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How A Young Designer Broke Into The Furniture Business

Rémi Bouhaniche, who just launched a chair for French furniture brand Ligne Roset, dispenses advice on the path to success.

Getting a foot in the door is often the biggest challenge when starting a profession. For Rémi Bouhaniche, an emerging French designer, his big break came this year when he debuted a new armchair for the luxury brand Ligne Roset right alongside a design from one of his mentors, Eric Jourdan.

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The Toa chair is based off of spontaneous form building using foam, cloth, and an origami-like technique. Bouhaniche wanted to create something that was soft, welcoming, and humane by nesting the plush fabric in a wood frame. He then submitted the design to Ligne Roset cold. About a year later the manufacturer—who works with esteemed designers like Inga Sempe and the Bouroullecs—knocked on his door and began a conversation about how to get the piece produced. Now the chair is exhibited in the company’s showrooms around the globe.

While there is no “one” path to success, Bouhaniche offers advice about how the student can become the master.

Form A Perspective
“Nowadays it’s important as a designer to define yourself and to define your convictions,” Bouhaniche says. “There are a lot of designers in the market and more and more every year. It’s important to define yourself and your vision because without a vision, it’s difficult to succeeded in your work. If you do it for fun, it’s not going to work. If you’re not serious, you won’t achieve anything. I think that as a student, you should try to position yourself in the market, try to build connections, and try to build a vision.”

Learn Technical Expertise
“A technical background is very important for a designer because a designer is also an engineer,” Bouhaniche advises. “We need to understand the materials; we have to know what we can and cannot do. You need to know the tools of production. When I was a student I was working with accessible materials like wood, because it’s easy to find craftspeople [who work with it]. I also used metal. Fabric I really love because it’s very warm and it’s very human. It is based on this human feeling of softness and you can also create many shapes with textiles. Once you know the technical logic, you’re more free to experiment with your ideas because you’re not afraid about how you’ll execute them.”

But Innocence In Addition To Expertise Is An Asset
“Innocence, to ‘not know,’ also helps me because when you know too much about things, maybe you get struck and you do things according to the techniques,” Bouhaniche says. “It’s good to think freely with your creativity.”

Design For Function, Not Trends
“Working with smaller editors helped me understand the market because I could see what was working and what wasn’t,” Bouhaniche says. “People want to have products that make their life better, which really have a use—something that’s practical, that’s comfortable. Some products [I designed early on] were based more on an aesthetic approach than a functional approach. So now I think about the use and try to escape the ego trip about ‘design.'”

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Jourdan agrees that letting go of your ego and learning from others is helpful. “The [character] difference comes from modesty and obstinacy and even more through the desire to learn from others,” he says.

Go After The Big Fish
“You have to take a chance, to take a risk in life,” Bouhaniche says. “It’s important not to be scared [of rejection].”

“Students should create their own company and try to work with the biggest manufacturer to start,” Jourdan says. “It is probably the most difficult way to start but it is much more interesting than going after the after the small manufacturer.”

The Toa chair is available from Ligne Roset starting at $3,205 for the chair and $1,070 for the ottoman.

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About the author

Diana Budds is a New York–based writer covering design and the built environment.

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