What is your earliest recollection of an object and the attraction or fascination of it?
I have always loved bricks. It may sound like a cliché, but I love their apparent fragility. Even though the pattern of a brick is based on a grid, something rigid and geometric, the structure is always slightly irregular and imperfect. That’s what gives them their unique beauty. It’s an ambiguous object; industrial, yet with a handcrafted look, it’s the perfect balance between industry and craftsmanship.
At which point are you most happy when working with design?
When a finished object looks like the very first sketches, and the essence of the project is respected despite all its intermediate stages. I like to be part of every step of the project, and the completion is perfect when I can expose the final object by doing the photography.
The term Art Nouveau was first mentioned in the Belgian journal L’Art Moderne in the 1880s. Your work, and design in general today, are very simplistic compared to Art Nouveau, but being Belgian has it had any influence on your concept of shape and expression?
Belgium is a complicated country, and it’s hard to define a specific identity when it comes to Belgian design. Generally, it’s difficult for me to categorise a design style, whether it is French, Belgian, Scandinavian, Japanese. In the world we live in today, influences are multiple. The simplicity of my design undoubtedly comes from the fact that I finished my studies just after the financial crisis in 2008, and opulence died. I’m from a generation of designers who experienced the exhibition “Super Normal” in Milan in 2006, which served as a huge inspiration. Design is becoming more democratic, more affordable and is moving from being a style to being a need. I also studied in Switzerland, a country with a proud heritage from 20th-century industrial design, and before that, I studied in France at a more artistic school. In the end, I think my work is a good summary of these influences, both sensitive and pragmatic, in search of the essential.
Looking back 20-30 years there were distinct national design identities; Danish design, Italian design, Japanese design. Is this still valid, or has globalism merged it all into one big melting pot?
Everyone is working with everyone now. We travel more and have connections across the globe which is one of the wonderful aspects of this practice; to meet people from everywhere, travelling, discover different cultures and habits.
Human beings have several unspoken languages, music and mathematics perhaps being the most recognised. But to many, the concept of Objects, form in itself, is also an unspoken language. Do you “feel” objects, or can you elaborate on your experience and communication with and through form?
Interesting question. I do have a sensitivity to objects. Often very ordinary and overlooked objects. But certain things hold a subtle beauty, which is always a joy to experience. When creating a design, it’s always complicated to know whom we’re talking. In this sense, we are artists; we don’t necessarily know our audience. But it is very pleasing to see afterwards that an object is understood. It’s like music; we often do it for ourselves. We draw what we would like for ourselves—trying to look for a universal thing.
It is also important to imagine what the object will bring to a room, even when we don’t use it. What impact will it have on the atmosphere? To do this, you have to observe the objects, whatever they are. Again; in search of the universal.
You work a lot with photography. With all the visual platforms available, and given how much time we spend looking at images, it seems as if there’s an almost alternative universe in which we consume design that we never get to see or touch in real life; objects, spaces and textures. Do you agree, and if so, can you elaborate on how it affects you/us?
We do see a lot of images, and I like to remain critical when looking at them. I not only look at a picture or a subject, but also the deeper quality of the image. Many projects are often poorly photographed. For me it’s a whole, that’s why I have always loved doing it and spent time learning how to do it. There is also a lot of standardisation in design images; the colours, the staging. It’s always a pleasure to see a new approach, a different angle and analyse how it is different in the treatment of the subject.
As a designer today, living in a world challenged by the consequences of massive consumption, how does that affect your work and view on creating new products?
It’s a delicate balance and a huge challenge. First of all, it’s essential to work with clients who share my ambition to bring meaning and depth into a project. And for me, it’s about combining esthetics and ethics with the complexity of mass production, and never stop to develop my skills and understanding about both.