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Design: a Self Discipline

Inga Sempé

Inga Sempé is one of those people who demand a great deal of themselves. Quiet and retiring, she does not like talking about herself, unlike other new-generation designers. She discloses little about her private life. Between the lines you learn that it is not easy to make a living as a designer. “Not in the French style”, she adds. “For the French, design is synonymous with the outlandish – and the expensive.  But design is not a style; it’s a discipline”. Self-effacing in both manner and dress, Inga Sempé wants her projects to take centre stage where she hopes they will find recognition on their own merits, not as the child of a famous name.
She became a designer because she loves objects, their intricate detail and many uses. Hers is not a consumer attitude, however, nor a youthful enthusiasm for weird shapes, but an investigative style, a way of asking questions about life starting with the minutiae of daily living.
After graduating, Inga went to Villa Medici in Rome on a scholarship. There she learned Italian and developed a passion for design, using the large chequered drawing paper to be found in Italy.  Her striking standard lamp, Plissé, now part of the Cappellini collection, was conceived in Rome, on those great squared sheets, almost as a mathematical exercise. The regular succession of pleats imparts an unexpected solidity to something as inconsistent as fabric. Nor are the pleats a throwback to the fashion world, so often the case in modern design, rather the result of scientific study, almost a technological artefact to impart stiffness and form to naturally formless material. The starched pleats are as solid as concrete or like ribbed reinforcement for plastic bodywork.
Ironically, the container “Brosse”, designed for Edra in 2003, has many similarities with the 2003/2004 couture collections where tassels and fringes are definitely in. But Sempé’s project in no way intended to latch on to a current trend. It was born of an exasperation...

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