November 19, 2023

Interview: Athime de Crécy on Starck, Sustainability and New Aesthetic Standards

Author: Radmila Durasinovic
Tags: Design / Interview Category: magazine

Interview: Athime de Crécy on Starck, Sustainability and New Aesthetic Standards

Breaking free from conventional archetypes with designs that redefine the interplay between form and function, French designer Athime de Crécy is reshaping the very essence of industrial design. Based in the vibrant city of Paris, where he operates his design studio, Athime’s creative journey is just beginning, though his vision is far-reaching and clear. With a keen eye for the future, he's on a mission to restructure our perceptions of beauty and utility towards more energy-constrained products and the new aesthetic standards they are generating. In this interview, we discuss with Athime his journey navigating the dynamic field of industrial design so far: his sources of inspiration, his method, and his vision for the future.

Graduating from the prestigious Cantonal Art School of Lausanne in 2017, Athime de Crécy’s talent caught the attention of none other than Philippe Starck. He quickly became assistant designer, working on a multitude of ground-breaking projects for major design companies under the Starck brand. While at first glance, the worlds of two institutions seem distant, Athime uncovers they are surprisingly similar. “On the one hand, Ecal is renowned for its rigorous, serious approach, training more industrial designers than auteur designers, but when you look at the details of the projects that are pushed there, I find the spirit of the school very playful.”

Coffee cup Athime designed as 3rd year student at ÉCAL, awarded 1st prize at Agora Biennale of Bordeaux © Athime de Crécy

"At the same time," he adds, "Philippe Starck plays up his public image as an exuberant poet, when in reality, from what I've seen of it, his day-to-day practice is extremely rigorous and always focused on the most advanced industrial techniques, with the aim of optimizing production and offering products where nothing is sacrificed in terms of practicality."

After five years of working under Starck, Athime de Crécy opened his independent design studio in 2022, to fully focus on the objects he imagines. His work has since been showcased in numerous exhibitions, most recently at this year’s Maison&Objet, where, along with six other young designers, he received the Rising Talent award. Among the biggest takeaways from the event, Athime highlights discussions with people from the field of object designs, but also significant exchanges with users of his products.

“A highlight that may seem anecdotal,” he recalls, “but for me is the most important, because it's the essence of what interests me: the Asian visitors, who were numerous to attend the fair, were unanimous in their praise for the ergonomics of the porcelain chopsticks I was exhibiting, among other tableware designs.”

COPY PASTA ! porcelain chopsticks, 2022 © Athime de Crécy

Having created everything from a coffee cup to a façade system, the young French designer has proven to be extremely versatile, with his designs often characterised by a certain flexibility of use. However, under the surface, there is an underlying principle that ties together seemingly unrelated products. “If I had to sum up the attitude I try to adopt and which links my productions beneath the surface, I'd say there's an objective and a method. The objective is to get the most out of the material, in terms of practicality and efficiency, but also in terms of meaning and plastic quality,” says Athime de Crécy.

“The method,” he continues, “is to try to abstract myself from the preconceptions we naturally have of how an object should be constructed, of the shapes we reproduce by default without thinking about them. Successfully identifying those that are based on nothing more than old habits frees up space to work on. I hope it's this state of mind that shows through in my pieces.”

Amoeba Façade system in Zephyr Mesh®, developed in collaboration with SolidStudio © Athime de Crécy

In design, the French designer’s influences span various eras, but are all characterised by a practical ingenuity, which we see reflected in his own work. Particularly fascinated by figures linked to the Bauhaus like Marcel Breuer, Josef Albers and Gerrit Rietveld, Athime brings attention to the significance of this period in design for designers today. “These generations produced work that was intimately political, and saw the aesthetization of everyday objects as a means of changing society. In my opinion, they proved to be right, as they did a great deal to free the next generations from the shackles of tradition,” he explains. In a more contemporary context, Athime also finds inspiration in the work of designers like Konstantin Grcic and Stephen Diez, who he describes as “beyond ingenious”.

Athime’s design studio offers services in industrial design, as well as art direction and design consultancy. His typical approach to a design project always begins with the dimensions. “This is the first step, the foundation of the object. You can make beautiful sketches, find magnificent shapes and then spend weeks disfiguring them to fit the proportions required by the object,” he notes.  After establishing the foundation, Athime focuses on the more abstract aspects of designing an object. He draws attention to the significance of developing a compelling idea before delving into detailed design work. “I try to find an idea that makes me say: this object deserves to exist,” he explains.

While computer-aided design (CAD) is a valuable tool in the industry, Athime emphasizes the danger of becoming overly reliant on it. He notes, "There are a lot of designs that you can tell at a glance have only been drawn in CAD: the lines are banal, constrained by the tools." Instead, he employs CAD after the design has been thoroughly delineated, using it as a tool to refine an already well-developed concept.

S.C.M. Sofa System, 2023 © Athime de Crécy

Among his most significant projects to date, Athime singles out the electric scooter he presented at M&O, which marked his entry into the realm of vehicle design—an entirely different domain that, he notes, provided him with a significant learning experience. “It started out as a personal research project. I really like riding two-wheelers in town, and I was wondering why this kind of mobility was so marginal among my friends who live in the countryside.”

After a series of discussions about vehicle electrification and sustainable mobility, Athime realised that the need for transportation space was an obstacle to transitioning to lighter modes of transport. “So, I designed this electric scooter as a solution to this problem, trying to get to the heart of the concept by evacuating all the plastic fairing and cosmetic panelling that make up mainstream automotive design.”

Cargo Electric Bike, 2023 © Athime de Crécy

“The result,” he explains, “is a lightweight two-wheeler with a wide basket-like structure that's equally at home in town or country. I built a first prototype and thanks to word-of-mouth I met a French manufacturer with whom discussions are well underway to industrialize the model.”

Discussing current and potential future trends and innovations for the design industry, Athime shares his feeling of the industry being at the beginning of a new cycle. He explains, “I think we're coming to the end of the period that began with China's entry into the WTO and the massive shift towards "Made in China" and, above all, the appetite for disposable, low-cost products. Plastic has gone way down, and all brands are now clearly positioned to produce quality products that are more durable and therefore more sustainable.”

While acknowledging the progress towards sustainability being made in the industry, Athime recognises there is still a long way to go. He notes, “For the moment, I have the impression that the scene is slow to find the new aesthetic that will accompany this paradigm shift. The trends are very backward-looking, entangled in the style of the '80s until very recently, and Art Deco/'20s for a few years now. Fortunately, I have the impression that these trends are receding and that a new generation of designers is enthusiastically embracing this opportunity to create new shapes for a new world.”

November 19, 2023 Author: Radmila Durasinovic
Tags: Design / Interview Category: magazine

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