Guillaume Delvigne: elegance is a matter of balance

13 April 2023

Delvigne_Portrait_BaptisteHeller

The French designer tells how he transforms creative inspiration into a project, without frills but with a soul

Born in 1979 in Saint Nazaire, in western France, Guillaume Delvigne studied at the Nantes Atlantique School of Design and then continued at the Politecnico di Milano and there began his profession alongside George J. Sowden, one of the founders of the Memphis group. With an education in balance between France and Italy, in 2005 he opened his own studio in Paris directing his work both towards research and towards industry. Among his most iconic projects are undoubtedly the Litho collection for Pierre Frey and the Aerostat lamp for Fabbian, alongside his collaborations with companies such as Hermès, Givenchy, Cristal de Sèvres, Ligne Roset, and Karakter Copehagen, just to name a few.

You were born in Saint Nazaire in an area of France that has a strong personality: what is your relationship with your roots and with the atmosphere of the places where you grew up?

Saint Nazaire is a rather industrial city which was rebuilt after the war and retains the atmosphere of that period. The presence of war is still felt because there is a large submarine military base that has never been dismantled. When I was young this topic was a bit taboo and even the architecture of shipyards was considered something negative. But for me it was normal and growing up I realized that having these architectures around had given birth to a sort of poetics of industry and today I can see something beautiful in all these iron structures. And the same goes for the city of Nantes where I studied at the university, which was a bit outside the city center, I still live in Montreuil today a city of workers with an industrial past and I like that.

What is elegance for you?

It’s a bit difficult to define it but for me it’s a matter of balance, of a certain lightness, not having too many details and complicated shapes. A simplicity that is not poor but that tells something, with a soul. At the same time, I always try not to be too dry, it’s often easy to do very minimalistic things but it’s not so easy to get an interesting object.

Ronco stool by Karakter

What made you think of the shapes that characterize the Litho collection for Pierre Frey?

The company called me after seeing a work I had done for a gallery with which I have been collaborating for years and from which I have the freedom to create projects outside the market and marketing, space to create with freedom. And after a few years of collaboration, I started having a language that is organic and geometric at the same time, even if it may seem like a contradiction. It is not a free form that comes to me by hand but is the result of a long study. There is always a generosity of shapes, very round but with a defined line. A sensuality with a soul of symmetry. I had made small tables and stools in marble and bronze, almost sculptures, and Pierre Frey asked me to use this language for a sofa. The textile is very different from the working of marble or bronze, but the company reassured me that they have craftsmen capable of doing it. So, I went ahead without worrying about how it was going to be done. And the company liked it. I am very happy because until then I had considered working with galleries as freer and working with companies as more serious and attentive to production aspects.

litho by pierre frey
Litho Collection by Pierre Frey

Can you tell us how the Aerostat lamp for Fabbian was born?

This project has a different story from most projects, companies usually give me a brief, but in this case the opposite happened a bit. I was attending an event at the Salone del Mobile called Nouvelle Vague which brought together a few French designers. And I had brought the prototype of the Aerostat lamp: Fabbian discovered it, and we went ahead with the project, changing only a few details. I had previously worked with a glass blower on freer projects, and I wanted to move forward on the theme of lightness, of light that does not touch the ground. And then I came up with this very simple cage idea that makes it look very different when it’s on. I also wanted to create a contrast and highlight the fact that the glass is a bit a prisoner in the cage and then tries to get out and find its space. For the shape I tried different solutions because I didn’t want to go the easy way and opt for the sphere. In fact, the glass part has a particular shape, a bit strange, but it is what gives it personality. And in this we see the importance of identifying a particular design to give a soul to the object, it is difficult to say why, there is no functional reason. It’s easy to satisfy the function but then you have a huge space to give your personality.

aerostat by fabbian
Aerostat lamp by Fabbian

It seems that you have found the balance between the free expression of your creativity and what companies need.

It is the most important thing of my job, and I learned it at the beginning of my work with George Sowden in Milan. He worked with Olivetti in a very industrial context but at the same time he was part of the Memphis studio, two very complementary rather than contradictory aspects. At the time, I too began to wish I had one foot in industry and one foot in research.

Honey Frandsten
Honey lamp by Frandsen

Is your approach to design methodical or does it follow the inspiration of the moment?

In this type of profession there is no limit. Even when you’re sitting at a cafe in the weekend, you’re working without knowing it. Wherever you are your eye can notice a detail. Sometimes I wake up in the night with an idea and make a sketch. It happens to me a lot on the subway where I’m not distracted by emails, and I can focus and be effective. My head always finds itself working, without knowing it.

Galon lamp by ENOstudio

How will you be present in Milan?

I will certainly be at Pierre Frey’s to present the Litho collection because it has had an excellent response both among professionals and the public. We are working on a chair from the same collection and perhaps we will be able to introduce it on this occasion. And I will also be at Berluti to introduce their line of furniture with one of my leather armchairs which is their vocational material.

Aerostat lamp by Fabbian

The portraits of Guillaume Delvigne are by Baptiste Heller

Fabbian Aerostat
Fabbian Aerostat
Pierre Frey Litho
Pierre Frey Litho
ENOstudio Galon Lamp
ENOstudio Galon Lamp

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