’I started as an artist, and as a little kid I used to draw in school. In my late teens I realised my work was becoming more practical and began to search for a design school, to learn about product design and the use of functional art,’ explains Dror Benshetrit, an Israeli-born designer who is starting to make a big name for himself.
His search led him to the Netherlands and Design Academy Eindhoven, whose strongly conceptual approach continues to influence his work. He had, however, already fallen in love with New York and it was there in 2002 that he set up his own studio, despite the city’s relatively underdeveloped design scene.
’The gap between the contemporary design scenes in Europe and New York bothered me so much. I just wanted to minimise it and bring something more contemporary and European to the States.’ Ironically, most of his clients are Europeans eager to access the US market, but Dror (he likes to be known by his first name) is keen to stress the internationalism of his approach.
Perhaps the most outlandish location for his work is Nurai, a luxury island off the coast of Abu Dhabi, due for completion this year. Dror has devised a luxury development for Nurai that is inspired by carpets (although he is concerned that the developers are diverging too far from his design).
Dror’s 2004 design the Vase of Phases for Rosenthal was, quite literally, his breakthrough product, and its seemingly smashed surface exhibits a kinetic and geometric quality that still characterises much of his work.
In the same year he started to be represented by Culture & Commerce, the New York consultancy behind Philippe Starck, Marcel Wanders and Yves Béhar, whose careers his own is beginning to resemble.
Suddenly, Dror’s studio was no longer run on a shoestring, and commissions from major clients such as Cappellini (most notably the Peacock chair), Puma, Alessi and Swarovski began rolling in. He now has the luxury of working on more self-initiated projects than he does on commissions.
Despite its success, Studio Dror has remained small, consisting of a core team of ten working closely with external expertise, such as engineers for an architectural commission or renderers for a product design. Projects in the offing include ’an exciting collaboration with a luggage company, an interiors project in Turkey and some furniture designs for Milan’.
’I am still pretty much hands-on with everything, which is how I want to keep it for a little longer,’ says Dror. ’I am really enjoying this, and want to make sure everything has a certain flavour, but, at the end of the day, the designs we create are a product of teamwork.’
He has just launched, at South Africa’s Design Indaba, his most ambitious project to date – Quadror – a structural support system or building block that he invented while working on a Swarovski chandelier. It dawned on him that the chandelier’s interlocking rectangles could have a variety of applications, from walls, barriers and displays through to product designs.
Structurally ingenious, Quadror’s lightness, simplicity and strength is something he hopes could find its application in the context of a humanitarian crisis and in international development. He also fancies building his own villa out of it, in Costa Rica. Dror’s big plans for Quadror include the possibility of it being spun off as an entity of its own, but at the moment he wants it to be very open, ’a call for collaboration’, as he puts it.
Another notable recent launch for Dror is the Tron chair, part of Cappellini’s Walt Disney Signature limited-edition range. So, how does a project such as this come about and who talks to whom? ’We just met up for dinner and I told Giulio [Cappellini] this idea I had about the collision of the physical and digital world,’ explains Dror. ’He said that sounds just like Tron, mentioned that he is working with Walt Disney and that such a piece would be perfect.’