Philippe Starck

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Whilst a designer cannot be defined by one of their designs, Phillipe Starck’s “Juicy Salif” is definitive of an era when form and function were not mutually incompatible but certainly pushed boundaries. It’s designer has proved to be one of the most versatile and influential on an entire generation – or two – of consumers.

As many readers will know, I used to live and work in Paris in the early 1980’s for an international law firm housed on the Champs Elysees. I was intoxicated by Paris but it was not all Pastis and Gitanes. I knew of the young Parisien designer, Phillipe Starck, who had been appointed as Art Director to the furniture business of the House of Pierre Cardin, a client of the firms, but couldn’t have anticipated his impact on my World.

Starck was born 18th January 1949, after studying at the prestigious product and interior design École Camondo on Paris’ Left Bank, he worked for Adidas and founded his own design business Starck Design/Ubik. This led to his work with Alessi – see our previous post on the power house of Italian Design  – Alessi Bollitore kettle  in 1990, Starck designed the Juicy Salif for Alessi.

It is said that the idea came to Starck whilst having lunch on the Amalfi coast. He realised that his plate of calamari hadn’t been dressed by lemon juice and had an idea. He scribbled some thoughts onto a napkin that is now preserved at the Alessi Museum. Some say that the Juicy Salif is a triumph of form over function in that it’s said it doesn’t work that well …. for Starck, he is rumoured to have said: “It’s not meant to squeeze lemons, it is meant to start conversations.”

Early projects included the refurbishment of the interior of newly elected President Mitterand’s apartment at the Elysee Palace, followed by the interior design of the iconic Cafe Costes in Paris in 1984, for brothers Jean-Louis and Gilbert Costes, a design which included the now celebrated leather and bent-wood, Costes Chair.

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By the late 1980s Starck was designing environmentally sensitive buildings in Japan including the 1989 “Nani, Nani” and in 1990 the Asahi Beer Hall in Tokyo.

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The late 1990’s into the new Millenium saw Starck heavily involved in the revitalization of the hotel sector with signature projects in New York with Ian Shrager’s “Paramount”

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The Delano in Miami and in London, The Sanderson. The latter is sympathetically based in the Grade II listed 1950’s Reginald Uren’s designed building at 50, Berners Street, London W1 that until 1992 housed the showrooms of Arthur Sanderson’s fabric business deep in London’s Rag Trade area.

Starck interest in things nautical has led to commissions to design some of the world’s most stunning yachts including two “A” motor and sailing yachts for Russian Billionaire, Andrey Melnichenko.

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Starck’s more recent work has involved designing four e-bikes in partnership with Mousthache Bikes, customized to the environment of use including snow and sand….

and the Pibal cycle for the City of Bordeaux.
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UK TV viewers may recall the 2009 BBC2 series fronted by Starck “Design For Life” reality TV show. Over a number of weeks selected Design Students were encouraged – and sometimes railed on by the Gallic Starck – to revive an English passion for design. The weakest were iliminated and the winner was given a six month placement at Starck’s Paris office. Arriving on set with his wife riding pillion on his motor bike, Starck clearly engaged with a UK audience. A fluent English speaker, you were left wondering whether his elaborate pronunciation was part of an act. Excellent TV, but it didn’t make a second series.

Would you like to add a Juicy Salif to your kitchen? If so, click on the Amazon link below the image of the Juicy Salif

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Alessi Juicy Salif Citrus Juicer

Image Credits – with grateful thanks – Starck Network, Moustache Bikes and Alessi

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Jacques-Yves Cousteau

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If you ask anyone raised in Europe or the US between the 1960’s to 1980’s to name an iconic and impactful TV programme, I can assure you that for many the under water natural history films of Jacques Cousteau would rank very high on a not very long list.

From the curious French soundtrack of slightly strident strings, to the Gallic, faltering commentary – I can never hear the French pronouciation of the name “Philippe” (one of his four children) without thinking of Capt Cousteau – this was pioneering television at its best. It left such an impact on us, a Jacques-Yves Cousteau sized hole that I suspect David Attenborough fills, but who was Cousteau?

Born 11th June 1910, Cousteau, in 1930 studied at the École Navale in Brittany (West France) after graduation he joined the French Navy. His commission was brief curtailed by a car accident where he sustained breaks to both arms. In 1937 he married Simone, the mother of his first two sons, Jean-Michel and Phillipe, who both would accompany their father on subsequent adventures.

In the late 1930’s Jacques first used diving goggles and in 1943 he received an award for the first French underwater film, filmed on a pressurized camera, entitled “Par dix-huit mètres de fond“ (“18m Deep”). The same year Cousteau’s team made “Epaves” (“Shipwrecks”) – which resulted in his commission to establish the French Navy’s Underwater Research Group based in Toulon. During filming he using pro-type aqua-lungs incorporating the recently invented demand regulator.

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The resultant freedom of the Aqua-lung allowed his team to explore the depths of the oceans of the World and document them through a myriad of films. His first films from the late 1940’s were celebrated at the Cannes Film Festival in 1951 and his early adventures were captured in his book published in 1953 “The Silent World”.

