Written by by Linda Eisenberg, CNN
German designer Helen Pashgian has amassed a reputation for forthright, statement-making design. Today she works with international clients, from restaurateurs and luxury boutiques to marinas, hospital suites and boutique hotels. But it was never her intention to attract so much attention.
“I never had a career as a designer,” she says. “I always said I didn’t like product design, and I didn’t have a concept or idea of what I wanted to achieve.”
Pashgian didn’t set out to create the truly impractical, either. After working as a graphic designer at her university, she took an interest in “space age” gadgets, looking to modify existing products and perfect their functionality. She built her first brand, Pantone, in 1981 — from her grandmother’s bedside table — and expanded her output further in the following years, first creating the color-labelling for her own laundry store.
Pashgian’s books filled with ‘bulletin board’ buttons in her underground studio
Pashgian worked with clients on prototypes, which she would then construct and deconstruct to experiment with their structural potential. Yet it wasn’t until after the death of her partner in 1983 that she came up with the eponymous first products: The first Parasol Clutch, from an abandoned shoe factory, as well as the B-Pin Pantone: A small sheath of fabric, which, she says, she simply laid on the floor and designed one stitch at a time.