NI­CO­LAS OUCHENIR

The power of the foun­tain pen.

Neue Luxury - - Front Page - By Stephen Crafti

Amongst the bar­rage of com­mu­ni­ca­tions we are likely to re­ceive daily, there lies a mo­ment of still­ness and re­flec­tion in the form of a hand­writ­ten let­ter by Ni­co­las Ouchenir. It is Ouchenir’s hand­made and care­fully crafted cal­lig­ra­phy that has en­am­oured de­sign­ers, ar­chi­tects, and cre­ative icon­o­clasts around the world. From his ate­lier in the Rue Saint Honoré, Ouchenir ap­plies his mas­ter­ful strokes to some of the most im­por­tant and con­sid­ered com­mu­ni­ca­tions in the world. “My work is about love. It has to be when you’re writ­ing some­thing by hand to some­one spe­cial,” says Ouchenir.

The grav­i­tas of the hand­writ­ten first moved Ouchenir through the sto­ry­books read to him as a child. “I still re­mem­ber the script be­ing as glam­orous as the sto­ries be­ing read to me.” Ouchenir’s ca­reer path how­ever, like many oth­ers in the cre­ative fields, was one of chance. He be­gan work­ing at JMG Gal­leries in Paris where he no­ticed the sig­na­tures of artists such as Andy Warhol and Sal­vador Dali. “I love Dali’s sig­na­ture. It’s com­pletely free” says Ouchenir, who started to adopt this spon­ta­neous and flow­ing free style for ex­hi­bi­tion in­vi­ta­tions for the gallery. Ouchenir’s script is far from a de­riv­a­tive of Ro­man or Gothic script or even the Art Nou­veau style that he greatly ad­mires. While there is a sense of the past in his oeu­vre there is also a sense of the present, with the voices of both Ouchenir and his clients danc­ing across each page. “I’m telling my life story when I pick up the pen, even though it’s guided by my client and how they wish to be pre­sented,” he ex­plains.

Well know pub­li­cist and gallery pa­tron, Pia de Brantes, had no­ticed Ouchenirs tal­ents and asked to meet with him, urg­ing him to ex­plore his tal­ents. “It’s not just think­ing about peo­ple open­ing up their wal­lets to buy a paint­ing. You need to con­sider the whole ex­pe­ri­ence from the time a guest re­ceives the ini­tial in­vi­ta­tion. With the hand­writ­ten, it be­comes much more per­sonal and en­gag­ing.” That first meet­ing with de Brantes, ini­ti­ated a long last­ing re­la­tion­ship that would even­tu­ally lead to Ouchenir es­tab­lish­ing his own prac­tice. “Pia showed me the im­por­tance of un­der­stand­ing peo­ple, as well as the im­por­tance of build­ing re­la­tion­ships and es­tab­lish­ing net­works, whether it’s within the fash­ion in­dus­try or the pub­lish­ing world,” says Ouchenir. De­vel­op­ing strong net­works and pre­serv­ing a strong sup­port base has al­ways been in­te­gral to Ouchenir’s suc­cess. “It’s the part­ners and friends that sur­round you that give you that con­fi­dence to take on greater chal­lenges.”

Ouchenir nat­u­rally grav­i­tates to­wards com­mis­sions that pro­vide both an av­enue for cre­ativ­ity and col­lab­o­ra­tive sat­is­fac­tion. “If I’m ex­cited about a project, I’m ex­tremely elated and the ink flows, whether it takes two min­utes or two days.” Al­though there’s a won­der­ful flu­id­ity to Ouchenir’s pens strokes, he also makes a point to ex­plain that each work is “strong like con­crete and there is a sense of per­ma­nence to what is cre­ated”.

