Terence Conran: interview
With his ranges for Habitat, Terence Conran brought high-end design to the masses. He’s one of Time Out’s 40th birthday London heroes
Posted: Thu Sep 18 2008
Is it nice to be a Time Out hero?‘Of course, that’s why I am here. I am thrilled, but it might depend on the other heroes. When I got my knighthood I looked at the other knights and thought: Do I really want to join that gang?’
Who are your heroes?‘Ken Livingstone. He had a very difficult job trying to be a mayor. I remember his fight with Margaret Thatcher, when they faced each other across the Thames. I liked his socialism, although he took it a little too far at times. In design, Richard Rogers and Norman Foster. They have proved that London is the creative capital of the world. ‘
What’s the biggest thing in your field over past 40 years?‘The stand-out moment for me personally was the opening of Quaglino's in the depths of the last recession, and it became a smash hit. In fact, tables which had been booked were being put on stock-market screens for sale. Everybody said to me, “Oh, you can’t open a large restaurant: nobody wants a large restaurant in London.” '
What is your favourite personal moment?‘After a huge amount of effort, buying, refurbishing and opening Michelin House as The Conran Shop and Bibendum. The president of Michelin in France got terribly cross with the UK managing director. He said, “You’ve sold the family silver.” ’
What are your hopes?‘Less interference is what we all want in our lives, especially in the restaurant business. There is an appalling amount of interference. We’ve had raids by the immigration authorities where they advise the press first so they can get a media story out of it. Which, on the whole, they have failed to do.'
What does the future hold?‘If you remember Prince Charles and the “carbuncle” [Charles objected to the extension to the National Gallery], over the past 40 years there has been a lot of “facadism” going on – it’s fake. I think a few developers seem to do good modern architecture and think it is very important – but not all of them, by any means. As for restaurants, I think even though we live in dire times their future is safe; they are now part of most people’s lives; people don’t want to go home and reach for Tesco Finest, or Marks & Spencer.’
What does Time Out mean to you?‘It’s done a marvellous job for London. If you want to know what’s happening, you get Time Out. It really makes a great contribution to London.’See all Time Out's 40th birthday London heroes
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