When Phillipe Starck embarks on a new project, his goal is nothing less than global domination. His most recent effort, Starck for Ipanema, may actually achieve it. “These people produce 280 million pair of shoes per year—not a joke,” said Starck at the Mercer Hotel in New York, where he unveiled the 48-piece collection. Ultra-minimal and architecturally sound, the sandals range from $30-$40 and will hit retailers around the globe in January.
So Phillipe, we heard that you wanted all of these shoes to cost around $10.
Even less. You know why? Even though I am not a believer—absolutely not—I have lived my life with a religious idea to serve my tribe, my friends, my family, everybody. Sadly, I cannot save lives—I don’t know how—but hopefully I propose a better life. That’s why I thought I’d make huge things—cities, rockets, huge boats, glasses, watches, high-tech product—but my obsession has always been to get close to the body. That’s real service. That’s why I was very happy when I made my organic food company twenty years ago. I’m very proud that I won an award in the U.S. last month for making the best organic olive oil in the world. And I’ve always remarked that shoes are a little special.
I remember my grandmother telling me, You can dress how you want, but always have clean shoes. I thought, I have to do something with this. I travel every day, and I saw that the main shoe of the world is a sandal. My estimation like that is that more than two-thirds of the world wear sandals. It’s a very wide stripe around the equator. Billions of people wearing them for technical reasons, but also because they’re affordable. It’s the shoe, which is why the shoe was for me.
What was your approach?
The only thing to do is to make the right shoes and upgrade and uplift the product by elegance. If two-thirds of the world wear flip-flops, two-thirds of the world are ashamed to wear flip-flops. If I can make people proud of themselves, that will be something nice to do, in my philosophy. When Ipanema creates a new sandal, they spend two to three months to develop it. We have spent four years to have it perfect. And I can tell you that the most simple one is perfection, and the ultimate of minimum. Minimum is always elegant; you can’t make mistakes. It’s just when you start to add that you take risks.
What does luxury mean to you today?
Nothing good. You buy something luxurious to show to others that you can buy it. No meaning, no reason of beauty, of style, of anything…and that is not good value. If you want to say to your neighbor, I have a bigger d*ck than you, it’s not very elegant. I prefer to show that I am intelligent, rather than that I have money.