From perfumes to kitchen appliances, French designer and architect Ora-Ïto practices his philosophy of “simplexity”.
FRENCH DESIGNER ORA-ÏTO'S START CAME WITH DESIGNING FAKE PRODUCTS USING 3D COMPUTER MODELS OF THINGS LIKE THIS "LV" BACKPACK
Thirty-five-year-old French designer and architect Ora-Ïto appears with a neck pillow, and lies on a bed in Häfele Singapore's showroom: "I'm very sorry that I'll be talking to you like this. This is the first time I'm doing an interview on a bed." The man born with the exotic name Ito Morabito suffered from a slipped disc here but soldiered on to do his part in the launch of his collection for kitchen-appliance brand Gorenje.
HIS KITCHEN COLLABORATION WITH GORENJE
Even while struggling with pain and jetlag (the bed didn't help much), Ora-Ïto talked enthusiastically about his collaboration with one of the largest appliance brands in Europe. "Gorenje contacted me about six to seven years ago to create a full range of kitchen appliances and I was happy to do that," he reveals. "This kind of product is not usually made by designers [like me], more by in-house designers."
Although only just unveiled in Singapore, the Ora-Ïto collections were launched in Europe in 2007 to much fanfare. It was part of a Futuristic Kitchen exhibition, which went on a European tour and was displayed in popular outdoor locations like the Sisli Market in Istanbul. It created a sensation, thanks in part to his reputation: Kicked out of Creapole School of Design and Creation in Paris, he went on to intern for Roger Vivier. He made his name at 21 when he created fake products using 3D computer models of real brands like Louis Vuitton and Nike and designing fake ads for them. These products were featured in French magazines Crash and Jalouse; meanwhile Louis Vuitton customers tried to buy his Monogram backpack from LV stores. Naturally, a factory in China started churning out counterfeits.
"I was very young and didn't have a good portfolio or experience - so I created my own experience. Instead of waiting for people to know me, I didn't give them the choice. Today the bag is 'part' of Louis Vuitton even though it's a fake one. It became so famous, in a way it's part of Louis Vuitton's history," he chuckles.
FRENCH DESIGNER ORA-ÏTO
HIS GROUNDBREAKING ALUMINIUM HEINEKEN BOTTLE; DESIGNER ORA-ÏTO.
It wasn't long before Ora-Ïto designed Heineken's aluminium bottles (2002); created the lam-pOne -Line lamp for Artemide; and redesigned Toyota Paris' Champs-Élysées flagship store.
If there's one theme underpinning these diverse projects, it's his philosophy of "simplexity" - a concept he said he coined because he couldn't find the right word for his designs.
WHAT IS "SIMPLEXITY"?
It's my philosophy - simple and complex together. I was trying to find a word to describe my work and this came up. My design looks very simple but it's quite technical. Sometimes it's a lot of work to make something look so simple. Everything has to be perfect; not to use more material than we need. Simplexity is like a dancer whose moves look so simple, but behind them are a lot of work.
DO YOU APPROACH YOUR DIVERSE RANGE OF PROJECTS THE SAME WAY?
Sometimes. If I work with brands, I try to go into the history of the brands. I never call a brand - they call me. And when I accept a job, it's because I [want] to enter the story of the brand and be part of it. It sounds very egocentric but I feel like I'm part of its history in that moment. But for Gorenje, it's like a white piece of paper where I can project exactly what I think. Otherwise, most of the time, I like to understand the [brand's] story and push it into modernity.
YOU'RE ALSO IN THE MIDST OF DESIGNING YOUR OWN CHAIN OF HOTELS - CALLED HOTEL O.
Yes, the first one will be completed in a month in Rue Hérold, Paris. I'm starting in Paris, and then a few more cities down the road. I can't say which others yet. My spirit is in the hotel. It's hard to describe - it's an attitude. Also, the hotel is very well-located. It's important that you can go everywhere on foot. The rooms are small - not my fault. [Laughs] It's the budget.
YOUR FATHER, PASCALE MORABITO, IS ALSO A DESIGNER. HOW MUCH OF A ROLE DID HE PLAY, INFLUENCING AND INSPIRING YOUR WORK?
My family, they are all architects, artists and designers. They gave me so much - they taught my eyes to see things. But after that, it was my own vision. My inspiration comes from nature most of the time. Nature tells you everything. People don't look enough at the beauty of the world. If you look at it long enough, you'll realise everything in nature is so logical and clever, and well-engineered and well-made. I think I stole everything from God.
SO YOU BELIEVE GOD'S THE ULTIMATE DESIGNER?
Yeah, I believe in God for sure. I don't know which God as I don't believe in religion. But I believe in a very strong, powerful energy.
"NATURE tells you everything. People don't look enough at the beauty of THE WORLD."
- ORA-ÏTO, FRENCH DESIGNER & ARCHITECT