Conran, Terence

Conran, Terence
   b. 1931, Esher
   Designer
   Sir Terence Orby Conran has had an enormous influence on defining and indeed determining the design of shop and house interiors within Britain and Europe. His store Habitat, first opened in London in 1964, completely revolutionized notions of taste. Before Habitat, notions of good taste were almost exclusively conservative and elitist. Conran, having struggled for ten years to establish himself as a furniture designer and maker, redefined the world of retail and arguably transformed the idea of shopping into an enjoyable occasion rather than a necessary task. The cultural historian Christopher Frayling suggests that Conran has had more impact on design than the Design Council and the government put together.
   Nicholas Ind’s biography explains that part of the power of Habitat was its sensuality: the combination of touch, sight, sound and smell. In addition to the tactile displays, there were the pervasive odour of herbs and spices as well as the sound of modern jazz. Conran offered modern, affordable products in an uncluttered and elegant environment. (Ind 1995:65)
   His designs were an enormous success with the new affluent middle classes, and by 1980 there were forty-seven Habitat stores. Conran’s entrepreneurial expertise gave rise to the merger of Habitat with other retailers such as Mothercare, Heal’s and British Home Stores, forming the multimillion pound Storehouse Group; however, this failed to achieve the heights anticipated by Conran, predominantly because BHS was imbued with a culture that was resistant to his plans of bringing well-designed goods to the mass market. As with Habitat’s influence on shopping, Conran has also transformed and developed the landscape of eating out, with restaurants like Quaglino’s, Bibendum and Pont de la Tour. It is important to stress that Conran has helped to transform society and its values, and he has made spending money a legitimate cultural practice. His diversity of interests as designer, restaurateur, retailer and writer have ensured him a permanent residency as arbiter of British taste.
   See also: Conran, Jasper
   Further reading
    Ind, N. (1995) Terence Conran: The Authorized Biography, London: Sidgwick & Jackson.
   FATIMA FERNANDES

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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