Ill-Studio is not your average art direction studio. In fact, they are quite unique. Based in Paris and connected through skateboarding back in the day, those young creative minds first worked together on an awesome French skate magazine called ‘Chill’ in 2004. When it stopped, they decided to found Ill-Studio, something they were thinking about for quite some time. With no big plans at the beginning, all they wanted to do was to create a structure that would allow them to work on many different projects through various mediums and to keep working together. Things have evolved in a very good way for them and nowadays they are involved in design, music videos, fashion, publishing and way more artistic projects, working with major labels like Louis Vuitton, Lacoste Live, and Nike but also continuing to work on their own project (like the fantastic Neapolis book) or for friends (Marble, Sound Pellegrino, Ruby, Christophe Lemaire…), always with their very special style and talent. 2013 will be a new step in their steady upward rise so it’s time to know more about the cool guys behind III-Studio...
You described yourselves as a “multidisciplinary platform” with a core team and close collaborators, could you tell us more about the team and the way you work together?
Ill-Studio has been founded and is headed by ourselves (Thomas Subreville and Leonard Vernhet). It also involves Nicolas Malinowsky, Thierry Audurand, Pierre Dixsaut and Sebastien Michelini who all joined us over the years. The way we work really depends on projects. We never work on the same project all together but we always share and discuss each other’s ideas. We envision Ill-Studio as a single entity and not as a collective of different people so it is very important to us to always have this “filter” in mind that makes a project fit next to all the other works that we’ve done since day one. None of us has a very specific role and our creative process can be very different from a project to another. We give a lot of importance to the form and the content of any of them. Sometimes the form naturally comes from the content and sometimes we do it the other way around. Wether you work for a self-initiated project or for a big company, you get new constraints to deal with which makes every project a different challenge.
As you said, skateboarding is a common point to every members of III-Studio. How has it, and still continue, to influence your work nowadays?
Skateboarding has been a big part of life from our childhood to a somewhat prolonged adolescence and even if our work is not inspired by or linked to the skateboard world anymore, we realized a few years ago that the practice of skateboarding has influenced our perception of things much more than we thought. We recently published a book called Neapolis about this subject. It was a way for us to step back as we contemplate the wide-ranging and seemingly disjointed manner in which the practice
of skateboarding has informed our world views.
The book is about fashion, contemporary art, choreography, anthropology, architecture and many other topics that are not directly linked to skateboarding. It represents the way we are influenced by skateboarding today. To be honest with you, we are not really into the so-called “skateboard culture” and everything that goes with it. So we decided to make this book to give our own vision of the imprint left by skateboarding in our today’s lives.
Apart from this amazing Neapolis book, in your recent works you signed very noticeable videos like “When The Night” from Para One (Marble), or “Quincy” from Matthias Zimmerman (Sound Pellegrino), is it something you enjoy to do and are you gonna push this kind of projects?
Directing videos is a natural extension to our work. It is one of the only field where a hundred people are dedicated to make your own idea happen which is quite enjoyable. We’ve been doing videos with Para One, Tame Impala, Louis Vuitton or Christophe Lemaire so far and each of them have been a very different experience. Let’s say that directing videos is probably the most recent activity of Ill-Studio and it is a field that we definitely want to keep exploring. It is a great way for us to give a “moving” dimension to our aesthetic.
In another field, fashion, a very nice collaboration in 2012 came between III-Studio and Lacoste Live. How is it working which such important brands?
Well, this collection is a two-way collaboration between Lacoste and Ill-Studio which means that we had to adapt our aesthetic and inspirations to Lacoste’s recurrent themes and visual patrimony. As art directors, it is always interesting to analyze the visual themes of a brand such as Lacoste and interpret them in our own way. Wether we collaborate with Lacoste, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Tigersushi, Les Ateliers Ruby or colette, we always like to analyze and twist the DNA of the “brand” our own way instead of just coming up with something only personal that we would put next to a name.
Let’s not forget the last collection with Christophe Lemaire (Novö), someone you already know and appreciate since some times. Love for music, design, good style and quality with a unique vision of things seem a common denominator right?
