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
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. assouline.com
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