What is your favourite V&A object?
I’ve often said in interviews that one of the things I love the most about the V&A collection is the enormous plaster leaf, fig leaf, that was created to hide David’s modesty, or to preserve everybody else’s modesty. I think it was for the visit of Queen Alexandra, which surprised me because I always thought she was a bit racy but obviously not.
What are the qualities of a good designer?
The most useful thing to any designer is actually just a good memory. Absolutely the best thing you could ever have and I think that you see that in people like Karl Lagerfeld and you see that in people, you know architects like Gilbert Scott and Soane, Pugin, William Morris, I think all of them had a real ability to be able to hover up loads and loads of information, and then sift it, and allow themselves to then cherry pick bits and pieces that they liked to then use those to create their own things.
How would you define good design?
My personal definition of good design is just that it looks absolutely drop dead gorgeous. I’m not really that bothered about how well it works, I have to say.
What is the most important piece of design in your daily life?
I suppose suits. I mean I still maintain that men of our generation are absolutely mad, men in our society are mad. The suit’s been evolved over two, three hundred years four hundred years to make men look as good as they possibly can. Why don’t we wear them more often? I love wearing a suit. I’d wear a suit on the beach.
What is your favourite material?
I do love lacquer. I love old lacquer and indeed, OK well there we go – peacock lacquer and I’m probably in heaven.
What is your greatest design extravagance?
I don’t really believe in extravagance at all. I don’t believe in extravagance as something that should be remarked upon. I think life should just be what you want it to be and I think I like things to be by anybody else’s definition extravagant. I like design to be full fat and I like design to clog your arteries.
What do you think of the British attitude to design?
We’re very bad at celebrating I think. We’re very bad at enjoying it. You know, we don’t put designers on our bank notes we put engineers. We love our engineers. And particularly at the moment I think that design has just been completely overtaken by engineering. It’s about Mecano, now. It’s not about making things pretty. It’s not about the Rococo, it’s not about the Baroque, it’s just about building it as an exo-skeleton.
What would you be if you weren’t a designer?
I originally wanted to be a barrister actually. I still hanker after the wig. In fact, I wouldn’t wear the wig that would be my thing, is I’d just powder my hair.
Do you have a personal motto?
Never wear brown shoes with a blue suit. Which I think is probably the best advice you could ever give anyone.
Here Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen explains why peacock-blue lacquer is his favourite material, why he doesn't think there's such a thing as extravagance in design, what the best designers -- from Karl Lagerfeld to William Morris -- share, and what his personal design motto is.
Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen explains why peacock-blue lacquer is his favourite material...