Out of the mountains and into the sea

Christophe Chedal Anglay is firmly anchored to the mountains.
Yet when donning his crampons at sea, the designer unveils in passing the hidden side of technical objects.

By Pascale Godin

Christophe Chedal-Anglay grew up surrounded by the high summits of the French Alps. The young boy from Courchevel spent the better part of childhood in his father's carpentry workshop, tinkering with tools and making his own furniture. While he entered college as a biology major, the "craftsman" bug bested him, to such an extent that he stopped his studies altogether. He simply wanted to build things. This self-taught talent started mixing modern materials with traditional styles, and a few shops began purchase his work on a regular basis. However, only when a professor introduced design to him as an academic discipline, did he discover a whole new world.


Christophe entered the prestigious ENSCI industrial design school in Paris, alongside such talents as Matali Crasset, Patrick Jouin, and Claudio Colucci, the brainy founders of Radi-Designers; invaluable classmates, inspiring competition. The student began to develop a passion for complex objects and his thesis project fits him like a glove. The ski patrol rescue sled Christophe designed slides right through Petzl's front door. The world leader in mountain climbing equipment immediately sees great value in Christophe's work. Not for the object itself, but for the harmonious blend of durability and aesthetics, "Climbers invest a lot in their sport, they risk their lives, and they count on their gear," explains the designer, "The trust and emotional attachment they have with their gear fascinated me. This is why you need to always look for the human element behind the object you're making, it is important to understand this relationship with the gear in question." In addition to Petzl, Christophe also worked for SEB. He liked the functional yet simple objects, amused at the idea that a small piece of him could be found in tens of thousands of kitchens. He approached the electric kettle in the same manner as a carabiner. Could you repeat that please? Is there really an emotional component to an electric kettle? Christophe Chedal-Anglay dismisses the sarcasm, "It is an integral part of drinking tea, a social ritual thousands of years old! You need to find the right shape to conjure up the content, to add a functional handle and top to the flow of the spout and to the pleasure of pouring. And all that for only 15 euros! No one ever sees this analytical approach!"


In the early 2000s, Christophe returned to the fundamentals, to adventure and exploring the world. The boy from the mountains needed to expand his horizons. He remembers the feeling the first time he ever sailed a dinghy, "My school sent us to take sailing lessons in Brittany. I just loved it. I had always wondered what drew Bretons to the sea, and I realized right then and there that it was the same thing pushing those of us in the mountains to climb the highest peaks. In the end, it's the journey. Take Compostela, for example; it is not the final destination that matters, but the journey to get there. I wanted to provide my expertise to seafaring enthusiasts." Christophe started to attend boat shows, meeting with sailing equipment professionals. Spinlock, the market leader, expressed interest in his work. For the brand, the designer transformed harnesses and lifejackets from ugly accessories into dependable and aesthetic technical pieces of necessary gear. For this small revolution he won a prize for the best joint effort between a French and an English company. Christophe Chedal-Anglay now had his sea legs planted firmly on the bridge of his career.


With his focus now turned to boats, Christophe has taken to the waves with Nigel Irens, currently one of the world's two greatest yacht designers. "A yacht designer focuses on the boat performing well, and worries much less about the aesthetics. Nigel worked great with classical style boats, but had a hard time visualizing the contemporary. A private client ordered a custom boat and he asked me to draw sketches in parallel to his own." The mountain climber and the skipper joined forces for the perfect glide, the elegance of movement, and safety. When Nigel saw Christophe's sketches, he immediately picked up the phone; partnership confirmed. Today, the Englishman handles the technical elements, and the Frenchman life on board. "Users of this type of boat are accustomed to spacious accommodations. These are boats that cost more than 2 million euros; one that I designed last year cost 18 million! They need to be able to live comfortably in relatively tight quarters." Christophe lays out the living spaces, beds, kitchen, and bathrooms, based on the technical constraints. And on a boat there are several, "These are floating houses. You need to combine daily living with piloting a machine sculpted by the elements, to create genuine harmony between objects that don't usually go well together. The complexity is extraordinary! I also design the furniture, a way to return to my first love." Even if he still works as an industrial designer, the mountain climber has now officially traded altitude for latitudes. A career path far from your everyday cruise …

"You need to combine daily living with piloting a machine sculpted by the elements, to create genuine harmony between objects that don't usually go well together.. The complexity is extraordinary!"