Designer Starck wants to fight the "barbarians"

MILAN (Reuters) - Philippe Starck, whose minimalist interiors star in luxury hotels worldwide, thinks design is less important now than taking on the “barbarians” -- those not helping to care for the environment.

A file photo of a man suspended by ropes cleaning a monument designed by French designer Philippe Starck, measuring about 45 metres (147 feet), in Tokyo May 10, 2003. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

“I believe we are definitely in a time of barbarians and therefore it is less important to talk about design or art. Priority is to be given to political action in order to fight barbarians,” he told Reuters in an interview last week.

Paris-born Starck, who also designs useable household items with a twist like a striking long-legged steel citrus squeezer, considers barbarians those who do not seek to preserve life and the earth.

The designer, who decorated the private apartments of former French President Francois Mitterand, said people should only buy essentials.

“The most positive action is to buy. But if you need to, the minimum is ethical. To go back to the essence of things and ask myself: do I need this?” he said.

Getting that message across, however, is hard because “I am only a designer and each letter of the message I want to give is made of objects and places I design. So it takes a long time to share my ideas.”

“I am not a politician who can change the world with one law, I am not a singer who can change the world with one song, I am not a journalist who can change the world with one article,” he added.

Starck’s current projects include designing an environmentally friendly mega-yacht that is “inspired by fish,” and includes a revolutionary hull that will stop it making waves even at speeds of up to 25 knots -- roughly the pace of a sports car at full pelt.

But he was dismissive of luxury yachts without such enhancements.

“A luxury yacht is the most stupid thing invented in the world, in theory nobody needs that. It is a display of power and money,” he said, speaking a day before he gave a presentation to the Financial Times Business of Luxury conference in Venice.


Starck, who is heading into space next year with Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and designing a spaceport for the venture, said he was not interested in “space tourism”.

“With Virgin Galactic, the project is much more than tourism, it is about being part of the big image. Bringing the freedom of space ... until now, space was owned only by the military,” he said.

Starck is currently designing furniture which is transparent as he works towards a vision of making product invisible, and designs aimed at being comfortable during sexual intercourse.

Starck is keen to turn other accepted views of what is luxurious on their head.

“In the future, there will be two choices: luxury as it exists, mostly linked to the crazy rhythm of fashion, and also new brands with ... time value considerations, based on ecology, progress, timelessness.”

Starck’s Web site is at