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"I believe that many creative people will consider these circumstances a gift, necessary to bring about change."

Li Edelkoort sits down to chat with us about the crisis, greedy graduates and why she thinks creatives are more than equipped to get through these times. Here's part one.

By Jeanne Tan /asdf 12-03-2009

Trend forecaster Li Edelkoort is a busy woman at the best of times. However at this present moment, business is particularly booming as absolutely everyone wants to know the answer to the question on everyone’s lips: How do we make sense of this financial crisis? What’s coming up next? How will it affect design and designers? We speak with Li Edelkoort to find out more…

Obviously, this is not the first time you’ve seen something like this.
This is crisis number eight in my life so I’m slightly jaded. My experience is that every time we have a crisis, the reaction is always the same – guilt, doom and gloom. And then when the money starts coming in, I see the first shiny surfaces start to be used, gloss, metals, lacquer. It’s so easy. We never learn. I find this very difficult, this is bothering me most. Why can’t we strike a balance for a longer period of time? This would be my personal quest: to make luxury more invisible and high end which is performing on the longer term.

What about the impact of this crisis on design and designers?
This will be a period of frugality: less development, less products made and sold and not necessarily less money in the pockets of the very rich but it’s suspicious now to spend. It’s more like we’re having a little pause or maybe having to sell behind closed doors. Discretion is a very important part of this whole period. Anti red carpet, anti reality shows. Everything is reversed. I find this very necessary.

Speaking of spending, do you think things were getting a little out of hand with limited editions design?
Graduates are too greedy in their prices. It’s good that this happens, everyone should take a step back. It’s crazy at graduation shows that some students get offered €10 000 for a one off. How can they make their life? Some struggle is needed in the beginning.

So how will designers get through the crisis?
I believe that many creative people will consider these circumstances a gift, necessary to bring about change. I figured that with the coming of Obama we are entering a more diplomatically skilled period. The world will want to become more united no matter what. The common enemy is the economy since we always need an enemy. Economy is the new communist so to speak. The interesting idea is to be able to become family or to unite in common speaking terms.

Design will always be able to find new scenarios. Once you’re creative you’re not afraid, you will always be able to make something out of nothing, improvise, find solutions. Solely because we’re creative, the design community is less handicapped than the rest of the world. In that sense, we are all very lucky.

What do you see as a follow up to this?

For the restoration of this current situation, we will go to a more monolithic point of view. Instead of mapping, research and multiple influences, we will embrace a more holistic idea. Somehow the mapping has resulted in a reflection which is one – one-ness will be very important, like you would find in the centre of the body.

Industry and industrialised products and fashions will gain attention again. Ultimately we will create new markets because for the last 20 years we have been fascinated with the high and volume end. The middle market disappeared and the focus became more extreme. So the field became more like a desert. In this desert we will find the middle market. If you don’t lose your job and have a good salary, you become more like a new elite.

So is it about playing more safe then?
No because creativity will help us emerge. Creation is going to be the leading factor of new economies. Creativity is going to be the thing to bank on, I mean really banking on.

Can you expand on this idea of one-ness?
My new lifestyle trend book is called ‘We are family’, like the song. I see it like a still life, we are not the same, but somehow we do have things in common and we belong. We feel that more than ever before. Because this economic world went down like a row of dominos, it’s been crystal clear how much we are attached to each other and therefore it will have a long lasting influence on how we think about solving problems and about living on this planet. Fortunately we will have this crisis because we will become more savvy about change, more serious about health, the environment, invent new banks and banking systems, not just believing in these old institutions etc etc. I think it’s a necessary moment.

Part two of the interview continues next week. There, we focus on Design Indaba where Li Edelkoort was a guest speaker recently and why Dutch Design shines during times of uncertainty.

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