Over the course of his career, French art director Fabien Baron has come to stand alone. He worked with Calvin Klein for 20 years, helping to define the brand’s identity, beginning with the now iconic and still controversial campaign featuring a young and then-unknown Kate Moss straddling Marky Mark. He art directed Madonna’s Sex book, and shaped the visual language of Balenciaga, Dior, Valentino, and others. Years at Vogue Italia under Franca Sozzani, Harper’s Bazaar with Liz Tilberis, Vogue Paris, and now, Interview, gave Baron a space to develop a vision outside of brand identity. Baron’s signature style—elegant typeface over vast expanses of white—has come to dominate the mainstream.
Baron’s continued influence and success puts him in a unique position, allowing him to understand the evolution of our industry—one that continues to blur the lines of art and commerce—better than most. We recently dialed up Baron to talk Maria Grazia Chiuri’s new Dior, the zeitgeist, and the meaning of luxury in the social media age.
Ashley W. Simpson: Tell us about working with Maria Grazia Chiuri and the new Dior.
Fabien Baron: Number one, I knew her from before, so I was really happy when she ended up at Dior. I really like her—she’s really sweet—and I really enjoy working with her. I think she has a very strong opinion about what she wants, but she leaves enough room for me to interpret a vision. It’s a very, very nice collaboration.
AWS: What was the concept for this latest Dior campaign with Jennifer Lawrence?
FB: She wanted Jennifer to be closer to who she is as a person. She wanted Jennifer to be personal. She wanted it more relaxed—easier—and she wanted a little bit less than what we had done before. Less formal, and more approachable and easygoing. And I have to say, I think we succeeded in doing that. I feel like when Maria Grazia does something, she has a broad stroke. She’s very approachable as a person. She’s very friendly. I think that shows in her work and it shows in what she’s trying to do at Dior.
AWS: If you look back over the years, are there any jobs that feel really special or that stand out?
FB: Well, my years at the magazines have always been something—I think they’re pure. Like, working with Franca Sozzani, working with Liz Tilberis was something I really enjoyed. But also, thinking about working with advertising—20 years with Calvin Klein was something I really enjoyed. I really get to know a company and to be part of a company and understand the DNA in a deep way. I get to understand where the company can go and not go and how to maneuver from that, especially with Calvin. I really like his energy. I like his approach to things. I like that directness and that non-bullshit and that go-for-it and that risk-taking and that sense of controversy.