Artist and set designer
Hilton McConnico ( 1943 – 2018) was American furniture and interior designer. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee. He worked professionally in Paris. He began painting at a young age and had his first exhibition at the age of fourteen. He worked in the fashion industry, designing debutante gowns and wedding gowns. He launched his own clothing business in Memphis when he was 18 years old.
He travelled to New York and showed his work to Grace Mirabella of Vogue magazine, who suggested he spend a year in Paris. In 1965, he relocated to Paris. He was madly in love with Paris, although he had only visited once and didn’t know the language. He fled with all of his possessions and what he thought was enough money to last two years. He had spent it all after six months. He worked as a tourist portrait painter at Sacre-Coeur and stayed in a maid’s room.
He worked as an assistant to Ted Lapidus, designing a couture dress collection. He created the first ready-to-wear menswear collection for Yves Saint-Laurent. He was a fur designer for Neiman Marcus. McConnico designed his first film set for friend and filmmaker Bob Swaim in 1974, and since then has worked on 22 films set designs and over 30 television advertisements in France.
He designed the sets for Jean-Jacques Beineix’s films Diva (1981) and La Lune dans le caniveau (1983), for which he received a César French film award. Other film sets for Francois Truffaut and Claude Chabrol were created. He began working in the decorative arts in 1985, designing pate-de-Verre glassware with a cactus motif for Daum in the late 1980s. From the late 1980s, he developed rugs for Toulemonde Bochart, china and a silk foulard for Hermés for the 1989 French Revolution bicentennial, and carpets and fabrics for Galeries Lafayette under McConnico’s label. He designed a horse racing museum in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris, in 1989 and a museum of costume history in Chateau Chinon. In 1989, he developed a limited-edition cactus-motif rug for Art Surface. He rebuilt the Paris métro station Chaussée-d’Antin with collaborator Gilles Le Gall.
In the early 1980s, McConnico became involved in the field of interior design. The “Nevada” bowl, a dramatic circle of crystal set on a cactus-shaped pate de Verre base, was part of his first collection for Daum, which debuted in 1987. He also made cactus interpretations for Daum and Crystal, as well as pate de Verre stemware. “Rock,” “Sun,” “Wind,” “Sand,” “Rain,” and “Dust,” he named the glasses.
Later, he worked with Hermès on the brand’s museum in Tokyo, housed in a Renzo Piano-designed Ginza building. In 2005, he received the Sommet du Luxe et de la Création’s Talent de l’Audace award in appreciation of his exceptional career.
Despite working and socialising with people like former French President François Mitterand and filmmaker Francois Truffaut, McConnico “never lost his whimsy or Southern sense of humour.” The emblem for his fashion and design line, which included a stylised “HMc” surrounded by the legend: “Memphis-Tennessee
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