Born in Danang in Vietnam, when she was less than a year old Yên Khê arrived in France with her parents and grew up between both cultures.
Although she studied at the Ecole Camondo in Paris, (School of Interior Architecture and Design), Yên Khê was attracted to the film industry and achieved success on the cinema screen by playing principal parts in the films “The Scent of the Green Papaya” and “Cyclo”.
“The Vertical Ray of the Sun” and “I Come With The Rain” prolonged her acting career.
However, her initial vocation caught up with her.
In 2010, she created the film sets and costumes for “Norwegian Wood”, adapted from Haruki Murakami’s novel. Later she took care of artistic direction for the film “Eternity” that came out on general release in 2016 and was inspired by Alice Ferney’s book “The Elegance of Widows“.
The year 2018 represented a turning point in her unusual journey with a return towards design.Her first furniture collection is the result of a personal challenge and a revelation.
With the Gosoï Collection comes a world of elegance and simplicity that she intends being both functional and accessible. Built upon the equilibrium of the oblique forms of the pieces’ legs, her furniture brings a sense of tension working in contrast with the feeling of serenity and lightness inherent in the Gosoï concept.
Within the continuity of the French design tradition of the 1950s and in using long-lasting and noble materials like the oak, Yên Khê pays homage to Jean Prouvé whom she greatly admires.
Here, she makes wonderful use of folded metal parts in order to resolve and eliminate the usual elements in construction that tend to blemish the pure nature of the furniture’s outline.
Sensitive to light, she uses French oak from Burgundy for its radiance, its warm character and its “living” potential, meaning its capacity to evolve with time. The combination of folded metal and solid oak guarantees a perennial aspect that can be passed down from generation to generation, an idea dear to Yên Khê who believes that the beauty of a piece of furniture is intensified with the passage of time and the traces that one leaves upon it.
How did you conceive the idea of creating a furniture collection and a brand bearing your own name?
I studied at the Ecole Camondo in Paris (School of Interior Architecture and Design) after having spent a year at the Louvre Art School and the Charpentier Academy. And as luck would have it, I made a very pleasant and massive detour via the cinema.
At the same time as I was studying at Camondo, I played important parts in Tran Anh Hung’s films “The Scent of the Green Papaya” (Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, César for Best First Film and a nomination for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Film category), “Cyclo” (Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival), “The Vertical Ray of the Sun” and “I Come With The Rain”. During those years, the cinema took pride of place over my vocation as a designer, despite the fact that in my rôle as an actress, I was always busy taking care of artistic direction in his films, right from the beginning.
Then “Norwegian Wood”, (based on Haruki Murakami's novel), shot in Japan, gave me the opportunity of creating the sets and costumes for the film.
It was an unforgettable experience for me to conceive eight film sets in the mythical TOHO studios in Tokyo. I had to rethink and draw the majority of the pieces of furniture I was unable to find in Japan.
Haruki Murakami loved the atmosphere thus created by my pieces and, at the end of the screening, told me that I should seriously think of going back to designing. That was in 2010.
I then remembered that there were several Vietnamese names familiar in the world of design like Quasar Khanh, Dinh Van, Toan Nguyên…and the idea of creating a Vietnamese brand that would bear my name, in memory of my grandfather who invented it, sowed a seed in my soul and I quickly made up my mind.
Then there was a lovely period of apprenticeship, extremely stimulating, a wonderful sense of renewal
in my life.
How did you manage to reconcile your influences between East and West, cinema and design?
Born in Vietnam and living in France since my earliest years, I am the product of much more than simply my dual culture because I was immersed in an environment where all the products of many cultures were available to me. There was not only Vietnam and France but, on a wider scale, the West and Asia and, in particular, Japan for its literature, its cinema and its architecture.
Italian, French and American painting as well as their music, architecture and design have also been a source of inspiration and an inexhaustible delight for me.
Acting in the cinema, drawing an object or creating the visual world of a film all come from the same process: the fact of being able to evaluate, appreciate and identify what is right and sensitive in order to achieve the creation of a particular sensation for people.
When I create an object, I tremble with excitement at the idea that people can choose it, appropriate it and integrate it into their lives to the point whereby it becomes a familiar object in their daily lives and participates in their life story. And if it is passed down from one generation to another then there can be nothing more wonderful.
If a principle is to be formulated, I should say that I try to attain beauty through simplicity and soundness, without omitting sophistication.
What are your sources of inspiration for the Gosoï Collection?
French design of the fifties is without a doubt my favourite period with Pierre Paulin, Pierre Guariche…and Jean Prouvé whom I particularly admire.
I love this French style where all is measured and precise, without exuberance.
From simplicity, beauty and elegance are born.
By using simple materials that are warm and durable, like the oak, I wanted to pay homage to Jean Prouvé by expressing the idea that the beauty of an object lies in its structure and its practicality.