It’s been a busy, brightly colored, organic-shaped summer for Karim Rashid. The designer has given lectures, made appearances, and occasionally DJ’ed in cities from Miami and Toronto to Hamburg and Ekaterinburg (Russia’s fourth-largest city). On Friday he could be found in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where he keynoted the Construye & Remodela confab. Not that there’s any shortage of stateside projects: Rashid was recently commissioned to design three Manhattan residential buildings, including a mixed-use project (20 apartments, with office and commercial space at the street level) located at 1633-1655 Madison Avenue. The concept is a continuation of Rashid’s signature boundary-pushing, rooted in a desire to “bring a fulgent vibrancy to the environment and move away the trends away from tired archetypes and cold minimalism.” He made time between groundbreakings, prototyping sessions, and DJ sets to answer our seven questions.
You recently lectured—and DJed—in Ekaterinburg, Russia. What is your impression of the state of design in Russia?
I have been to Russia 25 times and always love the country, the energy, the people, the intellectual spirit, the food, the sensibilities. In regards the state of design I have seen things change drastically since 14 years ago, but the problem is that Russia has not embraced the design phenomena enough, yet it is getting better and better. The condition is changing. In order to know Russian designers internationally they either work and develop brands in Russia—that become globally established—or work for foreign companies. And in all those trips very few Russian companies approach me to design for them.
Russia with all its diversified money, increasing incomes, intelligence, education, and manufacturing capability, lacks globally recognized brands. I always thought how fascinating it is that a country like Sweden has international brands like IKEA, H&M, Absolut, Volvo, and Voss with only a population of 7 million. Because of the size of Russia, companies were producing goods exclusively for their huge market and taking no impetus to export. Russia has the manpower and money to create major global brands. But times have changed and the doors to the West are open. I would love to see Russia build some very contemporary brands that contribute to our beautiful global consumer landscape.
I just completed the new OK.RU website [a popular Russian social media platform], and I am working on a shopping mall in St. Petersburg, an orange juice bottle, a cognac bottle, a tractor, and other projects in Russia, but I would love to design some hotels in every major city. There is a lack of design-driven boutique hotels in Russia.