Cover French designer Matali Crasset

She discusses the elements of French design and how well-designed projects can help improve our daily lives

What is the essence of French design? It’s an inimitable quality that may be hard to put into words and perhaps makes the design scene more vibrant in consequence. “I like the idea that you can’t define it (French design). You really feel the (creative) freedom; every designer has his own way of doing design,” says French designer Matali Crasset.

Crasset was in Singapore for the premiere of Playful and Political Design, a documentary directed by Rémy Batteault as part of the Influences series produced by French TV channel France 5. “We see about 10 different projects (in the film); I try to show how I’m collaborating with people,” shares the 54-year-old. “It’s not about your ego. You have to consider (the person) whom you want to collaborate with here.”

Crasset had worked with Philippe Starck during the early years of her career; she recalls with awe the inspiring and liberating experience. “It was like a fairytale for me. I was in charge of 25 persons, running the design teams. I learnt a lot and I was able to understand how a huge company like that works.”

During her tenure, Crasset took charge of the design of several electronic devices at Thomson Multimédia and visited the company’s factory in Singapore over 20 years ago; she returned last year to design an installation, The Dynamic Lines of Our Nest, at National Gallery that caters to families with toddlers.

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This year, her work was also showcased at the National Design Centre in No Taste for Bad Taste, an exhibition themed around French design. The project shown was Téo de 2 à 3, a versatile stool designed for French brand Domeau & Pérès; the seat can be taken apart to form a foldable mattress and a “do not disturb” sign whenever its user needs a nap.

“I was invited to do a project for an agency, they really work very hard,” says Crasset. “So I created a stool that you can sleep on for a nap in the office. I try to reach the essence of what we need.”

Its concept is also inspired by a Crasset-designed guest bed that can be stowed away as a freestanding column when it’s not in use. “I’m not interested in doing beautiful furniture; what I wanted to do was to bring back hospitality (into the home),” says Crasset. “It’s saying: ‘Hey, I don’t have a lot of space but I can still invite you to stay at my home’.”

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Crasset’s team is now working on an affordable housing project comprising small residential units that will be shown in Lille, the French city recently named the World’s Capital of Design 2020.

“We will also be able to build nine first-editions, so people can understand and see how they can live inside,” she says. “I’m more interested in the scenario of life; you need to consider how the different objects are working together.”

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She strongly believes in using design as a means to better the world that we live in, such as through finding ways to make a product more sustainable. “Sustainability is not something that you glue on; it’s constitutive of the project,” she says.

“There are plenty of ways to do sustainable (design), in order not to make the company fear it; to find a way that they can understand that it is for the well-being of everybody.”

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