Design & Decoration S01 ep16: Andre Putman, Putman Design, [Paris]
Interview with Andre Putman
Real talent is a mix. It has very much to do with who they are inside. Do they have a very strong nature. Can they take a terrible risk, can they take a terrible failure. Can they accept that the major lady on earth who may be the one who writes in Herald Tribune decides your collection is very poor, and what happens in your house because you did not make it that time. Can you live without a lot of money? Can you wait for things to come to you? Can you be patient? Not selling your name partly or completely. It is as important as talent.
I was a rebellious child and everything started like this. I was born in that
arrondisement called the 6, which is St German de Pre. The first people I saw
when I was deciding to have a coffee in the morning were Giacometti, Picasso,
Jean Paul Sarte, Simone de Bouverie - these people are there every single
KM: And you are there having coffee there?
KM: What were these people really like as people?
They were different. People of that scale of talent are not acting normally.
They are strange faces often; they have a peculiar way of addressing other
Some are spoilt because they are already so famous that they have to protect
themselves, they have to act so that everyone is not going to try and have
coffee with them. It is simple but that is the way people react when they are
absolutely in the assault of a crowd - they suffer, they physically suffer from
too much attention.
You always hear long, long after these people become famous how many of
them destroyed enormous parts of their work - by conviction it was not good
enough to exist. It is the opposite of that stupid, self-satisfaction that is killing
so many people. Some have talent but they are quickly satisfied with their idea
Someone said nice things about me to a very, very interesting person of the
time who was working for a company where the things you could buy in their
shops were the cheapest in the country. We had to find exciting gifts for
almost no money. So I was the most dangerous woman who installs snobbism
And what happened of course, because in sociology everything is so fragile,
was that the bourgeois would rush into Prisunic because what they found there
was so funny, and so charming and so cheap it became a snobbism and that
is how it ended.
KM: When did you relationship start with the luxury people? Like the
Lagerfeld's and like these sorts of people.
Lagerfeld I met in 1968 at a show and he talked to me, which is not very
common at an exhibition, it was at the Art Decoratif, and he asked me 'Do you
always dress like this?" I was a bit surprised and I invited him for dinner. I
liked him enormously.
[So I went from] The magazine [where I was the messenger or courier] the
Messenger, to the Stylist [Prisunic], to fashion. I was very involved for 2 years
in a company called Creator and Industrial. This man asked me to be like the
art director of a new venture where we would federate designers and
industrialists, very powerful ones: because our theory was that if you can
design a dress you could probably design eyewear and luggage.
At the time it was really very bizarre, very bizarre and now sometimes I see
people who met me in the 70's and who say, "We thought all that was
completely crazy and it was going to end very sadly" - and it did. We were
giving these people much, too much money; we did not have enough power to
make them known so quickly. So their names were Castelbajac, Theirry
Mugler, Issey Miyake… All these people.
KM: What were the 80's like for you?
Materials I used were so new and strange for most people that people were
interested to know more about what I was doing. I was intriguing people. Then
my friend, the one I did Creator and Industrial invited me to do the St Laurent
stores in America and I started to know a lot of interesting people in New York
and my name was given to this young man who had been the owner of Studio
54 and the first thing they did when they went out of jail was to call me and to
ask me to do a hotel for them. They said to me, "The scene is not going to be
night clubs any more, the scene is going to happen in hotels".
Morgans was absolutely the first, like my office in Paris was absolutely the first
to look precious and poor, detailed and empty, breaking all the rules, not being
the prisoner of any of these commercial ideas about concept, luxury etc. And
instead of having a charming room, I decided to use Mapplethorpe
photographs for the wall and I would have all shades of beige, grey's and off
I was dreaming, I was in a state of excitement, I believe I was going to do
something very, very new and sometimes you dream and nothing of what you
dream happens and in my case everything happened starting with Morgan's.
This idea of fashion victim is very American. You know why? Exactly the
eternal same reason it is because they follow a recipe and this is never a good
way to have "Style", because there is no recipe and this is exactly why it is so
precious. You said something, which is the key of the conversation. Either you
are at ease and you can have style just by your self, or you are terrified by the
"fault de gault?"
KM: Which is?
It’s the mistake that makes you look awful and stupid.
KM: Do you consider yourself an artist or a designer? Honestly.
Neither! I think I am an adventurer. I am someone who wants to change
things. Who arrives with some freedom and some imagination about images I
want to propose.
KM: How do you know that people have the spirit that is enough to do more,
to be great?
You know it is a mix. It has very much to do with who they are inside. Do they
have a very strong nature? Can they take a terrible risk; can they take a
terrible failure? Can they accept that the major lady on earth who may be the
one who writes in Herald Tribune decides your collection is very poor? And
what happens in your house because you did not make it that time. How can
you take all these shocks, how can you live without a lot of money, how you
can you wait for things to come to you. Not be too impatient not selling your
name partly or not completely. It is as important as talent.
I like to make surprises. I like to introduce in my work things you never see at
first glance when you come in. It is so quiet; it is so empty, sometimes. It is so
peaceful and subtle, I hope that you don't see and a writer said that to me. She
said to me, "I am in your room since a few days. I don't know anything about
your work. I am a writer, I am finishing my book and it took me four days to
discover that every pillow design, in the sense of pattern, was different. It took
me a week to understand the pattern on the rug because it is almost unseen,
and you discover things little by little".
And you know its ideal to hear that for me. Because it has a lot to do with that
very careful work where I like not to create any shock or any unbelievable
grand decision that makes the room fragile and probably that makes the room
easy to date very quickly.
KM: Would you do a hamburger restaurant?
Of course! I have no limits. You know, I did as you noticed, I did the Concorde
but now I am working for Bazaar de Hotel de Ville, which is a department store
that sells bits and pieces for do it yourself, and things like this that are
intensely practical and not expensive.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Andre Putman, Putman Design, Paris