Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Habitually Chic Designer: Hervé Van der Straeten


I don't even know where to begin to describe Hervé Van der Straeten. He's a furniture designer, a galerie owner, a jewelry maker, a lipstick case and perfume bottle creator, and the life partner to another habitually chic Frenchman, Bruno Frisoni, the designer behind Roger Vivier. I'm sure I've left something out but you get the idea.


I thought Hervé Van der Straeten started out originally as a furniture designer. He's friends with my boss and we buy from him often so when I walked past a display case of his jewelry at Bergdorf Goodman recently I thought he had just gotten into jewelry design but it turns out that's where he got his start. He used to create jewelry for YSL and Christian Lacroix after he dropped out of studing engineering at the the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. I was afraid to check the prices but it turns out they're pretty reasonable since they are either silver or 24k gold vermeil and not actually solid gold. The most expensive piece is a necklace for $1200 but there are a lot of earrings and and bracelets in the $150 to $250 range. Perfect for the holidays!

He and Bruno Frisoni, see below, also have a fabulous sunny apartment near the Bastille in Paris that is part of a complex that used to be a furniture factory. How apropos! I have no idea how to post a video, believe me, I tried but Interieurs online has a wonderful tour of it. You can see that they have moved things around from the photo above including the couch. But then again, don't all true design obsessed people do that? The photo of Bruno Frisoni below was taken in the same room for the House and Garden Tastemakers issue this year.

Bruno Frisoni not only designs his own fantastic eponymous line of shoes but he also designs for Roger Vivier and of course, he asked Van der Straeten to create the furniture for the Roger Vivier boutiques, which are modeled after Vivier's own home, and were designed by Vudafieri Partners. The furniture includes his signature stool - "a podlike seat that can be left gleamingly metallic or encased in lacquers that give it the look of a giant candy," and also an amazing zig zag console done in wood with pitted metal accents in the front window of the shop that is my favorite!

The best part of Hervé Van der Straeten is that he respects the craft and the craftsmen who make his designs. "He oversees a team of precision craftsmen who toil only on his creations. Centralization is an uncommon luxury these days; many designers often lug furniture around to a series of independent artisans."

"You have to have everything together like that, all the craftsmen under one roof, otherwise you will go crazy," Mr. Van der Straeten said at his loft-like showroom in the Marais, where bizarre gilt-bronze chandeliers hang from the ceiling like immense pendants. "You can't control the quality unless you have your own workshop." Nor, it seems, can you be nearly as creative as you would like to be. "

And if that's not enough to impress you, he was commissioned by Guerlain a few years back to design the sculpted gold case for their Kiss Kiss line of lipsticks, as well as the jewel-like compact for foundation. Olivier Echaudemaison, the artistic director of the company's cosmetics division, said he wanted "Hervé to make a lipstick case that is so beautiful that when a woman pulls it out of her bag, her friends will become jealous. You can't ask the average product designer to do that." And I'd say he succeeded. I love the juxtaposition of the modern design with the vintage script for the name.

Today, Hervé van der Straeten is one of the leaders of the design world and his showroom on the Rue Ferdinand Duval, exhibits a collection of 25-30 objects each year, most produced as limited editions. I'm left wondering what he will think up next but until we find out, I'm putting some of his earrings on my wish list. It's probably one of his only designs I can afford! Well, that and the lipsticks. I may have run over to Bergdorf's and get some of those too!

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