In 1956, a film of entitled “The Silent World”, made with famed director Louis Malle won the Palm d’Or at Cannes and an Academy Award for the Best Documentary in 1957. The Rolex Submariner – Rolex – The Submariner – the first divers’ watch waterproof to a depth of 100 metres with a rotatable bezel showing the diver their immersion time, was featured prominently in his film which shows Cousteau wearing a pre-launch Submariner The Silent World – The Film

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Leaving the Navy in 1949 he founded in 1950 the French Oceanographic Campaign (FOC) and leased his trusty ship Calypso from its owner, for a symbolic one franc a year, and wealthy benefactor, Thomas Loel Guinness.

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The documentaries commissioned by US TV stations, “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau ran from 1966 to 1976 followed by a second series “The Cousteau Odyssey” from 1977 to 1982. Cousteau had spent time growing up living in the US so his English was excellent but he retained his Gallic accent that added much to the authenticity of his films.

In 1979, Phillipe – Cousteau’s favourite child – was sadly killed when a sea plane he was piloting crashed in Portugal.

Following Simone’s death in 1990, in 1991 Cousteau remarried, Francine, already the mother of his two other children. Cousteau died from a heart attack on 25th June 1997 and Francine continues her husband’s work as President of the Cousteau Foundation and Cousteau Society. The Museum in Monaco – where Cousteau was a Director from 1957 to 1988 – is well worth a visit.

In the early 1970’s, like many other teenagers I enjoyed snorkeling. The clear influence of Capt. Cousteau stimulated my interest to know more that resulted in my first steps to undertake the British Sub-Aqua Club’s training course that included pool and open water diving. For quite some time, prior to me realizing my future lay not in the sciences, in response to that irritating question from a friend of my parents, “What do you want to do?” my response was always “To be a Marime Biologist” – Merci Capt. Jacques!

A lasting tribute in Cousteau’s own words: “The sea, the great unifier, is man’s only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: we are all in the same boat.”

Join Jacques Cousteau’s on his undersea adventures – by clicking the Amazon link below the image 

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Jacques Cousteau – The Ultimate Collection [DVD] [2007]

May be for those who are not yet ready for Capt. Cousteau’s Ultimate Collection and would – how do you say – like to put a toe in the water….the Undersea World of Jacque Cousteau must the finest starting point – click the Amazon link after the image 

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The Undersea World Of JACQUES COUSTEAU 6 DVD Box Set PAL

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Image credit – with grateful thanks – Globalfirstandfacts.com, The Cousteau Foundation, The Cousteau Society, ABC, NBC, Metromedia and Fred Muller II.

Le Creuset – Flame Kitchenwear

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A number of years ago turning twenty-one was a big deal. Even though I benefitted from the 1970 reduction of the the age of majority from twenty-one to eighteen, in June 1979, my parents hosted an amazing forty-eight hour 21st house party to celebrate.

I received some amazing gifts but at the time two, a larger and a smaller, orange (called “Flame”) Le Creuset saucepans seemed a little odd. They were a gift from my Great Aunt Molly – a huge favourite of mine – who regular readers may remember from my Mini post – to refresh your memories please see here – Mini – the best selling car in Britain

My Aunt, with her usual style, said to me flicking the ash from a Consulate Menthol, that I may not appreciate her gift right away but in years to come she assured me they would be more reliable than virtually anything. Of course, she was right. Aside from the odd chip, some rust and engrained burned milk they are virtually as good today as when they were given to me – nearly forty years ago!

So who makes these iconic and tough heavyweight saucepans? The Le Creuset (French for “cauldron”) business was founded in 1925 in the Northern French town of Fresnoy-le-Grand (Picardy) by two Belgians, Armand Desaegher, a casting specialist and Octave Aubecq  an enamelling specialist. They produced their first “cocotte” (casserole pan) the same year. The signature colour of Flame enamel glaze was used for the first time with their first production run and it is said that this colour derived from the molten cast iron used for its manufacture. Current owner Paul Van Zuydam purchased the Le Creuset business in 1987.

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Raymond Loewy, the renowned French-born American industrial designer, produced a range of iconic and highly collectable  for Le Creuset in the 1950’s.
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Since the mid-1990’s Le Creuset have extended their brand and ranges with the addition of new products in stainless steel, stoneware, enamel on steel, textiles and aluminium. The beautiful colours now offered are vibrant. The salt and pepper grinders, kettles, ramekins and coffee mugs are also reflective of the wonderful traditions of Le Creuset.
Whilst some production occurs in China and Thailand, we are told all Le Creuset cast iron cookware is still manufactured in the company’s foundry in Fresnoy-le-Grand using their 12 step finishing process to ensure there no flaws or imperfections in the final product. My only advise is to ensure you don’t use metal utensils when stirring your killer sauce. The metal will scratch the internal surface of the pan and invalidate the Limited Lifetime Warranty – always use wood or silicone kitchen utensils.
As a keen cook I can highly recommend these amazing products. If you’d like to add to your kitchen can I suggest that you click the following AMAZON link to a variety of Le Creuset’s products:

Le Creuset Stoneware Rainbow Egg Cups – Multicolour, Set of 6
Le Creuset Stoneware Rainbow Espresso Mugs – Set of 6

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Image credits – Le Creuset