I am a freaky perfectionist
Apr 21, 2015
“I don’t impose myself on anyone” – Jaime Hayon at Magis where he presented "Milà". Photo © Robert Volhard, Stylepark

This year it was definitely a “Jaime Hayon Salone”: No other designer was as omnipresent as the 40-year-old Spaniard. He presented his “Urban Perspectives” for MINI along with an electric power scooter, at Cassina his “Réaction Poétique” brought to mind no lesser a figure than Le Corbusier, for Ceccotti he presented an armchair and a luminaire, for BD Barcelona a monkey table, for Orolog wristwatches, at Fritz Hansen “Fri” as the smaller sibling of “Ro”, for Bosa highly colorful vases, in the Garden of Wonders he staged the long-vanished perfume brand Broissard, and for Magis for the first time in his life he created a chair made of plastic. Uta Abendroth met the all-rounder at the Magis booth and talked with him about how he interacts with manufacturers, what perfection means, and how Gaudí can be a source of inspiration.

Uta Abendroth: Jaime Hayon, hardly a designer is as aesthetically versatile as are you. Would you say there a red thread running through your output?

Jaime Hayon: It’s like this: I work with different people and different companies, I collaborate. So developing a project is always a team effort, you literally do it together. I don’t impose myself on anyone. I have noticed that companies quite enjoy working with me as I don’t force anything on them but instead we enter in a dialog to find out where the other is coming from, as a manufacturer and as a designer. And together we want to achieve something fantastic – that is my primary objective here.

And yet the result is so fundamentally different each time?

Hayon: Of course! Simply because there is a different objective each time. Take Lladro, for example, which is all about porcelain figurines, Baccarat does crystal, Fritz Hansen produces Danish design and upholstered furniture, Cassina is all about Italy and high-quality leather. Each company clearly has its own DNA and this important fact goes into perfecting the object.

Perfection – is that your main incentive?

Hayon: I am a “freaky perfectionist” when it comes to objects – and I have to arrive at this point of perfection. I don’t want to work with someone who says to me “get back to me with a finished object, a solution”. I want to work with ideas. Or, to give an example, with the best upholsterers. As they will tell me how to best go about things. When I did “Vico” for Cassina I really pushed them to extremes, because instead of gluing the fabric to the frame, as is customary, it was stretched around the frame. We get great fun out challenging each other.

Did you have fun developing “Milà”?

Hayon: Most certainly! “Milà” presented a real brain teaser for me. Usually I work with materials such as wood, metal and ceramics, which can look back on a tradition of a thousand years. By contrast, the chair for Magis is made of plastic and I am very happy with it.

Because plastic is such a great material?

Hayon: No, as a matter of fact I don’t like plastic. “Milà” is the first plastic chair I have done. And I’m not sure if I will make another one.

But you couldn’t resist the temptation?

Hayon: Sort of. When Magis asked me if I had ever made a plastic chair I had to admit I hadn’t. So by way of reassurance I asked them a second time: “Are you sure you want to do this with me?” And Eugenio Perazza said: “Yes, I want to do the project with you precisely because you’ve never done such a thing before!”

Are you happy with the result?

Hayon: Yes, very! Of course you can see it’s a plastic chair. Mind you, I wanted to push the idea of plastic to its limits by developing a complex shape that makes it sexy and above all not cheap. That was my focus. Looking at “Milà” from a distance you might be mistaken thinking that what you have in front of you is an upholstered timber chair made of mahogany. However, the chair’s design is only possible if you use plastic because of the way in which the materials combine. And what this gave me is great visual variety, and that’s important. For an item of faux-plastic furniture it has tremendous elegance and class.

Looks like you crammed a whole lot into a single chair…

Hayon: The product was a real challenge. I’m not sure whether I will ever design another plastic chair. But at least I now know what it’s like to make one – it’s not easy! And for all sorts of reasons: You need extremely expensive casting molds and to be extremely knowledgeable in what you are doing. We ended up using technologies I had never heard of before and was not familiar with.

Can you elaborate on this?

Hayon: Magis has this fantastic technology that injects air into plastic, allowing you to play with the thickness of a material, to make specific sections thinner or thicker. It was a real revelation to me. On top of which the machines for the casting molds involve genuine engineering prowess – I could write a whole book about a chair like “Milà” and its conception…

So you are saying you have benefited from the collaboration?

Hayon: Most definitely! This collaboration is a great example for the way I work. My ideas, on the one hand, and the manufacturing skills of the company, on the other, marry and the result is a perfect synergy. I only work with manufacturers who motivate and inspire me. And Magis does it really well.

Do you experience such synergies with other manufacturers, too?

Hayon: Yes, with Cassina for example. Working with them on those timber objects for “Réaction Poétique” was an amazing experience. They immediately took a shine to my designs for the tables and trays; among other things as they kindled memories of the olden days with Franco Albini, and they were full of enthusiasm throughout the entire project.

Is the past a source of inspiration for you? Figures like le Corbusier?

Hayon: On occasion I do glance back, but really I take inspiration from pretty much everything that surrounds me. Black can be a theme or a road I happen to look at. The question is what you then choose to take up and turn into a product? With the chair for Magis the idea was, “make it look like some super-expensive timber chair”. That’s a concept, an idea, a theme. The next step was to play around with this idea, with the angles, as if it were a Gaudí chair. In fact, I’m convinced that if Gaudí were alive today he would be making plastic chairs, because he was an innovator, an inventor.

So it’s the material that is at the heart of your design – and not the shape?

Hayon: The main thing is to use the technologies available to us today, to let yourself be inspired by them and engage with them. Materiality is a component that can enrich a product; however, this can never be its sole raison d’ȇtre. A new material or a new technology do not in themselves justify the creation of a new product. Some people think it’s okay but then that’s only because they live in such a materialist world. To me that’s not enough. You need to tell a story and it’s not until you combine the narrative with the material that this story unravels and comes to life.

  • With „Milà“ Hayon created his very first plastic chair. Photo © Magis
  • „Magis has this fantastic technology that injects air into plastic”, says Hayon.
    Photo © Magis
  • In the „orto botanico di Brera“ Jaime Hayon set in scene the perfume brand Broissard from the past. Photo © Martina Metzner, Stylepark
  • With „Réaction Poétique“ for Cassina Jaime Hayon created an homage to Le Corbusier. Photo © Cassina
  • “Fri“ for Fritz Hansen is the little brother of the big armchair „Ro“.
    Photo © Fritz Hansen
  • “Bèrgere” armchair for Ceccotti
  • - made out of wood, not of plastic. Photo © Ceccotti
  • And „Saint Louis”, as like as for Ceccotti. Photo © Ceccotti
  • Hayon’s interpretation of the electric scooter for MINI. Photo © MINI
  • The monkey is a must: new vases by Hayon for Bosa. Photo © Bosa