The Story Teller
Phillipe Di Méo is one of those designers who captivate through their unique imprint on everything they touch, but also through the offbeat vision they infuse into every project. Over 20 years, he has breathed new life into such prestigious names as Baccarat, Christofle, Guerlain or Dom Pérignon and Moët & Chardon.
By Stéphane Le Duc
Marseille native Philippe Di Méo studied architecture at the Beaux Arts in Aix-en- Provence before moving to Paris to specialize in design. “Very early on, I distanced myself from architecture because I realized that the scale was not the same and was not right for me. I need to make a product that fits into the hand, to get up close with the object. Design opened a playing field with no boundaries, through the opportunity for collaborative efforts. As I delved into parallel creative fields, my interest was piqued and I discovered doors I wanted to open.”
Degree in hand at the age of 23, he opened his own agency, Reso Design, first out of need but also to give himself the freedom to explore. He was quickly drawn to the world of luxury because the major French establishments rely on outstanding craftspeople and foster exchanges and reflection. “I feel a great attachment to fairly classical things, I need to forge links with establishments that have a history, expertise and heritage roots. But what drives me is to take them out of step, because they have the strong reputation for beautiful products and designs and the knowledge to produce them. What I seek to contribute is a challenge of the status quo, to lead them in a different direction that still has meaning for them. It’s more about syncopation than provocation, because designers want their creations to be functional, but intellectually valid as well.” Thus, for more than 15 years, Philippe Di Méo has helped rebuild the image of Moët&Chandon. “We had to strip champagne of its sacred aura to make it more festive. The object was a pretext to send out a different message, another way to enjoy champagne, and to change certain habits. I imagined the Moët Flower, a glass without a stem, that rested on a flower. The bucolic concept was to reinvent the chic picnic, the preferred domain of champagne brands. This idea had to be ephemeral, but ultimately was infused into the brand’s DNA.”
The same challenge was posed by the famous Baccarat firm in 2003 when it initiated a sharp change in course as Philippe Starck launched the new head office. “The brand was saddled with several fairly musty associations and needed a fresh new image. I had a fairly iconic animal called the Buddhabear that was very dear to me, which I produced in limited series with specific materials, starting with bronze and moving on to copper, resin and porcelain. Baccarat suggested that I produce a crystal version. I was thrilled because this was like a dream, with the symbolism of crystal, and it marked the start of a lengthy collaboration.” Not content with his outstanding collaborations, Philippe Di Méo was led by the desire for exploration and discovery to open L’Aliment, a new generation eco-restaurant, where he combined the culinary arts, gastronomy and design in a staging that blurs the line between gourmet pleasures and those of the flesh. His new—but certainly not last—passion is the creation of Liquides Imaginaires, a reflection on the role of scents in our contemporary culture that draws us into a reconnection with precious, sacred perfumes. “Perfume is an area I had explored but I had never dealt with the olfactory aspect. I started with the name Eau Bénite (holy water) that I had registered, and I went back to the original materials, fusing the Orient with the West. With this idea of the very mineral font infused with the scents of the church, yet a determination to step away from the musty echoes to avoid nostalgia, I achieved counterbalance with much more verdant, aromatic notes such as cypress and rosemary, that make this incense very contemporary and very green. I then imagined an antidote, a finish to produce a trilogy, and today I am on the third trilogy. This world is a genuine discovery for me and a true passion that extends beyond perfume.”