Women in design: Constance Guisset
HAVING A SOLO SHOW AT PARIS’S Musée des Arts Décoratifs, whose encyclopedic collections range from the Middle Ages to the twenty-first century, is an honor usually bestowed on established eminences like Jean Nouvel or past greats like Gio Ponti (an exhibition of his work will open there this fall). But breaking with tradition, the museum recently saluted the extensive body of work of forty-one-year- old French designer Constance Guisset. In his introduction to the show, Olivier Gabet, the museum’s director wrote: “this is by no means a canonization, which would certainly be premature, but a celebratory exhibition full of the zest for life and joyful erudition which set [Guisset] apart so well.”
Design was not Guisset’s first career choice. She studied political science and interned for a year in Japan’s Parliament in Tokyo, but realized that she had always loved making things in her father’s workshop. She returned to Paris to enter ENSCI, a top design school, and graduated in 2007. A year later, she won the Grand Prix du Design de la Ville de Paris and the Prix du Public of the Design Parade at the Villa Noailles. Guisset opened her own studio in 2009 and the objects on view in the recent exhibition showcased her poetic, yet sophisticated work for a range of producers, from small French companies like Petite Friture, which produced her award-winning light fixture, Vertigo, and Moustache to major firms such as Molteni and Louis Vuitton.
Guisset has also gained notice for her stage sets for the ballet company Preljocaj and for exhibition installations at the Fondation Cartier and the Musée du quai Branly in Paris. She created the interiors for the lobbies in the Acor Hotel group and is at work on interiors for the Aéroports de Paris.
But for now she wants to focus mainly on product design. For the recent museum show she created a modular bed that she designed for children, which she tested on her own six and eight year olds before it went into production—and they now both sleep in one. It’s hard to be a mother and a designer in a man’s world, but, Guisset says, she’s “fighting to show she can do both. For the next generation it will be easier.”