Born in 1949 in Paris, designer Philippe Starck has been described as a provocateur, a defender of democratic design, and “a superstar on the French design scene.” It’s said that as a child, Starck slept under the drafting table of his father, who was an inventor and aeronautics engineer. Starck went on to study at the École Camondo in Paris, but was later quoted as saying that he “learned nothing” there and was, instead, driven by his own curiosity.
Around 1968, Starck set up his own studio in Paris, with a special focus on inflatable designs; he collaborated with the master of blow-up furniture, designer Quasar Khanh. The following year, Starck debuted an inflatable structure at Salon de l’Enfance and caught the attention of fashion designer Pierre Cardin, who straightaway offered him an art director position.
In the mid to late 1970s, Starck found success designing nightclub interiors, like La Main Bleue in Montreuil and Les Bain Douches in Paris. As the 1980s neared, Starck launched a company called Starck Product—later named Ubik after the Philip K. Dick novel—and began producing furniture, lighting, and accessory designs for major manufacturers like Alessi, Driade, Flos, Kartell, and Vitra.
In 1983, Starck’s international design celebrity began to build when French president François Mitterrand invited him to renovate the private apartments of the Élysée Palace. Not long after, Starck began to receive regular commissions for restaurant and hotel interiors. Highlights from this phase of his career include Café Costes in Paris (1984), Manin in Tokyo (1985), Theatron in Mexico City (1985), the Royalton (1988) and Paramount (1990) hotels in New York City, and the Delano Hotel in Miami Beach (1995). In 1999, Starck partnered with developer John Hitchcox to launch Yoo, a design firm dedicated to residential and commercial interiors.
Starck is arguably the most prolific designer living today, and any listing of his many iconic works must be abbreviated. Among the standouts, however, you’ll find Miss Dorn Chair for VIA and later for Driade (1980); Pat Conley I Chair for XO (1983); J. Série Lang Chair for Driade (1986); Hot Bertaa Kettle for Alessi (1987); Miss Donna Mirror for OWO and later for Alessi (1987); Lola Mundo Chair for Driade (1988); Juicy Salif Lemon Squeezer for Alessi (1990); W.W. Stool for Vitra (1990); Louis 20 Chair for Vitra (1991); Miss Sissi Table Lamp for Flos (1991); Vicieuse Coffee Table for Driade (1992); Excalibur Toilet Brush for Heller (1993); Jim Nature Portable Television for Thomson (1994); Rosy Angelis Lamp for Flos (1994); Dr. No Chair for Kartell (1996); Dr. Scud Fly Swatter for Alessi (1998); La Marie Chair for Kartell (1998); Miss C.O.C.O. Folding Chair for Cassina (1998); Gnome Stools for Kartell (1999); Bubble Club Sofa for Kartell (2000); Hudson Chair for Emeco (2000); Louis Ghost Chair for Kartell (2002); and Guns Lamp for Flos (2005).
In addition to furniture, electronics, and product design, Starck has tackled several larger-scale designs, like the Alhóndiga Cultural & Leisure Centure in Bilbao (2010), Port Adriano Harbor in Palma de Mallorca (2012), Apple CEO Steve Jobs’s yacht (2012), P.A.T.H Prefabricated Homes for Riko (2013), and Le Nuage Sports Center in Montpellier (2014), among many others.
Starck’s work can be found in most European and American museums, including the Musée National d’Art Moderne and Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, MoMA and the Brooklyn Museum in New York, Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, and Design Museum London. The Pompidou Center hosted a Starck retrospective in 2003. His many awards are too numerous to name.