To celebrate the launch of our Ten Green Bottles collaboration, we went over to Diageo HQ for some lovely elderflower and strawberry G&Ts.
Here’s the Conran work in pride of place in Diageo’s reception:
Whilst we were there, Terence answered a few questions about his history, and the world of design in general.
1. How would you summarise the changes in the way we eat and drink between the 60s and now?
Quite simply, we’ve gone from ghastliness at the end of the war to deliciousness now – if you take the trouble to seek it out.
A spam sandwich used the be the best you could get. No, in fact, a spam fritter – the manufacture of which seems to take some of the taste out of spam. And the best you could drink was Merrydown cider. I don’t know if you’ve had it, but let me tell you: it leaves you with an atrocious hangover.
2. What do you make of the current opportunities for young designers?
It’s now generally understood how important design is to everything, as the Olympics has admirably demonstrated. Because of that, I think the opportunities are actually very exciting. Don’t be despondent – my first job was as a plongeur in a Parisian restaurant.
(Incidentally: for me, the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies were tear-jerkingly wonderful examples of British creativity.)
3. You’ve worked on this incredibly exciting collaboration with Gordon’s…what do see as the key opportunities for the drinks market?
One thing the drinks industry does very well is research – they compile great rafts of data on their products. This is a blessing and a curse. Research is very important when not taken too literally, but focus groups too often wrest control of design from the designer. The opportunity, then, will come from balancing this wealth of knowledge with innovative work – like this collaboration!
4. What has been your career highlight?
My highlight is undoubtedly saving a little building in Chelsea called Michelin House.
When we opened the Conran Shop on Fulham road, I saw Michelin House across the street and I thought, simply, ‘that is the most exciting building in the world’.
I wrote letter to the Michelin brothers, and received no response for many years. Eventually, I heard word that it was for sale, so I demanded to go and see them. I explained to them the great amount of restoration work necessary – the need to strengthen the building, to replace the beautiful stained glass. I prepared sketches indicating what we would do – and told them that we would match any price offered.
In the end, we succeeded, and Michelin House remains the crowning achievement of my career. There was plenty of cigar smoking at that particular time!
We will shortly be celebrating the 25th anniversary of reopening Michelin House – so we thought we better have an awful lot of gin.