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PARIS — If anyone has the proverbial lightbulb over his head, it’s Thierry Dreyfus. For the last 25 years, the French lighting designer has honed his ideas about light, while illuminating catwalks for designers from Yves Saint Laurent to Helmut Lang.

So one might suppose that designing a lamp would be a snap.

This story first appeared in the December 31, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Au contraire. Dreyfus found adapting his notion of perfect light — an 18th-century candle-lit crystal chandelier — a difficult task. After all, a contraption of wax and crystal would have been too anachronistic. And Dreyfus, 42, had no intention of rehashing the past.

“I didn’t want to do a flash disco lamp,” says Dreyfus. “I wanted it to be very modern and discreet.”

Ultimately, he discovered his solution in a substance most people associate with cooking: salt. “Salt is perfect for what I wanted to do,” he says. “It reflects the light, giving it movement. And the salt I used makes the light seductive.”

Dreyfus’ two floor-lamp models — both oblong minimalist metal rectangles — have hundreds of salt crystals placed between two panes of glass. To give them a high tech twist, Dreyfus outfitted them with two sophisticated dimmers and carved a small crack in the back where a swath of red light seeps out.

The larger is a five-foot model that sells for about $7,000, while a two-foot version will cost about $4,000. There are 14 of each, and they will be unveiled exclusively at Colette in mid-January.

But even finding the right salt proved a process of trial and error, Dreyfus admits.

“In the beginning, I wanted to use salt from the Dead Sea,” he says. “But it was too gray. And when I tried French salt, it wasn’t quite crystalline enough. I finally found the right salt. But I’m not telling where it’s from. It’s my secret.”

In any case, the salt diffuses the light with a subtle tint of lavender and amber.

So is this the beginning of a new career? Dreyfus might have no intention of producing his exclusive freshman effort industrially, but he has designed a small chrome lamp for London’s Sketch, restaurateur Mourad Mazouz’s latest venture.

“Why not do more lamps?” muses Dreyfus. “These lamps aren’t for everybody. They were extremely expensive to produce. And I don’t have an industrial partner yet. But, in the end, it’s just another way for me to express my ideas about the possibilities of light.”

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