Monday, September 20, 2010

Interviewing Sir Terence Conran

Thursday 16th September 2010 will go down in my history as one of my big moments.

I got to interview Sir Terence Conran on a sofa in The Conran Shop.

It even appeared on Twitter.

This is the man who brought good design to the masses, he changed the High Street for each and every one of us. Do you know he even exhibited at The Festival of Britain in 1951, the year I was born?

He opened the innovative Soup Kitchens and The Orrery in the 1950s

He opened Habitat in 1964

So with a history such as this I began to question him. First off I told him I was going to ask who his favourite designer was but had decided against it as in every interview I had read recently he had been asked that question. He laughed and said 'well who is it'? Eames I answered and was given the nod.

Then I asked what he thought of the Social Media and at the ripe old age of 79 he was so switched on and said he didn't use it personally, as he likes to hold something in his hand to read it but understood completely why it had to be recognised. He was thrilled that next to the oven in his Albion Cafe in Shoreditch is a reminder to Twitter the fact that the croissants have just gone into the oven and by the time they come out there is a queue to buy each and every one.

I then asked if he preferred to live in his house in France or the UK. He told me he has sold his Southern French home as the Mistral got too much to bear. He would sit in the garden, his favourite place to work and have to put bottles on top of his papers to stop them blowing away. We discussed the fact that a man can murder his wife by hitting her over the head with something (I forget what it is called) if the Mistral has been blowing for over nine days. I asked if a woman can murder her husband for the same reason and he said, with a smile that he didn't see why not.
He does still visit France frequently and loves the feeling when he steps out of the Gard du Nord and sees Paris again.

On the subject of The North South Divide, something which I told him I am certain exists, he agreed and said it starts at Watford Gap. He agreed that culturally and socially the gap is wide and finds it as sad as I do. I told him I sell all my Ghost Furniture in the South and none in the North and he shook his head in sympathy.

Finally I asked this question - If forensics were to dust Britain for finger prints yours would be everywhere, how does that make you feel? - his answer was an amazing mix of modesty and agreement. He said that bringing good design to the masses was his mission and it was accomplished which gave him a great feeling of satisfaction. I told him that I was around at the time to witness what he was doing and we chatted about his first Habitat store which he proudly pointed to. It was over the road from where we were sitting, in the shop that Joseph now occupies.
We talked about how he dressed every girl in the shop in Mary Quant outfits and had their hair styled by Vidal Sassoon. He told me that Mary Quant's husband was his old school friend. I told him I wished I had applied for a job there then remembered that I was only 13 at the time.
This man changed the lives of everyone in the UK and then the World by having a vision that has been the foundation for everything that has happened on the High Street since. He took a drab and depressed Britain and turned it into a vibrant and pleasant place to be. He helped us furnish and equip our homes with stylish and functional pieces that were way beyond our reach before he came along. He showcases the best designs from the past and the present in his Conran Shops and works tirelessly even now. In the office every day, still thinking of new ideas to make us smile.
He made me smile that night, his modesty amazed me, his soft spoken voice put me at ease and I am proud to say that 'I Interviewed Sir Terence Conran'.

After our interview an Auction was held to raise money for Centrepoint a charity close to his heart as we both agreed that there still being homeless people in the UK is a disgrace.
Conran Classics were put up for auction and my favourite was The Egg Chair which was being handled by men in white coats and gloves and no I didn't bid for it. Over £30,000 was raised for the Charity that night.

Louise from We Are Social, who organised the event and Terence Conran's PR girl Melissa were so friendly and never left me to stand on my own for one moment. A big thank you to you all. The pretty little girl above sat and Twittered at a computer all evening with a big smile on her face. I had to take a picture as I loved her dress.

Finally with aching feet, as I had heels on and stood up most of the night, I was asked if I would like my photograph taken, on my favourite chair, in the window of The Conran Shop. What's a girl to do? It does suit me though don't you think?


loolah said...

OK, finally I can see a reason for Twitter.

I'm pretty sure the enjoyment in the interview won't have been all yours.

And I'm sorry to say this because you must get it all the time, but in the photo of you sitting in the egg chair, you look so very much like Joanna Lumley. Who is a gorgeously gorgeous woman.

Marion Pannekoek said...

Very nice story about your interview!
You look perfect all in black (even your long necklace is black)in that red chair...

BODIE and FOU said...

Great interview! Loved it!
It was really nice to see you on Friday and finally met Harvey. Hope you had a good trip back home


charlotte said...

i didn't know habitat was conran! see you learn something new everyday! xxx

Di Overton said...

Have I taught you nothing Charlotte?

Deb @ Beholder's Eye said...

I completely love this post! You lucky lucky girl :)

Fresh Design Blog said...

Congratulations on your interview! It was great to read it and to hear about how the event went.

paris parfait said...

How fantastic to be able to spend time chatting w/ such a design legend and a gentleman! Glad you were well looked-after. Love the photo of you in the chair! xoxox

Anonymous said...

great blog.