09/07/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Euro Designer Turns To Ecology

THERE'S no point in arguing with Philippe Starck, because it generally goes like this: (1) The world's most famous product designer makes a well-meaning and sincere but slightly preposterous claim. (2) You feel obliged to question the preposterous bit. (3) He comes across all hurt and boyish. (4) You feel mean.

Take Mr. Starck's claim to have "invented a concept called Democratic Design," which he says gives everyone high-quality products at affordable prices. Sounds great, but didn't the modern movement try to do that for most of the 20th century? And how can he claim to have "won the battle" by designing "a chair that sells for less than 100 euros," or $156, when that's still too expensive for most Western consumers? And what about the 90 percent of the world's population too poor to afford many of the products most Americans see as essentials? What has Democratic Design done for them?

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