The chief creative officer and studio head at Aston Martin reveals the people and projects that left a lasting impression

My father was a blacksmith, so I grew up with all that craft and design – and I wanted to learn how you make stuff. David Mellor’s studio wasn’t far away, and seeing him work inspired me in many respects. Perhaps it’s a strange thing for a 10-year-old to spend his Saturdays watching cutlery being made, but I was fascinated – and knives can be very beautiful.

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I’ve always admired Norman Foster; his work is outstanding. Working with him [on a London transport project] brought home why he was inspirational – the thoroughness, the quest for new materials. Think of the Gherkin and how it changed the landscape of London; that taught me that you can make a difference with something. At my first job I met a guy called Harm Lagaay, I still get nervous talking to him about my projects. He always wants to know what I’m trying to achieve. And I have to have an answer. I first met him in California in 1995 at BMW Designworks. The previous year he had designed a Porsche Boxster showcar that’s still one of the most beautiful cars ever created. Harm taught me about proportion, surface language, continuity. I remember him saying, ‘Design is a language – you have to break it down and explain.’

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Another influence for me is Japan. I love the sheer brilliance of Issey Miyake and the way he turned fashion on its head by folding fabric in an innovative, architectural way.