Pros­per and Mar­tine As­souline are on a mis­sion to pub­lish the most stylish books in the world. And now they they have a chic, new Dubai home

Architectural Digest (UAE) - - Contents - — TALIB CHOUDHRY

Parisian pub­lish­ers Pros­per and Mar­tine As­souline un­veil their Dubai bou­tique

It has been 24 years since Pros­per and Mar­tine As­souline pub­lished their first book, La Colombe d’Or, on the his­tory of their fa­vorite ho­tel in the South of France, with pho­to­graphs by Pros­per and text by Mar­tine. What started as an in­tu­itive cot­tage in­dus­try in the base­ment of their Paris apart­ment has turned into a global em­pire that’s about so much more than the cof­fee ta­ble tomes they pro­duce. A flurry of books on de­sign greats such as Dior, Chanel and Alaïa saw sales hit half a mil­lion in just three years. They now have a 1,500-strong back cat­a­logue and out­posts in lo­ca­tions across the globe, in­clud­ing New York (where they now live), Venice, Is­tan­bul, Lon­don and, now, Dubai.

The new Dubai Mall store, a huge cor­ner site with soar­ing 7m-high ceil­ings, is set be the most spec­tac­u­lar one yet, with co­coon­ing spa­ces as well a ver­dant ter­race over­look­ing the Burj Khal­ifa. “You will be to be sur­rounded by cul­ture, by beauty, and the food and drink will be like noth­ing else in the mall,” says Pros­per ex­cit­edly, “There will be gifts from $50–$50,000. It’s a jour­ney of dis­cov­ery.”

As­souline’s con­tin­ued suc­cess has been down to cre­at­ing glam­ourous, evoca­tive books that trans­port the reader to an­other, more rar­i­fied place. “I am ob­sessed by try­ing to bring knowl­edge and cul­ture to peo­ple in a dream­like way,” ex­plains Mar­tine, the stack of Cartier and Tif­fany bracelets she wears clink­ing as she ges­tic­u­lates to em­pha­sise the point. “The books are very evoca­tive. There isn’t re­ally a for­mula. It’s more about a feel­ing. We do all of the books like a movie, we feel the mu­sic.”

The sub­jects are di­verse – ar­chi­tec­ture, fash­ion, gas­tron­omy, pho­tog­ra­phy and travel have all fea­tured in the As­souline arse­nal – but the fo­cus is usu­ally nar­row and some­times es­o­teric. The idea is to make niche top­ics ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic.

“The kind of sub­jects that we choose al­ways come nat­u­rally,” says Mar­tine, “It’s be­cause we dis­cover some­thing – it’s sin­cere so it works. It’s about what we like to do and what we want to share with peo­ple. We take a sub­ject and try to talk about a very small cor­ner of it – we are never gen­er­al­ists.”

The books span the gamut from mass runs of glossy hard­backs to pre­cious mas­ter­pieces with leather bind­ing, hand-tipped pic­tures, silk cov­ers, and gem­stone em­bel­lish­ments. Some of their lim­ited edi­tion books have been re-sold for $10,000. “Each time I see that, I’m tempted to sell mine,” Mar­tine jests. “It’s al­ways a com­pli­ment.”

As well as cu­rat­ing read­ing li­braries on par­tic­u­lar top­ics us­ing books from its back cat­a­logue and vin­tage ti­tles per­son­ally se­lected by the As­soulines, the com­pany launched fully fur­nished en­vi­ron­ments in which to house them in 2015. Luxe shelv­ing units, so­fas, side ta­bles and all man­ner of other fur­ni­ture can be pur­chased sep­a­rately or as a whole room in cus­tom colours and fin­ishes.

“Our vi­sion is ob­vi­ously the books, but it’s also ev­ery­thing around our books,” says Pros­per, “We make all of our stores like a dream li­brary, whether it’s tiny like Palm Beach or huge like Dubai. We also have our cab­i­net of cu­riosi­ties – we sell a lot of vin­tage ob­jects that we find on our trav­els, which would be per­fect in a li­brary. Also, now we are propos­ing to sell some of the things that are in the books. It’s more and more a life­style.”

The As­soulines re­cently col­lab­o­rated on a col­lec­tion with Gucci, opened a Pierre Cardin pop-up shop to cel­e­brate their ti­tle on the de­signer, and sell some of the jew­ellery they have writ­ten about. There is even a range of can­dles in­spired by li­braries.

“The first one we did was Pa­per,” Mar­tine re­calls, “It was funny be­cause we were try­ing to find the right scent so we spent our time sniff­ing thou­sands of books to find the right one. Out of a thou­sand books we chose only three, and had to com­mu­ni­cate what we liked about them to the per­fumer.”

Such ob­ses­sive at­ten­tion to de­tail is the norm in the As­souline uni­verse: the duo also once tried to cap­ture the essence of choco­late, and are cur­rently work­ing on a book about rac­ing cars with a cover made from rub­ber tyres. “It is un­be­liev­ably com­pli­cated, but in the end you are go­ing to smell the race,” says Pros­per, “This for me is im­por­tant. We con­sider each mil­lime­tre of ev­ery page.” Ac­cord­ingly, there are no plans to ven­ture into e-books. For the As­soulines, the printed word will al­ways be king. as­

RIGHT: Pros­per andMar­tine As­souline pho­tographed at their Paris home with theirsons Se­bas­tian and Alexan­dre, who are bothpart of the fam­ily firm OP­PO­SITE PAGE: The fa­cade and in­te­rior of the new As­souline store inthe Dubai Mall

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