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PARIS — With everything from knives and sofas to restaurants in his repertoire, French industrial designer Patrick Jouin is fast making a name for himself, despite the fact that he works in the shadow of two giants: his mentor Philippe Starck and one of his biggest clients, celebrity chef Alain Ducasse.
Jouin, who at 35 has the look of a serious student, stopped working with Starck in 1998 and set up his own agency. His designs are as eclectic as those of his mentor, but perhaps not as sleek. They can be rustic, like his Moroccan tagine dishes, and he likes to mix ornate ideas with modern, high tech elements.
“Today in design, we are interested in introducing humanity, sensuality, things we like to touch,” Jouin said. “A designer’s work belongs to a different time frame. If his work is well done, it is meant to last longer than one season. It’s dangerous for designers to be too trendy.”
Over the past 10 years, Jouin has created consumer products such as sleek black speakers for Thomson, plastic folding chairs and molded sofas. But his notoriety has risen quickly since 1999, when he began working with Ducasse.
Having just finished the Spoon Byblos eatery in Saint-Tropez, France, Jouin is now shuttling back and forth to New York, working on the Mix, Ducasse’s second restaurant there, due to open in May. The next stop on his culinary itinerary is Gstaad, Switzerland, where he is working on another restaurant. Ducasse said he will call it Snow Spoon. There, Jouin was asked to create a contemporary ambiance, while maintaining elements of a 17th-century Swiss chalet.
“Patrick is just so right about everything,” Ducasse said. “He knows how to create the link between what existed before and adapt it to today’s world.”
The bar at the Plaza Athénée Hotel in Paris, a magnet for celebrities and fashion folk, is a perfect example of this mix, with its futuristic ice cube bar set against the 19th-century paneling.
“His attention to people’s needs and the harmony with their environment is omnipresent in his work,” Ducasse said.
Like many up-and-coming contemporary designers in France, Jouin is a discreet presence compared to a superstar like Starck.
“Starck has educated all of France on the design idea,” he said, noting the products he designed for French mail-order catalogs La Redoute and 3 Suisses: stools, tables or beds.
Still, the fashion world is quickly learning about Jouin’s talent. The Fashion & Textiles Museum in Paris tapped him to design its next major exhibit, “Trop,” devoted to jewelry and ornamentation in fashion.
Jouin noted that designing furniture means working closely with the body and considering how fabrics and shapes interact with it, not unlike fashion design. So, could a fashion launch be far away?
“One day, the opportunity might arise,” he said. “A line of shoes maybe?”
Editor’s Note: Design is a monthly feature in WWD covering all aspects of design, from architecture to consumer products, store design to visual merchandising.