Ouchenir de­scribes him­self as an artist and not a tech­ni­cian and that his work is anal­o­gous in many ways to ‘haute cou­ture’ rather than ‘ready-to-wear’. These dis­tinc­tions clearly de­fine the realms of his col­lab­o­ra­tions with the world’s most il­lus­tri­ous fash­ion fig­ures in­clud­ing Azze­dine Alaïa, Nina Rucci and fash­ion houses such as Louis Vuit­ton, Hermès and Chris­tian Dior. “With my fash­ion work, it’s about cre­at­ing a rhythm to a line that cap­tures a de­signer’s col­lec­tion, defin­ing a visual ver­nac­u­lar be­fore the clothes are un­veiled to the world.” When Ouchenir first col­lab­o­rated with Vi­vian West­wood, the ini­tial con­ver­sa­tion in­volved find­ing a hand­writ­ing style to­gether − an in­ti­mate brief be­tween two cre­atives that can cap­ture or com­mu­ni­cate a de­sign­ers mo­tives.

For each com­mis­sion, Ouchenir pro­vides at least three op­tions for his clients. “There are times, when you want to push one idea fur­ther than an­other, but some­times it’s just not pos­si­ble” he re­flects. “One of the big­gest chal­lenges is mak­ing sure I’m happy with the re­sult. It has to please me well be­fore I re­ceive feed­back from a client.” How­ever, the great­est com­pli­ment that Ouchenir re­ceives comes in the form of let­ters from those in­spired by his work and want­ing to be cal­lig­ra­phers.

Ouchenir’s hand­crafted work cre­ates a rich and vis­ceral world, cap­tur­ing the reader’s at­ten­tion while cre­at­ing a sen­si­tive and emo­tional con­nec­tion. This de­vo­tion and ap­proach has en­chanted the imag­i­na­tions of au­di­ences all over the world, most no­tably dur­ing Fash­ion Weeks, as fleet­ing and ubiq­ui­tous in­vi­ta­tions flood the in­boxes of the fash­ion elite. This is when Ouchenir’s work stands dis­tinct, el­e­gant and quiet. A hu­man ex­change wor­thy of at­ten­tion. “There al­ways has to be an aura of ex­cite­ment, of de­sire, as well as ex­clu­siv­ity” he ex­plains.

Whilst Ouchenir’s skills are pre­dom­i­nantly utilised for ink to pa­per medi­ums, other fields have also cap­tured his in­ter­est. Ouchenir was com­mis­sioned to reimag­ine the iconic Ho­tel Ritz logo and “make the mark clearer and more stylish for to­day’s mar­ket”. He com­pares that project to the birth of a child, with the awe and sur­prise that comes af­ter such a long pe­riod of ges­ta­tion. Other re­cent com­mis­sions have in­cluded the pro­duc­tion of ‘hand­writ­ten cur­tains’ cov­ered in script, where Ouchenir in­stalled trans­par­ent fab­ric in a Ne­vada based home, al­low­ing his sig­na­ture to ap­pear writ­ten on the val­ley when look­ing out of the win­dows. “I worked out there were three kilo­me­tres of let­ters in those cur­tains” says Ouchenir. The work was placed through­out the house al­low­ing the sen­tences to float po­et­i­cally through­out the space.

In an age of in­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion, per­haps it’s our un­der­ly­ing de­sire for the en­dur­ing, the per­sonal and the per­ma­nent that draws us to­wards Ouchenir’s work. Like many other prod­ucts and ser­vices in this com­modi­tised world, we con­tinue to de­sire a link to the ar­ti­sans that have crafted or de­signed arte­facts as a means of de­riv­ing value from (while im­bu­ing mean­ing into) the things we con­sume.

By main­tain­ing a lin­eage be­tween the arte­fact and the ar­ti­san, arte­facts seek to tran­scend their ma­te­rial con­fines, par­tic­u­larly if they are to be con­sid­ered lux­u­ri­ous. Per­haps it is through this di­rect and per­sonal link to Ouchenir, we con­tinue to quite lit­er­ally con­nect with him along with the hopes and dreams that he has come to rep­re­sent.

Photo: Mat­teo Mon­ta­nari.

Photo: Bruno Werzin­ski.

Photo: Bruno Werzin­ski. Photo: Bruno Werzin­ski.

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