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The Bugatti DNA

By Sandra Franrenet, photos: Theodor Barth, Parmigiani

Étienne Salomé – Bugatti designer by day, artist by night – is the mind behind the unique lines of the Bugatti Type 390.


How did you come to work in automotive design?
I loved sketching live models as a teenager, and that hobby helped me master proportions. I think that’s the key, including in my job. I dreamed of being an artist, but I didn’t want a career in commercial art. So I turned to design. After earning a BTS (vocational training certificate) in Industrial Design in Paris, I got a Master’s in Transport Design at London’s Royal College of Art in 2005. I’ve worked at Renault, Mazda and Kia, and joined Bugatti in 2007. I oversee interior design and the design of licensed products.


© Etienne Salomé

Which design are you proudest of?
The Bugatti Chiron, presented at the Geneva Motor Show in 2016. I designed the entire interior and the accessories, too – from steering wheel to seat to speedometer –, which is why this model is so homogeneous. I wanted to do something contemporary with classic materials, which I see as synonymous with luxury. It’s a complex challenge that requires making choices that are independent of fashion and trends.


© Parmigiani

Cars, furniture, a yacht, a bike – how do you go from the infinitely large to the infinitely small?
The Bugatti DNA is so strong that it can be adapted to any concept, whatever the scale! The secret lies in keeping the communication channels open between teams.
Have you set aside your personal projects?
Not at all. I work at Bugatti by day and I devote my nights to my own projects! My work as a designer helps inform my artistic approach and vice versa. One of my last paintings, Chronospeedometer Bugatti, is a compression of 35 of the carmaker’s iconic speedometers in a single image. It will be exhibited, along with other works, in the artists’ gallery during the Rétromobile exhibition in Paris from 7 to 11 February 2018.