but now it's becoming more and more possible and legitimacy of using this kind of typology.
It's about trends but let's put it in another words: The rising values in the world.
I explain this more like emerging. But emerging trends are also superficial trends. It is something which will be placed little by little and we will be remain anyway.