Interview #13

In Search of Responsible Design

Stéphanie Marin and Smarin

Written by RMM
Photos by Smarin &

It’s easy to think of design in relation to beautiful, stylish things that we buy for our homes and offices. “Design”, in recent years, has become something to covet and as a consequence, has also become something that fuels an increasingly consumerist lifestyle.

play yet! by Smarin

After the success of advertising design in the mid-20th century, many designers found themselves wanting to distance themselves from design that merely pushed products. They became more concerned about the ecological and social impact of design, and realised that their skills could be applied in a much more sustainable way.

Using environmentally conscious methods of production, this new wave of designers making sure that design can be responsible to the environment and to society as well.

les angles by Smarin

Born in Marseilles, France in 1973, Stéphanie Marin found herself drawn to eco-design very early on in her career as a designer. She started recycling textiles before it became a trend, and then moved on to research in spatial design. Through her studio Smarin, Stéphanie explores alternative living spaces, and how people can move and interact with their surroundings. She creates objects for homes and spaces that often adopt simple lines and soft forms. In 2004, “livingstones” was born, out of pure virgin wool and child-like creativity. Her dreamlike, stone-shaped cushions played with the living space through form and volume, while ensuring that each object was still ergonomically designed. Since then, her non-conformist and surreal work has only become even more magical.

néolivingstones by Smarin

We spoke to Stéphanie and found out more about how she balances the intention and form while pursuing responsible design.

RMM: Can you tell us why and how you became a designer?

Stéphanie: I used to sew with my old aunts when I was little. We created lot of toys out of fabrics. Then, when I was 17 I created my own small business to recycle textiles. My very first international “hit” was strange pullover in recycled wool.

les angles by Smarin

RMM: Can you tell us why you decided to move towards eco-design?

Stéphanie: I was born into eco-design! I always have been concerned about this cause. When I was young, I couldn’t justify or market it properly but my conviction (to champion it) became more intense…

néolivingstones by Smarin

RMM: What is ‘responsible design’ to you?

Stéphanie: In my mind, responsible design is questioning existing research of how we can live better together in the world. With this world as our subject, design helps to create or revitalise industries.

les marches by Smarin

RMM: We’ve noticed that your works like to play with the sense of touch. Your livingstones, dune sofas and les angles in particular – encourage users to interact with and touch your works. Why is this physicality important to you?

Stéphanie: Some places have the ability to create a private, intimate atmosphere between strangers – kind of like a beach. This sort of free movement appeals to me.

nap bar by Smarin

RMM: What’s the most challenging material or structure that you’ve worked with?

Stéphanie: One of the most challenging structures I have ever worked with is the JP54 boat. I had no experience about boat before this one, it was a very good discovery. I really appreciated this experience. It is a work about lightness and performance. I love the sea – it is a very inspiring environment.

JP54 Boat Interior by Smarin

RMM: Where do you get your inspiration?

Stéphanie: I take my inspiration from the world I live in – it can be natural patterns or even from mathematical theories too. I’m obsessed with how we can live better together, and that’s where my designs take root from. I like to explore the diversity between society, small companies and local activities as well. I really want to travel more and experience the big world…

dunes by Smarin

RMM: What is your favourite object or piece of furniture (it maybe from Smarin or not!) right now?

Stéphanie: Play Yet! is a project dear to my heart – especially since Smarin’s creations always involve preserving the environment in a sustainable manner. For Play Yet, we developed knowledge and technical know-how by fostering a good relationship with the local cork industry, from forestry to production. Play Yet! is a wonderful construction game for everyone and doesn’t involve any nails or screws. I love it because it’s easy to assemble, light and a strong system – the perfect furniture solution.

play yet! by Smarin

Today, I’m still developing ideas around “Re-Play”, using materials from the Play Yet! series, and am planning to make complementary pieces out of textiles and latex.

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