To celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Conran Shop in Japan, we are delighted to introduce a limited-edition case designed by the one and only Sir Terence Conran. Here, the design doyen talks to us about his love of travel, taking packing tips from da Vinci and how Globe-Trotter suitcases embody the spirit of adventure
Can you tell us the story behind the new case you have designed with Globe-Trotter?
The Conran Shop has worked with Globe-Trotter so much over the years. There is a real kinship and mutual appreciation – I think our brands recognise and respect each other. However, I hadn’t designed anything personally for Globe-Trotter, so when the opportunity came along to create a bespoke piece to celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Conran Shop in Japan, I was ecstatic.
I wanted to create something simple, elegant and timeless and thinking of the anniversary, it was important that we made something that will be enjoyed by customers for another 25 years. A piece to remember me by. So I went for dark, complementary colours on the outside with a simple interior of Conran blue.
I still felt it needed to include an even more personal touch, so I spent some time in my garden at my home in the English countryside. I had a very nice glass (or two) of white wine, a couple of cigars and a sketch pad. It was a sunny day and I closed my eyes and thought about my travels over the past 25 years, what has made me happiest; the places and memories that made me smile the most, and I began to sketch. The result was a grid system, with each square filled with a memory of my travels. I’ll admit it is no Hockney, but it is a very personal, visual diary of my past 25 years in travel. I hope people enjoy its simplistic charm and have as many happy adventures as I have enjoyed over the years.
Is sketching something you do regularly?
I’m constantly sketching and drawing. Give me a 2B pencil and an A4 layout pad and you could lose me for days. Obviously any designer must embrace technology, but I think a combination of the old and the new creates the best results, which is one of the reasons I have loved working with Globe-Trotter so much – we are both grounded in traditional beliefs but with a contemporary outlook and a willingness to embrace modernity. I don’t think technology is a substitute for the efficiency with which brain and hand can connect and demonstrate creative ideas through a pencil and piece of paper. I think designers need to introduce a little more poetry (and a 2B pencil) into their work.
What do you like about Globe-Trotter as a brand?
Globe-Trotter products and their ideas evoke memories of the golden age of travel and I admire the craftsmanship and attention to detail that goes into their work. Globe-Trotter has been my luggage of choice for as long as I can remember and I couldn’t pay them a higher compliment than to say the first suitcase I purchased, probably in the late 60s or early 70s, still serves me well to this day. In fact, it has aged beautifully and developed a glorious patina that is literally embedded, infused and scuffed with the spirit and adventure of my travels around the world.
In a nutshell, what is your design ethos?
Plain, simple, useful – and beautiful. If I could be so grand as to quote da Vinci, ‘human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking and nothing is superfluous’ resonates deeply with me.
Where are some of your favourite museums or galleries around the world?
I love Sir John Soane’s Museum in London, which I think offers a very personal experience that not many can achieve. I also think the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester is well worth a visit. I have to be biased and mention my own baby, The Design Museum, which is really hitting its stride in Kensington and putting on absolutely terrific exhibitions that are raising the importance of British design to a wider and increasingly enthusiastic audience. Government take note.
Overseas I adore the Eames House in California – I would give anything to visit one more time. New York is blessed with the Museum of Modern Art, and although it is not the perfect gallery for displaying art, a visit to the Guggenheim makes you happy to be alive.
What are some of your favourite countries and cities around the world?
Paris is the one city that has utterly seduced me and I never tire of arriving there on a Friday evening on the Eurostar after a long, hard week. All your troubles just melt away.
Tokyo is another favourite – it is a city of perfect contrasts with a fascinating balance of the traditional and the ultra contemporary. A place where the potential of technology and development is fully realised yet traditional culture still plays such an important role in everyday life. The energy, buzz and sheer scale of Tokyo is breathtaking and unless you have visited you could not grasp the sheer density of the place and the magnitude of its many complex layers. Half an hour on the bullet train and you can enjoy the peace and tranquillity of somewhere like Nasu. New York is another of my favourite cities – big, brash, ridiculously confident and full of life.
In terms of countries, I adore the Scandinavian nations where intelligent design seems to be a part of everyday life. Copenhagen, in particular, is a wonderful city. Although there have been many social problems there and extreme poverty, my last visit to Cuba was one of the greatest holidays of my entire life. I have to mention India too, where I have been visiting on and off for nearly 60 years. It really is a joyous, riotous assault on all your senses and nothing can prepare you for it.
What’s the best hotel you’ve ever stayed in?
It would be a toss up between a charming rural French hotel and a modern Tokyo hotspot. In the heart of Provence is a hotel called L’Oustau de Baumanière. At a time when too many hotels in France are becoming overly contemporary with attractive but soulless interiors, L’Oustau de Baumanière takes you back in time to the essence of the French countryside with its antique floor tiles and lovely gardens with cherubs and fountains.
I also love the Park Hyatt in Tokyo. It is elegant and mixes Japanese tradition with contemporary interiors to create a calm space amid the chaos of Tokyo. The service is impeccable, the linen in the bedrooms is exquisite. Comfort rules supreme and the rooms are kitted out to the highest modern standards without feeling gimmicky.
What’s the most memorable meal you’ve had abroad?
I would go back to one of my first-ever trips abroad to France when I was young and very impecunious. I’d had the cheek to ask Elizabeth David to recommend a restaurant for a road trip I was taking across the country. She said Madame Barattero in Lamastre in the hills above Vienne was marvellous. When we arrived, there was Madame on the doorstep with a friend topping and tailing the largest mountain of haricot fine I had ever seen. The speciality was Poulet en Vessie – chicken in a pig’s bladder with black truffle stuffed under the skin of its breast. It came to our table looking like a misshapen football. Madame pierced the bladder herself with a sharp knife and a gust of the most delicious truffle-flavoured chicken perfume filled the room. It was memorably delicious. I have travelled the world extensively and eaten unimaginably good food, but that was the best thing I have ever eaten. The other half was just as good cold the next day served with a hillside of haricot fine.
What is your packing style?
We tend to pack very last-minute, but in a very clinical, minimalist style. Nothing superfluous goes in the suitcase but nothing is lacking either – just like Signor da Vinci. I always travel as light as possible. I don’t like clutter around me when I am at home or in the office and take that philosophy with me when I travel.
What do you never leave the house without when travelling?
Cigars – I smoke four of them a day and find them even more pleasurable on holiday. I always take a camera too and several white paper pads and lots of pencils, so I can sketch ideas or images down to jog the memory. I always take a good local guide book as well, but never rely on it too much.
Finally, if you could own any building in the world, what would it be and why?
Without wanting to sound big headed, I already own my favourite building in the whole wide world – Michelin House in London. The first Habitat was located just over the road and I spent way too many years gazing across the street watching it fall into disrepair while wishing it could be mine and dreaming of all the ways I could transform it. When it came up for sale and I was fortunate enough to be able to buy it, that was one of the happiest days of my life.
If pressed to pick a building I don’t own, I’d say Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye in France. I enjoy easy living – a domestic interior which is totally unpretentious where you can throw off your jacket, undo your tie and slump into a comfortable sofa with a large drink and some relaxing music. Villa Savoye seems to embody this. It is an almost dreamlike home where the purity and simplicity of the interior allows you to live easily and without pretension. It is predominantly open plan with large, horizontal windows that run from one end of the façade to the other and fill the room with natural light and air, which is something I value dearly and always improves my mood immediately.
The limited-edition ‘Travel the World’ 20″ Trolley Case (Navy) by Sir Terence Conran is exclusive to Japan and retails at ¥259,000 (excl. VAT)