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Movie: in our second video interview with Hella Jongerius, the Dutch designer discusses her work with airline KLM and explains how, despite being unfamiliar with the aviation industry, she has been able to build a successful relationship with the company.
Earlier this year, Jongerius designed a new interior for the business class cabins in KLM’s Boeing 747 aircraft and is currently redesigning both the business and economy class cabins for KLM’s fleet of 777 and Dreamliner planes.
Jongerius admits that working with an aviation company has been challenging.
“It’s a difficult industry, a very demanding industry,” she says, recalling her early meetings with KLM. “You had people around the table that don’t speak the same language. They spoke a language that was new to me, and I spoke a language that’s new to them.”
Despite this, Jongerius says that she was able to build a relationship with the company and is now looking ahead to a longer-term collaboration.
“I’ve worked for two years with this group, and we really now know where to go, where to steer and what we can do in ten years,” she says.
Jongerius was initially approached by the airline to design the carpets, curtains and seat covers for the cabin, but soon convinced them to let her design the chairs as well.
“It’s normal in aviation to buy a chair from the shelf and do some modifications [to it],” she explains. “I said, ‘I can do that much better, give me the chair [to design]’. They trusted me and so we went on.”
She reflects: “If I now look back, that was really weird for them, but it all depends on whether you can connect yourself with the person on the other side of the table. I think we were lucky that we trusted each other. I think they’re weird; they think I’m weird. I gave them a masterclass in design; they gave me a masterclass in aviation.”
Jongerius’ redesigned business class cabin features spotted and striped dividing curtains, leather and aluminium details on the chairs and a carpet pattern inspired by an image of the Milky Way. Jongerius explains that she wanted to add a sense of luxury and tactility to the flying experience.
“As soon as you’re in a plane you have extra hours, because you can’t telephone and you can’t be on the internet,” she says. “So it’s an outstanding condition and [I wanted] to add something tactile: human materials, attention, details.”
She adds: “For business class it was easy, because there is already luxury, privacy. Now I’m doing it for economy and that’s difficult because the restrictions are quite narrow, so it’s harder to get there. But I’m aware that I can make only very little steps, so I see myself on a longer journey.”