Wearing a fringe-cuffed shirt underneath a fitted leather jacket, Hubert de Malherbe joins us at Café Gray Deluxe with a spring in his step and a smile on his face. As he reclines on the settee against the backdrop of Victoria Harbour, the philosophical designer speaks to Perspective about the transcontinental evolution of his design practice
Born into a family of artists and musicians in Versailles, France, it was inevitable that Hubert de Malherbe would focus on a career with a certain amount of creativity at its heart. "I had grandparents who were artists — one also played the cello — but for me, it was drawing that I loved."
Following his parents' suggestion that he find an occupation that would allow him assured job security, he opted to focus his energies into the study of engineering. "You know… there is a certain amount of artistic quality in engineering," muses Malherbe, "a certain poetry in working things out."
Upon graduating from l'Ecole Nationale d'Arts & Métiers in Paris, he soon found a way to utilise both his artistic talents and his newly-found practical and theoretical skills through the creation of his studio, Malherbe Design. "Other people were going from finishing their studies to working with established firms, but I really knew that I wanted to do this… I just needed to convince some clients."
Specialising in the creative development of retail spaces, it didn't take much convincing for the firm to develop longstanding relationships with the likes of Dior, Carrefour, Sephora, SOGO and L'Occitane. Malherbe Design now employs over 200 staff, with offices in Shanghai and Hong Kong as well. "Things are a lot quicker in China, that's the biggest difference," he says. "In Europe, we have more time to work on projects, more time to think. But, in China, things need to move faster.”
Citing Paco Rabanne Couture as one of his first clients, Malherbe consistently thinks outside the box for all of his projects. "With our first project with Paco Rabanne Couture, we created a window display area that was easy to access, so that they could continually be updating their storefront. This is what you need to do with fashion. The window is what catches the eye," he says.
A recent project by the firm in Hong Kong was the transformation of city'super in IFC Mall. Specifically asked to elevate the supermarket to fit the plush surroundings of the rest of the mall's interior, Malherbe Design opted to put a tree at the entrance, creating a striking visual element for shoppers. Patterned tiles speak to the practice's French heritage, while a more user-friendly circulatory system and cashier area was also created.
This is an excerpt from the “A Certain Poetry" article from the March 2016 issue of Perspective magazine.
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