Alongside Korean fashion supplements and art show identities, underwear catalogues, David Hockney monographs, hotel logos, and party posters, Parisian designer and art director Côme de Bouchony is also responsible for some slightly more left-field projects: a lo-fi, lyrical video about the intoxication of speed, a luminous radio app for world music station Secousse, and a superbly striking magazine called Figure—the only periodical to ever make me obsess over a pair of shoes.
“I’ve always tried to have very different clients and types of projects, so I always manage to get very different work,” says de Bouchony of his eclectic portfolio. “But when you want to work in a creative direction it’s a bit harder. You can really feel it in Paris; people still see me as just a designer.”
It’s hard to imagine someone with such a prolific and varied output being pigeon-holed, but de Bouchony says this is just one strange condition of Paris’ creative industries; a gap between commercial and cultural clients, and a resistance to allowing the two sides to meet.
To counteract this design conservatism, de Bouchony has become a man of many personal projects, the largest to date a collaboration with Vincent de Hoÿm, which showcased their collective editorial work. Figure “was ten portraits each issue, like a dinner party, and we really thought there was a place for this simple kind of magazine. People really enjoyed the first one, but we didn’t have enough time or money to make a second.
“We had some problems with the name of the magazine; a photographer’s agent in Paris wanted to attack us for using it. There were a lot of small problems, so years have passed and we still haven’t done the next issue. But we talk about it a lot every time we see each other, because when you don’t have a client you can create a magazine or an object that you really want to see in the world.”
Figure has quite naturally led to other editorial work, and de Bouchony is currently working on a new magazine of “erotisme and sex,” the details of which he’s not yet at liberty to share. He’s also worked on less secretive and seductive titles as a result of this personal project, like the superbly understated 10th anniversary issue of Korean men’s title Heren, and their brave black-and-white fashion supplement.
It’s rare to see a fashion title stray too far from the glossy status quo, but de Bouchony persuaded Heren to embrace a tasteful monochrome. “They were a bit scared at the beginning when we showed them the ideas and mockups,” he says, “but we wanted all black and white. They said they’d maybe have to use some colors for the ads, but finally, when we received the first issue of the supplement, it was all black and white. We were really happy, but I don’t know if they had a hard time with the advertisers.”
Right now de Bouchony is frantically trying to wrap up unfinished projects before disappearing to Marseille for his summer holiday, but on his return he’s got a game plan to grow his small studio. “I’m only one man,” he says, “and I manage every aspect of the studio, from the creative work to the day-to-day operations to client relationships. I like it, but you can’t do everything on your own, and sometimes you don’t have the opportunity to do everything well.
“I need more people around me to make things easier and better and to focus on the creative parts. I’d love to find a mix between a studio manager and a PR person who could build more relationships outside of the studio. It’s a new challenge for next year.” That and a new issue of Figure. Phew!