Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance

Duchaufour-Lawrance is trying to strike the perfect balance between international success as a designer and his continuing personal development as a creative individual.

The son of a sculptor, art and design are in the genes of French designer Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance. In fact he started his career by following his father’s footsteps, studying sculpture in metal at the respected Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Appliqués et des Métiers d’Art in Paris. Nurtured by a creative childhood, Duchaufour-Lawrance continues to explore creativity from both a commercial and cultural perspective and has seen his name come to prominence over the last decade in France as well as internationally.He now creates products and projects for a range of well-known international brands. His CV includes furniture and lighting for, among others, French brands Cinna and Ligne Roset (part of the same group), Italian brands Zanotta and Ceccotti, and most recently American contemporary furniture manufacturer Bernhardt. And he has also completed interior design projects for companies such as Air France and Yves Saint Laurent.

Duchaufour-Lawrance’s first international success, launched in 2002 when he was only 27, was the design for the London restaurant Sketch which was widely covered in the press and won a series of awards. The following year he launched his own design agency, a ‘laboratory of ideas or pure research’ which he named Néonata (meaning new birth). The studio aims to ‘constantly test the limits of formal language. Each project is an opportunity to [re]define the aesthetics which are appropriate to it’.

Duchaufour-Lawrance’s career manages to combine both conceptual and commercially successful work. He has created limited edition furniture – only 20 of his Manta desks were made for Ceccotti, at €57,000 each – but also products that have become an instant commercial success. The Ottoman collection, launched at the beginning of 2010 for Ligne Roset, is already one of the company’s best-sellers and one of Duchaufour-Lawrance’s most successful pieces.

He is clear about the many approaches to design encompassed by his work: “Design is not only making my own vision but also creating a response to a specific request. My design’s for Paco Rabanne’s One Million perfume does not represent my style for sure but is my response to working with that brand identity. As his work has evolved, Duchaufour-Lawrance has watched two separate design identities emerge: “There are two different identities in my work that have become apparent and now I am going to try and separate the two identities by creating two websites initially – one in my own name and the other for Néonata. This should help me assume more my own identity and understand better what I want to do. It’s important to try and take the time to do these things properly.”

The briefs from such different clients can present a challenge for every designer and Duchaufour-Lawrance respects their different approaches: “Working with the Italians is fantastic but it can be hard to follow. Working with a manufacturer like Bernhardt is refreshing as the lines of communication are clear and someone like creative director Gerry Helling has a lot of power and is free to do very strong things. Working with Bernhardt has been one of my best experiences. We worked very closely together and I was very respectful of what he [Helling] was doing. The point is that you are making something for your reputation as you are not going to make a huge amount of royalties.”

Looking ahead to next year, Duchaufour-Lawrance is looking forward to a lighter workload: “We have fewer projects in 2011 which is a good thing. I need time to know where I want to go and what I want to do.” He says that the furniture shows that create the momentum in the interior design world should be every two years to allow for more, or better, creativity. And he respects companies like Fritz Hansen who deliberately choose to focus on a smaller number of projects.

Having more time will allow him to continue to pursue a more creatively fulfilling agenda, in particular a project which he admits may take the whole of the next decade to reach fruition. “This is a project which will allow me to explore the relation between nature and the objects I am creating,” Duchaufour-Lawrance explains. “Sculpture was too abstract for me. For me objects are related to their environment. I want to understand the relationships between techniques and materials and what I want to express through those. I sense we have lost the emotion and perception of nature in the built environment and I want to try and get back to nature to try and recreate this emotion. At the moment I am working on developing a patio space for inside a building that will reintroduce the idea of the relationship we have with nature.”

Duchaufour-Lawrance speaks with passion about this as yet unnamed project: “It’s not good to have too much freedom. I want to create my own constraints,” he insists. “All of my projects relate to this in some way. I know it will take a long time to develop it but now I can really focus on this. As soon as I have found this ‘recipe’, it will become the core of my work.”

It is fascinating and revealing to hear a successful designer talk openly about so personal an idea, even as it is evolving. But if it is as successful as his other creations, we are sure to be surprised, delighted and inspired by the outcome.

This article was first published in idfx Magazine.

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