Introducing “Un Petit Café Avec…”, a new column in which Paris’ Tina Isaac-Goizé converses with the French fashion set’s most fascinating characters.
The fashion world has a favorite calligrapher, and his name is Nicolas Ouchenir. FU recently sat down with the 38-year-old who, in addition to lending his writing skills to everyone from Miu Miu to Dior, is also a burgeoning artist and man about town, to discuss his latest projects (not counting the approximately 10,000 invitations for men’s fashion week and the forthcoming couture shows). These include Christmas windows for Les Marquis de Ladurée, a project for a Richard Mille shop in Geneva, and putting the finishing touch on L’Institut Darphin, the Paris beauty institute belonging to the Estée Lauder-owned botanical brand. Typically for Ouchenir, who, it’s worth noting, just won a Webby, what began as a conversation about beauty now quickly spun into opinionated meanderings on the state of fashion as it is and (more often) where it should be. Read his musings and recollections, from working with Saint Laurent and Margiela to why print’s not dead, below.
Tina Isaac-Goizé: First, beauty: You’ve worked with almost all the beauty majors. What about a niche botanical brand won you over?
Nicolas Ouchenir: Darphin was on my radar because they did a collaboration I loved with Antoinette Poisson, a niche artisan brand that revived 18th-century wallpaper-making techniques and used them in a really modern way. Also, Darphin is very Parisian and so am I. The Darphin client knows who she is, what she wants, and where to get it. She makes things happen. There was a story to tell there because writing—and by extension calligraphy—is a part of the French art de vivre. So what I did was create scenes of Paris the way a Parisienne might see things, incorporating words. They also asked me to do an herbier, drawings of plants for each treatment room door, and I’d never done that before. So the drawings reprise some of the star ingredients in Darphin products, but Darphin was cool enough to let me render the essence of the plant without having to get literal or obsess over perfection. I created the Darphin Rose, which is real and not idealized. The attitude is pure and modern. And anyway, to me, beauty without imperfections is completely uninteresting— that’s why I made splatters part of my signature.