The Craft of Luxury: an Interview with Christopher Guy
Written By: Jaye Younkin
Internationally renowned designer of luxury furnishings, Christopher Guy Harrison, prides himself in keeping the art of craftsmanship alive. He designed the Hollywood Beauty Awards “Holly” statuette given this year to Britney Spears, and is considered a visionary because of his innovative approach and investment in technology to inspire how interior design and architecture will be approached in the future. He spoke with LEFAIR Magazine about his inspiration.
JY: How did growing up along the French Riviera impact your decorative style?
CG: As a working teenager in 1978, I had the opportunity to build a house from the ground up in a village near Cannes, and a year later with my earnings I opened a pop-up store in Juan-Les-Pins, also on the Riviera, selling Carnaby Street style pop-art artifacts. It was this glamorous Riviera lifestyle that I witnessed which set off my fascination with elegance in design, which for me is an effortless form that is beyond beauty. This experience ignited my passion for the work of French designers and artists from the early 20th Century.
JY: At what point did you decide to officially start your own company?
CG: In 1993, following the huge property crash in the UK, I decided to start out again and so headed off to Java on a new and unknown adventure. A friend in England was then importing reproduction period furniture from Indonesia, and I was amazed of the level of quality on offer. It was through a chance meeting in Madrid, Spain with the same friend that the idea came about to get into the furniture business. He was visiting a store, and I was asked if I could come along to translate for him. It was there that I saw some beautiful mirrors from an Italian company that gave me the idea. I went home that afternoon and I said to my then girlfriend that we were going to create the finest collection of mirror frames in the world! I was young and wonderfully naive, as I had never been to Asia, nor did I have any manufacturing experience or designed a piece of furniture in my life… and just $20k to our name!
JY: What kind of visuals inspire you as an artist?
CG: I draw a lot of my inspiration from my travels and the various cultures I have lived amongst. My work is greatly inspired by the curvature of the female form and the elegance and sophistication of mid-century Chanel,, Balenciaga and Dior creations, though in my case I translate ideas into furnishings rather than fashion.
JY: What does luxury mean to you?
CG: Luxury is always relevant in my work and there are different definitions about what it means. Luxury can be seen as an indulgence of things we don’t really need, but want. When one has very little, the basic things in life become a luxury; maybe a box to sit on, clean water, a shelter, a bowl of rice, and from there on its human nature to try to continuously improve on these. Once we have the cake, we strive to cover it in icing. Simply put, Luxury is the icing in our life.
JY: What does today’s luxury consumer look for in interior design?
CG: It has moved from ostentatious classic designs, to an eclectic and easy living look and feel.
JY: Where do you get your materials?
CG: We use sustainable plantation woods, and native stone from Java, Indonesia.
JY: Are your materials obtained with environment safety in mind? How eco-friendly are they?
CG: The timber we use is purchased from sources that conform to SVLK (“Indonesia Legal Wood”) and/or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) protocols and standards. Our SVLK and FSC accreditation involves audits of our timber suppliers regarding the legality/sustainability of the timber sources, as well as periodic audits of our manufacturing processes, specifically the administrative and production systems in place to track the timber as it is processed in the factory.
JY: Are your products made by individual people or mass produced?
CG: Everything we design and make is hand crafted by generations of artisans whose craftsmanship has been passed down from generation to generation. I have just come from my workshops in Java, which I designed and built in 1999, an area that covers 20 acres in lush fertile hills, which are unlike any workshops in the world. Think of a five star luxury resort with incredible objects d’art being made within. Probably my proudest achievement, and home to 2000 of the worlds finest craftspeople.
JY: What makes your collection unique?
CG: So much of what we see today is mass produced, with only a few brands who are truly dedicated to delivering an outstanding product. CG has its own unique style, based on curves, which although adding to the complexity in their creation, offer an unmistakable signature CG look and feel.
JY: How have your designs evolved over the years?
CG: The entire industry has changed, and so has our look. Elegance used to be defined as dressing up for tea at the Ritz. Today its is about subtle lines and colors that can trace much of their recent origins to fabulous resorts that started to appear in Asia three decades ago.
JY: Most of your products stay within neutral tones. Why is that?
CG: Its one of the huge changes that has taken place across the globe. Neutral’s tones are what the sophisticated consumer demands, limiting patterns and splashes of color to a walk on role, such as throw cushions. The neutral colors are all part of the natural environment, and easy to combine with each other.
JY: Why do you think your designs are attractive internationally and not just one particular country?
CG: Our designs tend to be timeless, and people can relate to the overall Christopher Guy look and feel. They are designed crafted to be unaffected by the passage of time, and though trends come and go, the craft of luxury will remain.
JY: What can we look forward to in the future from the Christopher Guy Collection?
CG: Our speciality is wood, however in recent years I have spend more time developing other materials. However the main change for 2018 will arrive this July with the release of our e-commerce enabled website, with a=highly sophisticated tools that enables a project to be put together with ease in ones own home or studio.
JY: How do you want your products to make people feel? What kind of experience are you hoping to give them?
CG; Above all, I wish our customers to feel at home with the CG lifestyle pieces, and for that I forever find myself tweaking current designs and introducing new ones to ensure that they meet todays modern lifestyles.