5 Minutes With... Nicolas Roche Of French Furniture Brand Roche Bobois
Growing up in a design-driven family, creative director Nicolas Roche has had fond memories of being surrounded by iconic design. One particular seat from Roche Bobois was the most memorable: “We had a Mah Jong sofa covered in a simple grey fabric. You could play with its configurations; we were making pyramids with the huge cushions, so it became a wonderful playground for us.”
The former architect joined Roche Bobois in 2005; under his charge, the French brand has moved towards an eco-conscious direction. “As a leader in the furniture industry, we feel obliged to meet these environmental standards,” says Roche. “We won’t say that we’re perfect but we’re doing our utmost to be as environmentally responsible as possible.”
During his recent visit to Singapore, he tells us more about the brand’s creative collaborations and its latest collections.
Tell us more about the brand’s design philosophy.
Nicolas Roche (NR) We want to create designs that people cannot find elsewhere; most of our pieces have a strong identity, silhouette and a graphic strength that you can readily identify.
Our pieces have a strong identity, silhouette and a graphic strength that you can readily identify
Have you always planned on joining the family business?
NR No, not at all. My dream was to become an architect so that’s what I did. In 2005, my father and uncle started thinking about retiring. They asked if I would like to take care of the development of new collections. After being an architect for 20 years, I agreed to join the family business.
How does your training as an architect influence your design process?
NR As an architect, I’m trained to deal with functional uses of objects and technical problems of design. An architect can work for a specific customer who tells you the budget and purpose of the project but when you work for a furniture manufacturer, you don’t personally know the customers; you have to anticipate the trends and their needs.
Which Roche Bobois designs do you currently have in your home?
NR My sofa is from the Illusion collection, which has a triangular shape. I also have a wooden bed called Assemblage, which means joinery in French. It’s made with solid walnut and oak and it evokes the Scandinavian-style furniture that I was surrounded with in my childhood.
How do you select the designers that you collaborate with?
NR The designers whom I decide to work with are people whose style can be aligned with Roche Bobois. That was the way it was with Marcel Wanders. His work has a certain eclecticism, which matches our brand philosophy and spirit. On the other hand, I receive many proposals from designers from all over the world. If I find a design that corresponds to a theme or trend, I would work with this new designer.
There are also fashion designers who have been working for us for a long time such as Christian Lacroix; we’ve worked with him for 15 years. We like working with fashion brands for the fabrics, as these are objects that are in between the worlds of fashion and furniture.
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Which are the biggest trends in interior design right now?
NR People want to go back to the fundamentals and to be in contact with natural materials like stone, wood and wool. The ways that these materials are used have to express craftsmanship and the talent of hand-making. New technology also allows us to create more custom-made products. For instance, we are working on a dining table that will be 3D-printed in concrete to adapt to the exact dimensions required. For the Bubble sofa, we developed a special fabric made of four layers supple in all directions to achieve its particular shape.
How does your eco-conscious approach shape the production processes?
NR We have tools that calculate the eco-performance of each product and a checklist that follows the product’s life cycle from the materials we use, the way we manufacture it to the use of electricity and so on. We have personnel who work exclusively on this to ensure that the production is in compliance with these principles. It’s a discipline that we impose on ourselves. We are working with the French authorities to ensure that our regulations are correct and we also work with the American standards.
(Related: How To Design An Eco-Friendly Home)
Roche Bobois is located at 75 Bukit Timah Road, #01-02 Boon Siew Building, Tel: 6513 1918; roche-bobois.com
This story was adapted from Singapore Tatler Homes April-May 2019