Travel Diary: Hotel Designer Philippe Starck
Published: May 2009
By Raul Barreneche
The all-around trendsetter offers his own philosophy on the peripatetic life
Few designers have been as popular and prolific as Paris-born Philippe Starck. The cheeky, irreverent artist is the creative genius behind an endless list of places and things — from sofas, lamps, and houses to juicers, toilet brushes, sunglasses, airplanes, sailboats, and motorcycles. Of course, stylish travelers know Starck as the force driving Ian Schrager's greatest hotel hits, like the oversized flowerpots at the Mondrian and the underwater music accompanying the Delano's see-and-be-seen pool party. More recently, Starck began styling minimalist-chic luggage for Samsonite — although the 52-year-old admits he hates to leave home. Travel + Leisure caught up with the always witty, always entertaining designer to find out how he copes with the stress of being a citizen of the world
Global villager: I go everywhere on the map, but Venice is my favorite city. If I could have a "virtual citizenship," I would be Venetian.
Between the lines: I'm always reading five books at the same time, so I keep two or three copies of the same book at my different houses and take others with me when I travel. Right now, I'm reading about dictatorships, African colonialism, and science.
Packing Strategies: I have a home almost everywhere I work, so I don't need to bring that much by way of clothing. I travel with two of my Samsonite bags filled only with my music, an MP3 player, folding headphones, and folding speakers. I also bring good drawing paper that's made specially for me from plastic—so I can travel from a very dry country to a very wet country and it always stays flat, and you can't destroy it—and pencils. I never check luggage.
Survival Tools: I travel with a GPS [Global Positioning System] because I love to know where I am at all times. And I always bring a Prada Gore-Tex parka, because it's the best and you can go everywhere with it. I bring a cashmere sweater or something in mohair or organic alpaca produced by me, because it's light and warm and convenient. Almost all my clothes, by me or other designers, are made of organic materials. Also, I always pack my black jeans, a white cotton shirt, black boots, and four pairs of my Starck Eyes eyeglasses.
Songs Of Inspiration: I have more than 300 albums on MP3, and I pick one depending on the time of day, my mood, which project I'm working on. You need different music for different times. Sometimes I listen to reggae, sometimes classical, sometimes world music, sometimes something lurid.
Second-guessing: I go back to the places I've designed often—I was in the Delano last week. Strangely, it's not so bad to rethink your designs when you go back; some things could always be better. But there is no shock and no shame. I love the pool at the Mondrian. When my wife and I stay there, we love to wake up very early and sunbathe. We spend the whole day working by the pool, looking at boys and girls, my wife on her computer and me with my drawing paper—it's paradise.
The Woes Of Flying: Jet lag has been the trauma of my life—it killed me for 25 years. I used to be obsessed with treating it, so I took a lot of pills and vitamins. But for the last two years I've taken no more sleeping pills, no more vitamins, and I have no more jet lag. Maybe it's because now that I travel with my wife, we just dance all night when we arrive somewhere. That way we forget we're tired.
Style In Midair: My father designed airplanes, and I once did a private plane interior, a long time ago. It was like a flying carpet in the sky. I think I'll design my own plane soon. It's horrible to be obliged to buy a jet, because it costs so much money—and it means that you need one because you work too much. But soon, I'll be part of the club.
Easy Riding: I used to take my bike from Paris to Barcelona all the time and make other trips like that, but I don't have time to ride my motorcycles anymore. I must start doing that again.
Hotel Perks: All the good Italian hotels have nice linens, especially the Villa Cipriani in Asolo, near Venice. The fabrics are very heavy and old. The best service is always in Asia. I especially love the Peninsula in Hong Kong, and the Park Hyatt Tokyo. And, of course, Amandari on Bali.
Home Sweet Homes: When I'm in the city, in any city, it's a day of too many meetings and too many interviews. So, the perfect day for me is at my oyster farm in the southwest of France, or my house in Venice, or my house on Formentera near Ibiza, or on my boat. Not one of these places has a telephone or electricity or running water. My houses are mainly love shacks, very secret. I'm happy in these places because I can work there in privacy.
OPH (Other People's Hotels): I love the Park Hyatt Tokyo. Also a very, very small hotel in Zanzibar, but I don't know the name. There's a little hotel in Venice, and another in Lago Maggiore in Italy, but I'll never give out the names of them. I'm also happy with my own hotels: the Delano, the Mondrian, the Hudson, and especially the Sanderson in London. That's the best for me.
The Nature Of Design: There is no research when I create a hotel. I can be anywhere in the world, as long as I am alone. I put myself in front of anything—the sea, the backyard, a garbage dump—and I lock myself up for as long as I need to design, usually between one and three days. I go to bed and I sleep until I see it all clearly in my head. Then I wake up and design everything very fast, while the ideas are fresh. I wait for my subconscious to deliver the image; I am just the printer.
The Future Of Travel: Frankly, I believe in completely the reverse of what everybody else is thinking. I believe that our civilization will not continue to move bodies. We will move ourselves less and less, because the whole world is becoming the same. The way our generation and our civilization move our bodies and transport materials is an accident. I think the future will be about mental traveling, not physical traveling. That is why I will never buy stock in an airplane company.
My Sacred Spot:
I never, ever travel for pleasure, because I hate traveling. I travel only when I have to work. I go only where I have to go. I shall never spend one hour of my life or one dollar of my money to
go to some faraway place for pleasure. I don't understand people who fly 12 hours to go
on holiday. I prefer to go to my oyster farm in France. I have a 200-square-foot love shack painted all black, sitting on an ocean of gray mud where 200 million oysters live. That is my favorite place.
An Ideal Workday Starts With . . .
waking up at 6 a.m., choosing one of my 300 MP3's, plugging in my headphones, and dreaming all day. At 7 p.m., I take off my headphones, plug in the speakers, open a bottle of champagne, and dance with my wife.