The A-Z of Design: C is for Conran

In the A-Z of design, C is for Conran, and we can’t talk about Conran without starting with Terence. Born in Kingston upon Thames to a South-African born rubber importer, Terence was educated at Bryanston School and the Central School of Art and Design (now Central Saint Martin’s) where he studied textiles. His first job was on the Southbank site of the Festival of Britain after which he left to join an architecture firm. It was in 1956 he began his own practice and was soon designing Mary Quant’s shop.

The British designer opened Habitat in 1964 and is credited with introducing the duvet to Britain. He also established an architecture and planning consultancy, Conran Roche, with Fred Roche in 1980 and co-founded FSC-certified wood furniture maker Benchmark Furniture in 1983 with Sean Sutcliffe.

His most famous design and architecture is probably for restaurants including Bibendum, Bluebird and Quaglino’s. But did you know that the Conran Foundation manages the Design Museum? It’s no wonder he has a knighthood, a Chartered Society of Designers Minerva Medal (its highest award), the Price Philip Designers Prize for lifetime achievements in design and an honourary degree from London Southbank University.

[Images: Conran]

But enough about Terence, what about his eponymous shop? The first Conran Shop opened in 1973 at 77 Fulham Road. Jeff Heading, the store manager at the time and store director now, remembers people pouring in through the doors as soon as they opened. He stood at the top of the stairs with then creative director Priscilla Carcluccio (Terence’s sister) discussing whether they should close the doors again because there were just too many people. By the end of the day the shelves were empty and they needed to increase shop floor staff from 13 to 43 for day two.

 

In September, Conran celebrated 25 years at the Michelin Building, which houses his flagship store. To tie in with London Design Festival 2012, more than 50 of the world’s most exciting designers were asked to create special one-off pieces in red. Designers included The Campana brothers, Manolo Blahnik, Benjamin Hubert, Ingo Maurer, Paola Navone, Solange Azagury-Partridge and Thomas Heatherwick. The results are stunning.

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Katie Treggiden, Guest Editor

View all posts by Katie Treggiden, Guest Editor