With more than 3,000 designs in production and 300 international awards garnered, Karim Rashid is whirling with innovative ideas and opinions. From furniture to running shoes, luxury goods to lighting, hotel and restaurant designs to a subway renovation in Naples, and with a travel schedule that reads like a General’s map of strategic planning, it’s no wonder that the Cairo-born, Toronto-raised, New York-based designer does most of his creating in the air.
Rashid was recently in Toronto to attend the 50th anniversary of family-owned Nienkämper furniture. Even through the phone, his energy seems boundless, with effusive commentary peppered with new-age philosophy, technology and a committed mission to “beautify our environment through functional design.”
This year, Karim Rashid is a keynote speaker at IDS West in Vancouver from September 20 to 23 on the Caesarstone Stage, sponsored by BoConcept.
“I look for a new point of view in everything I design and I do look at the world critically – I’m always trying to improve it,” he says. “I’m currently working on 60 projects at once, including twenty hotels for the Radisson Hotel Group’s Prizeotels across Germany.”
Rashid recently won a New York Spark Design Award for Radisson’s Hamburg hotel. With interiors that reflect his flamboyant approach to colour; he designed oversized, amorphous chairs and sofas in lime green, canary yellow and bubble gum pink that conjure images of futuristic space travel.
Once crowned “The Prince of Plastic” by Time Magazine, more than seven million units of his curvaceous plastic Garbo wastepaper basket designed for Canadian company Umbra in 1996, have been sold since then. That utilitarian product, given a sexy silhouette, launched his career in the design world. His Oh Chair, also for Umbra in 1999, is now in the permanent collection of MoMA in San Francisco.
After studying industrial design at Carleton University in Ottawa, Rashid moved to Manhattan to start his own firm. In 1995 Rashid was hired by New Mexico design studio Nambé to create a line of tabletop accessories.
Rashid was soon commissioned to create packaging for fashion designer Issey Miyake’s clothing and fragrance lines. International hotel and restaurant projects followed, and in 2014 Rashid opened an office in China to handle his industrial design projects.
But Rashid is not a man to be pigeon-holed by plastic. “Even though some of the world sees me as one singular vernacular, I’ve experimented with various design languages over the years,” Rashid says.
At this year’s Salone del Mobile in Milan, he unveiled KRAK, a collection of stainless steel tables that resemble 3-D puzzle pieces for Portuguese furniture company, Riluc. And for Lamborghini Rashid added two new sideboards to his Authentic Living Collection of sensuous multi-layered walnut and leather furniture.
His Chunk Collection of furniture for Artisan in multi-hued striated walnut is available through SwitzerCult Creative in Vancouver.
Usually dressed in head-to-toe white or candy colours punctuated by oversize matching eye glasses, he likes to play agent provocateur and banished the “tired and negative” colour black from his wardrobe in 1999.
“People are afraid to be different,” he says. “I’m teaching my daughter Kiva how to draw and think for herself. We may all be born with creativity but something happens along the way – probably peer pressure, and for many creativity just disappears.”
Taught to draw as a little boy by his Egyptian father, an artist and set designer for CBC TV, Rashid still draws obsessively by hand with coloured pencils, or on his iPad, especially on long flights.
The mid-town Manhattan apartment he shares with his wife, chemical engineer Ivana Purić, and daughter is a white gallery canvas for his wildly colourful and playful furniture and art. “Minimal and uncluttered doesn’t mean it has to be devoid of colour,” Rashid says.
With all his success and jet-setting lifestyle, Canada is very close to his heart – and not just because his newest furniture collection is entitled Ottawa!
The Ottawa Art Gallery will be opening a 200-piece retrospective of Rashid’s work in October 2018.
Rashid adds, “The role of the designer is to make the world a better place by reducing poorly designed clutter with beautiful high performing ones and that will reduce the stress in our environments.”