Objects of Tomorrow

Text by Cassie Ang
Images courtesy of Hermès

Since its inception in 2007, the Prix Émile Hermès has provoked and inspired talented young designers to imagine everyday items that respond to the needs of our society.

The triennial international prize from the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès was created to support emerging and driven creative professionals at a pivotal stage of their careers, as a springboard to unlimited possibilities ahead.

A theme relating to the rapidly changing universe is introduced with each edition. For instance, Heat, Me-heat, Re-heat, was the theme of the 2011 edition and echoed one of humanity’s most vital needs: heat. The third edition of the competition returns in 2014 with the theme, Time To Yourself.

We chat with the winning trio of 2011, the Unqui Designers, Arnaud le Cat, Esther Bacot and Luther Quenum—to find out how their lives have changed after taking home the coveted top prize.

Shelved Cooking by Unqui Desginers

Shelved Cooking by Unqui Designers, the trio’s take on the theme Heat, Me-heat, Re-heat.

Hi guys, how are you? Please tell us more about Unqui Designers.

Unqui Designers is a studio that was started in 2009. We worked on our first project in partnership with the VIA and Lapeyre Industries. It was a kitchen! As designers, we work on a large range of objects. We do not specialise in designing kitchens, even though we like to work in this area—it is almost the only place in the house where we still work with our hands, like craftsmen.

We also work on shoes, lighting or industrial products. Our work is based on the observation of the way people live with their objects and how it impacts their way of life. The idea of storyboarding moments of living with objects is important to us. This analysis is a big part of our work and it allows us to work in various fields. Bringing the design vision and process to various fields, be it healthcare, community (and the social habitats that surround us), or even defence (creating firemen’s tools and gears), is part of our job.

Shelved Cooking by Unqui Desginers

Why did you join the Prix Émile Hermès? What was the competition process like, from prototyping to finding out you won?

We participated in Prix Émile Hermès because of the scale of its requirements. There are lots of design contests, but few have real design briefs and qualified juries. Moreover, the process of the Prix is great. Prototypes ensure both ambitious and realistic projects.

So we tried, and we were really excited about the ambitious subject. It was a real surprise to be a finalist. It was very good news that we could prototype our project! We had to move further in the development stage and build from our blueprints, making it a real designer’s job.

When we found out that we had won, we were totally surprised and very glad. Of course, we had worked very hard, but we are sure the other designers worked very hard too. It was also really pleasant to meet them over drinks after the competition.

Read more in The U Press N˚3 (Singapore edition).