We first met with Christophe something like four years ago when he asked us to design a small t-shirt collection. It was a collection in collaboration with the German Krautrock band Can and we realized back then that we used a lot of the same cultural references (music, fashion, design...) in our respective jobs. So when he got asked to design capsule collections for Bean Pole, he naturally called us to design pieces and take care of the art direction of the project with him. We did two collections together and the project is called Novö. It takes its name from French rock critic Yves Adrien’s 1978 manifesto Novövision, which predicts the revolution of machines in music. This project was very enjoyable for Christophe as much as for us as we all allowed ourselves to experiment things and be totally free without many other considerations than music and design which is quite rare in both of our jobs!
Louis Vuitton, Nike, Colette, Ruby or Supreme are amongst other people you collaborated with… It’s quite unique to have such a different panel of clients. How do you organize yourselves to deal with all these projects?
We are lucky enough to be able to work within quite different and interesting creative fields and through various mediums such as publishing, films, fashion, exhibitions… but whether we direct a video, design a magazine, or curate an exhibition, we always do it with the same vision. It is only the form and the technique that changes from one discipline to another. So it is all linked by the same undercurrent aesthetic. If we had to pick up one job, we would choose “art directors” which is probably the term that defines what we do best. We like to adapt our aesthetic and vision of things to many different projects and products. That is what makes our job exciting!
As creative minds, you also participate to art shows around the world : “72 Dots Per Inch” in London, “The Big Idea” in Los Angeles, “The Art of Music” in Stockholm, “LWL70” at Colette, “Public Domaine” at La Gaité Lyrique in Paris… something complementary to your other activities but also essential for your well-being?
Again, we consider ourselves as art directors and not artists but we also like doing exhibitions we get asked to. Aside from the money parameter, it is really important for us to be able to work on both commissioned and personal projects such as exhibitions as they are bothvery challenging sides of our job for many reasons. The only difference is that you usually have a deadline and a given budget when you work with a company. But whether you work for an exhibition or for a big brand, you get new constraints to deal with all the time which makes every project a new experience. We are really attached to this balance and even if we were millionaires, we would probably carry on collaborating with brands and not try to only produce our own “art” only.
III-Studio choose to have an agent to represent itself, Monsieur L’Agent in Paris. Could you explain this please?
We’ve been friends with Alexis and Romuald from Monsieur L’Agent since quite a long time and we created Ill-Studio almost at the same time they started their agency so it was natural for us all to work together. It is a very complementary ongoing collaboration and we learn a lot from each other. Having an agent is very important for many reasons but on top of the all, it really helps you focusing on your job only and not necessarily having to pay attention to things you should not have to deal with such as negotiating budgets or discussing contracts. Also, we’ve never been looking for job opportunities ourselves as we are pretty bad at communicating so it is great to have them helping us with this side of things!
You’re in quite a competitive professional environment, some people are talking about the “crisis”, and most of time small studios or independents are affected first. How do you deal with this?
This might sound arrogant to you but the “crisis” didn’t really affect us. Probably because we are one of the last links of a long chain and a lot of projects get cancelled before we even get the chance to hear about them.
Ill-Studio is an art direction studio and not a big advertising or communication company and we really want to keep it like this so even if we earn less one year than another we will still survive. As long as we have a roof, a computer, and an internet connection - we will be fine!
If you had a top 10 of artists or personalities that are very important for your inspiration, what would it be?
In random order: Erik Satie, Giorgio de Chirico, Bart Simpson, Andrea Branzi, Booba, Paul Outerbridge, Bob Guccione, Paul Virilio, Yves Saint Laurent and all the amateurism in the internet world.
What are you working on right now and what do you plan for 2013?
We have a lot of things on our plate right now. It is always hard to list projects that didn’t come out yet but let’s say that our main goal in 2013 is to keep working on many different projects. Direct more videos, design clothes, publish books, work on exhibitions… again, we are lucky enough to be able to do it all and we really want to keep this privilege as long as possible!
Last question: any dream collaboration or project you have in mind?
There is a long list of things that we have in mind such as designing furniture, creating a set for a big fashion show, relaunching a magazine, designing patterns for a building’s frontage, etc., etc. There are so many things that we want to experiment with. That is what is good about not having a specific job… everything is possible!
words: Guillaume Le Goff