Design

French designers today: business leaders or accursed artists?

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Sofia Sanchez, Mauro Mongiello, D.R.

The designer has become the object of all fantasies, even of all lusts. But the path of recognition is longer than it seems and the market often has false airs of skin of sorrows.

In music, we call it a tube: in less than a year, the lamp "Binic" by Ionna Vautrin, for the Italian publisher Foscarini, passed the bar of 30,000 copies sold. A stroke of the stroke of master stroke for this 31-year-old French designer from the Nantes-Atlantique design school who, until December 2010, worked discreetly in the shadow of Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. A success that allows him today to live partly from his royalties and to work with serenity, limiting purely food projects. "Still," she says, "Binic" almost never came into existence, the Foscarini team thought about dropping the project several times along the way, I was not known, so they doubted commercial potential of the object.Today, I measure my luck. " But of this success story, we will rather retain the exceptional character. And, we will not forget that before signing such a "bestseller", Ionna Vautrin has done long classes at Camper, George J. Sowden, then at the brothers Bouroullec.


Designers: the loneliness of the long distance runner

Because, for young designers who arrive on the market, the path of recognition often looks like an obstacle course. No way to launch under his own name without having previously proven and spent a few years alongside a recognized designer to learn the trade, project management from A to Z, models, plans, 3D. With a few rare exceptions, all those who make the French design today began as trainees with a master. And, for many beginners, going out of school is like an impassable wall. How to live from this job? How to make yourself known ? which doors to knock on?

In the alleys of the "Milan Furniture Fair" or "Maison & Objet" in Villepinte, it is not uncommon to meet young graduates, book under the arm, from stand to stand in search of an interlocutor . "Of course, it's useless to go to the publishers on the shows, it's a place where we do business, not artistic meetings, sorry Christian Ghion, but, in concrete, how a kid to enter in contact with Alberto Alessi? I appreciate this courage, this relentlessness It is a form of learning perseverance I know what it is: for me, it's been 10 years that it works, but I 'first experienced 15 years of lean cows.' It must be said that the design industry has nothing to do with show biz: the media exposure - however relative it is - is rarely synonymous with prosperity.

The patience of the designer

Thus, one of the great hopes of the hexagonal design (it is found in the catalog of Cinna, but also at Petite Friture, Superette or Specimen), Pierre Favresse, confides with humor too often being confronted with the worried calls of his banker. "I feel a little bit in the middle of a financial storm, but I know I have to stay the course, and I think it's good to feel like you're in the breach. Before, when I was going to the Arts Décoratifs, we were preparing to become independent designers, but the principle of editing is very complex: most of the time we draw without a precise brief, then we go in search of a publisher, who takes the time to study the project and sometimes gives no sign of life before 6 months.If the answer is positive, it remains to wait 12 months of feasibility studies ... And another 6 months before touching the first royalties. "

Same story for Jocelyn Deris, ESAD graduate and author for the publisher Trash a series of lamps and furniture that had a great success in the press. In total, a dozen references for an activity that represents little more than 5 to 10% of its income. "Most of my time, I spend it freelance for agencies specialized in commercial architecture.This makes me live, but limits my investment on the rest.It is far from what we were let see in the school, when we were practically pushed towards the arts and the gallery object In my promotion, many people went to swell the ranks of agencies and design packaging for the cosmetics industry. those who chose freelance status and only two of us passed the bar of the edition. "

The pocket market of designers

Because if one likes to associate the work of the designer with the edition of furniture and objects, this one is far from being a great provider of funds. Certainly, France has two major furniture publishers: Ligne Roset / Cinna and Roche Bobois. But to sign for one is to close the door of the other. Which is rather good war, but reduces the possibilities at the national level, even if the market is obviously not limited to these two only signs. Publishers such as Steiner, xO, Pouenat or Domeau & Pérès are all brands that, at their own level, use designers and communicate on their creations. Not to mention the many houses and galleries that have appeared in recent years (Mustache, Petite Friture, Artuce, ToolsGalerie, Ymer & Malta ...). Some designers are even editors.

This is the case of François Mangeol, a graduate of ESAD Saint-Etienne, who, together with Valérie Gonot, launched éSé (label edition) in 2010. The young house obviously does not claim to compete with the "big" publishers. And if it allows François Mangeol to produce his own pieces, as well as those of other designers, it is first of all "a consequence" of the lack of possibilities offered by the French market and not a more or less fantasized desire for everything. control, as he emphasizes at the outset. "Despite the boom of recent years, publishing houses are few in France.A creator at the beginning of career has no real choice. the number of professionals trained each year and the financial risk inherent in the production of serial objects, the choice of publishers, publishers or galleries is limited to a small number of us. I would have released an object a year, with ESe I could work on the development of a dozen, all this in contact with artisans, machines, know-how and especially with a complete vision of the chain. the plan through the production, distribution This is how the knowledge of this market - its possibilities of absorption, its mechanisms, its rites and its practice - sharpens my point and reinforces my commitments. "

Media dance and signature race

This observation is a bit like that made by Hervé Van der Straeten. In the early 1990s, then publisher of his own line of jewelry, he decided to return to his first love: the furniture, the object and lighting. "I then wondered what option to take.I should I choose the media dance of the seven veils to seduce the Italian publishers or continue to work with my own structure? As I am archi-independent, I preferred the second possibility." A choice that led to some difficult years, but which allowed him to build a company apart in the French landscape. Designer and president of his own company, he owns a gallery in Paris, sales outlets in New York and Porto, and, above all, his own manufacturing workshops (bronze and cabinet making) in the Paris region.

"If it had to be done again, I would not change anything, it was the only way to bring to life the furniture I'm drawing, which editor would have given me the opportunity to create a solid silver piece of furniture?" But courses such as those of François Mangeol, Hervé Van der Straeten or Jean-François Bellemère (designer and founder of the publishing house Company) remain separate cases, even if they are part of a certain French tradition of interior decorators who, like Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, had their own workshops. For Inga Sempé (whose creations can be found at Ligne Roset, Mustache, Edra or Cappellini), there is no question of confusing the genres: "I do not see myself driving my van to ensure deliveries let alone queue at La Poste for manage postage issues. "

This sliced ​​speech is well suited to the young woman who tackles the problem of the designer's place in France: "In France, the culture of design is still too recent, with the exception of brands such as Ligne Roset. has a real problem with the use of the designer in companies that, for the most part, put their design first and foremost on communication issues, which is why I am happy to work in Italy, Germany or again in Sweden, where the role of the designer is clearly identified and where you trust the faith of the objects you draw, not just because your signature is in fashion. "

Rethinking the profession of the interior designer

So what is the path for the hundreds of young graduates who, every year, join the ranks of a profession that already borders on overrepresentation and seems, in the long term, to be condemned to technical unemployment or even to a conversion?

If Patrick Jouin (Jouin-Manku agency) also considers that "manufacturers are not educated enough", he refuses to completely clear the designer who, often, "is obsessed with the furniture, the signature and the media". Deploring that the profession is sorely lacking from a critical point of view ("even blogs are just a stream of novelties, but never places where we take a step back from the overproduction of images and objects "), he wants only one thing:" That the designer wonders more about his responsibility, the need or not to produce new objects, and that he is interested a little more in the design of the stations and the street furniture, because it is up to him to reinvest the field of industrial design - too often left to marketing and advertising services - and to push companies to innovate. " So, as Patrick Jouin suggests, perhaps "the way of doing this job is dying", and that, too systematic and ephemeral at the same time, the sacrosanct signature is doomed to disappear or to be made more discreet.

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