After studying at London’s Royal College of Art, working for footwear brand Camper and living for a time in Japan, in 2008, Luis Eslava set up his own design studio in the Spanish city of Valencia.
Luis Eslava takes an integral approach to design. "A designer has to be able to offer a wide range of solutions" and "to rethink everyday life ". This is why the studio is geared to creating global projects and gets involved in every stage of the productive process.
They have designed products for companies all over the world, including Lzf Lamps, Sancal, Vertisol, Martini Russia, TFK Kuwait and Tombow Japan. It has also set up temporary installations such as the ROJO [Red] Show London and NYC, designed stands for the Velcro brand and taken part in food design projects in partnership with chef Andreu Genestra at "El Bulli" culinary school.
In this interview, Luis Eslava gave us an insight into his studio and talked to us about his designs, his work and some of his latest projects:
Interiors from Spain: How would you define your creative work?
Luis Eslava: It’s a tricky question to answer, but I feel quite comfortable with the definition journalist Gemma Figueras used in an article she wrote a few years ago: she defined it as “smart transgression”.
And she added, “imaginative and unconventional, inspiration is always drawn from the visual and everyday dimensions”, and went on to say that our designs “constantly strive to balance functionality with symbolism, creating a strong bond with their users.”
Interiors from Spain: You mention that a designer has to be able to offer a wide variety of solutions and reflect on everyday life. How does that come across in your designs?
Luis Eslava: Projecting and designing mean reflecting on your own experience and considering how we interact with the objects around us. Form can be improved because the use to which we put these articles evolves with the passing of time, and new functions and applications emerge. Ultimately, we design what we live.
Interiors from Spain: In 2008, you set up the ROJO exhibition in London and New York. How do you gauge that experience in retrospect? Do you think exhibitions like this are a useful way of promoting Spanish design internationally?
Luis Eslava: Any initiative that helps promote design is welcome; I think ROJO LONDON and ROJO NYC were great showcases to promote Spanish design and industry. On the personal level, the two ROJO exhibitions were important in getting my career off the ground. They publicised my work in Spain and abroad.
Interiors from Spain: Speaking of which, you’ve joined the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX) on a number of technical Spanish design conferences in China and Japan. Did they help you make contacts in those countries? Tell us about your experience with ICEX.
Luis Eslava: I was with ICEX at a number of conferences in China, Japan and Turkey. It was a positive experience. The conferences get you immersed in the culture of each country and many important aspects of negotiating culture. You learn and understand how to go about working with local companies and how they interact with designers from other cultures. I’ve gone on to work with and develop projects in all three of these countries.
Interiors from Spain: Your work has been on display in exhibitions and galleries in London, Tokyo, New York and Beijing. What was the outcome? Are you working on any new exhibitions?
Luis Eslava: International exhibitions help you share the way you understand design. In that respect, exhibiting in different places has opened doors for me in companies that had already come into contact with my projects.
Right now, I’m working on a small exhibition in the Dos Billares bar in Casa Camper Barcelona for the end of April. I’ll be presenting a collection of objects that are the result of reflecting on the creative process. I’m also taking part in the 20th anniversary exhibition of Salone Satellite Milan where I exhibited in 2006.
Interiors from Spain: One of the up-and-coming disciplines today is the concept of “Food Design”, which combines design with gastronomy. The Cent plate collection which you created for renowned Spanish chef Andreu Genestra is a case in point. What’s your view of this design line? How do you feel about Food Design in Spain?
Luis Eslava: In my opinion, it’s a tandem which enriches both disciplines.
A growing number of culinary experiences are not just linked to the act of eating alone but with how diners interact with the food in front of them, involving both the service and the eating rituals. It’s in the objects and elements we use in these actions where the designer can provide the perfect complement to the chef’s work. And often the designer doesn’t just design the “objects”, but is also able to conceptualise the “form” taken by the food itself.
In Spain, it’s increasingly common to see this kind of chef/designer partnership. They are two associated disciplines both of which involve conceptualisation, experimentation, materiality and above all a shared purpose, which is to generate interaction with the diner/user.
Interiors from Spain: You’ve designed for other brands based in Spain and elsewhere. Do you find there are major differences when you’re working for companies from different countries and cultures? When does a designer realise that his or her designs are global?
Luis Eslava: There are certainly differences. Each culture has its own way of working and particularly of interacting. A designer has to interact with a company on many different levels, from making contact with the entrepreneur to communicating with the worker who makes the prototypes or the technical department “interpreting” your designs. But the key thing is that you always share a comfort zone where both sides can feel at home.
You unconsciously acquire different registers to adapt your working methods to a particular culture. And as I said before, the key thing is for both sides to feel comfortable about their work, whatever the culture or country.
Interiors from Spain: What projects are you involved in now? Anything outside Spain?
Luis Eslava: Right now, I’m working on lots of different projects.
We’re working on the design of a culinary space called Essence, commissioned by Espai Sucre pastry school based on a sweet gastronomic experience. Internationally, we’re working with a number of new Chinese companies that make household objects and want to stand out by using European design. We are also creative directors at a company in the homeware sector working on ceramics with local artisans from the southern Mediterranean part of the peninsula.
Finally, coming back to lighting design, we’ve teamed up with a Japanese company, and another project I’m especially excited about is our formal update of the Armadillo lamp for Lzf-Lamps.