A Life Less Ordinary
The maverick designer discusses his career and his astounding creations with us
The artist at work
Right from the start of his career as an industrial designer, Roland Iten found himself working with, well, shit. Literally. He was designing clasps for diapers and one of the concerns he had to address was how parents could handle diapers without getting their hands dirty.
This does not mean Iten is an expert at dealing with pure necessity, as you can tell from his own creations. He is a total dreamer and inventor who is certainly a "visionary," as he puts it. Iten likes to observe people to see how they use things and find better – or perhaps just more extraordinary – ways and means. It has been said that Roland Iten designs things that you never knew you needed and it is true. “Millions of people don’t even know that (my segment of products) exists!” says Iten. “I mean, did you know you needed a better cufflink?”
Iten’s description of this particular product illustrates the nature of his interesting niche. He says the difference between a Roland Iten cufflink and everything else is like the difference between a Maybach door handle and a taxi door handle. Inherently, the traditional cufflink is flawed and the Roland Iten cufflink attempts to address that.
Ultimately, for Roland Iten, creating is the supreme luxury. We spoke with him about his philosophy, inspirations and, of course, his novel creations.
Please explain how your products are superior?
The best closing system for a shirt cuff is always a button. For example, if you use a cufflink often it is too loose. Roland Iten cufflinks have a mechanical system that allows them to be worn tight or loose, as you please. When you use it, you will see that it is like the door handle of a Maybach or rolls Royce. I have to explain it to you because maybe you don't notice it.
What you do, with my calibration system for example, it is playful and it has function. You have to try it or you won't understand. Yes, it is more complicated but it is even better to use than an ordinary cufflink. Also, you are able to easily handle it, with just your thumb and one finger. This makes it comfortable.
Do you think of yourself as an artist or a designer?
I am a visionary! Honestly, what I'm interested in is comfort. How to be comfortable. For me luxury is comfort and this is why I use the Maybach and Rolls Royce as examples.
Do you consider though that the product may be too technical to be comfortable?
Not really. You see, about comfort, this is specifically tied to men and their needs. You know, with a belt, something most men wear, you need more than one position to be comfortable. The leather expands and contracts based on temperature so being able to adjust slightly is important. My system (while relatively complex) allows you to do this.
You once said that you were “unemployable.” Why?
You know, I'm a total daydreamer. I'm always somewhere else. I will make a very interesting pilot for passengers. They will never know where they will land. You know how long it took me to get to our appointment from my hotel (which was not very far away, even for Singapore) for example! I will be fired for this kind of behaviour.