Pierre-Axel (alias PAx) and Roman are the two co-founders of Quark. In this crossover interview, they open the doors of their company to us, which has its first year in May 2021. Between creative processes, inspirations and revelations, set foot in a Made in France company.
Can you introduce yourself in a few words?
Roman - My name is Roman, I am 32 years old, I am an engineer by training and I like to create, draw and dream.
PAx - Pierre-Axel, I'm an entrepreneur. What I love is seeing projects come to life and succeeding in bringing them to fruition. Quark is a project close to my heart. It is in line with my values: local production, product design, mastery of the production tool and e-commerce.
Roman - It's PAx who comes to put some concreteness in all this!
How did you meet and how did the idea for Quark come about?
Novel - We met at the Foire de Paris in 2019.
Our paths then crossed a second time at 104 Factory. It is an incubator for the city of Paris within the Centquatre. We were incubated there at the same time, but for our previous companies. Then, we found ourselves in the industrial hotel Métropole 19. This place aims to re-industrialize the city through crafts and new industries.
So we each had a company with very different projects. I was working on Nitsn and Pierre-Axel on his concrete enclosures. We had our stands face-to-face at the Paris fair, our offices face-to-face in the incubator and our workshops almost face-to-face in Métropole 19. At some point you tell yourself that fate is trying to tell you something!
PAx - Then the first lockdown happened. That's when we wanted to join forces to create a common project.
For those who don't know what an incubator is, can you tell us more?
PAx - An incubator is a place that supports people who want to start a business. It is a place that brings together human resources to transform an idea and accompany it towards the launch of a business.
Where does the name Quark come from? Does it have a special meaning?
Roman - The quark is an elementary particle that constitutes matter. Molecules are made of atoms, themselves made of protons, neutrons and electrons. These particles are composed of even smaller particles: quarks. What are quarks made of? That's what we're going to see in this interview!
Seriously, we don't know exactly what quarks are made of. There is a theory that they are made up of vibrating strings (string theory). Other theories say they are made up of bundles of energy. In any case, we have energy for it! What you need to know is that the quark is the main building block of matter. The name of our company comes from this idea. We like the idea of building and deploying a world from a fundamental building block.
What are Quark's values?
PAx - Our fundamentals are found in the human adventure that we go through every day. Roman and I are both driven by the idea of creating a local industry, but that requires developing a profitable business despite the constraints of the city. A place like Métropole 19 gives us several inspiring examples of teams that succeed every day in bringing their ideas to life. I am thinking in particular of K-Ryol and Fab-BRICK
Roman - It is important for us that this production tool is in our hands! We like to work the material. We observe and understand how things happen. We have to tell the truth: we love to tweak! So we like having the toy in our hands. When the toy is in someone else's hands, it's less fun.
PAx - We want to create a unique relationship between our customers and our products. We master all the stages of the value chain even if there is still a lot of work to simplify each of the stages and scale up. Then we work on product design, then on manufacturing processes and tools. We are developing our distribution channels and favoring direct relations with our customers.
Next, we try to make our products accessible to as many people as possible. This has a strong impact on us. If you make inaccessible objects, the reality of local manufacturing loses its meaning.
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What fascinates you about manufacturing?
PAx - Roman came to my studio saying “we are going to create the Lego brick of design”. I immediately thought the idea was brilliant! Like many children, the world of Lego has accompanied me for a long time.
Imagine for a moment: A standard object (like a Lego brick) allowing you to design the household objects necessary for everyday life. If this materializes, you radically change the way you take ownership of your space.
The Lego brick allows access to all dream worlds because Legos provide a space for your imagination to project. Our quest at Quark is to create a standard object capable of being the basis of all everyday furniture. Everyone would then be able to revisit their relationship to interior design.
Novel - We want to create the Minecraft of furniture. There is this ambitious but not unrealistic idea of changing the world a little. Today, design and decoration are essentially about consuming. You will create when you choose what you consume. Once your pieces are there, either you decide to throw them away every 6 months, and start over, or the inspiration and creation processes are over.
With this standard item of furniture, people could continuously create and adapt to the changing world. This idea of offering something that inspires our customers to create something else, it's a virtuous circle. We create something that makes us happy. Then, customers will also be able to create and have fun.
When you get to the point where you're not just selling a functional product, but a product used to create, then you start selling a tool.
What is your creative process at Quark? How do you two work?
Roman - We are driven by our inspirations, we allow ourselves a lot of freedom. For my part I will see something that will inspire me and when I get to the workshop I will take 30 minutes to test a prototype. It can be dinosaurs, flower pots or recycling materials. We don't put up any barriers when it comes to experimentation. There is obviously a guideline before a product comes into the catalog.
PAx - I'm much less into the process of creating items. I rely completely on Roman to develop this facet of Quark. We are barely a year old (at the time of the interview), and our product catalog is already very large. I push Roman to find compromises to create products that are economically accessible to as many people as possible. We want to provide the best possible quality in our range. This ambition requires a lot of rigor from us. Which requires a lot of energy and focus with the whole team to stay the course and maintain that high standard.
Last point on our creative process: the relationship with our customers. We escalate all customer feedback and discuss it with Roman. Our foundation is to provide products that meet customer needs. If an object doesn't find its use around any customer, then it doesn't make sense. Roman is also very sensitive about this. Which is pretty good😄.
Roman - It's true that I tend to explore certain products that I like on a theoretical level. But sometimes they are useless. Pierre-Axel quickly points this out to me. And he's right. There is what we like and there is the reality of an object: it must be functional.
PAx - Then there is an economic reality. A company must create value to cover its costs and finance its development. If we want to realize Quark's dream in design, then we have to accept this rigor that we were talking about earlier. And maybe we'll be lucky enough to see this elemental item born.
Interview by Clara Didier
Format by Coralie Mottu