The Dos And Don’ts of A.P.C.’s Jean Touitou-------
Having made his name on some of the planet’s best jeans, A.P.C. founder Jean Touitou is expanding into the glamour business. In December, he tapped former Azzaro designer Vanessa Seward for a capsule collection of high-end womenswear that the two will debut in Paris during the upcoming fashion week. All this as he continues to expand his global retail empire: He was in New York last week to preside over the opening of his third NYC store, in the West Village, before jetting to L.A. to continue his search for space. At A.P.C.’s Soho showroom, Touitou sat down with Style.com to discuss the things he won’t do (red-carpet dressing, celebrity shilling, open in Abu Dhabi), the things he will (keep his clothes largely logo-free), and why everybody should stop dressing like a rock star already.
A.P.C.’s West Village store is open now at 267 W. 4th St., NYC, (212) 755-2523.
During Paris fashion week, you’ll show your upcoming capsule collection with Vanessa Seward. Will it be an ongoing collaboration?
We’ve been thinking about it a lot. It’s a lot of work, and it’s too [much] for us. So I’m really happy I did that, but I think it’s going to be one thing. I might have the will to do more, to ask my studio to do more—it’s delicate—feminine pieces. Because our trademark for women is a bit of frigidity of design. Don’t get me wrong—it’s an idea of frigidity.
It’s a strictness.
It’s a strictness, which I believe is sexy, but you might want to play with sexiness in a different way, like the way we did with Vanessa. And maybe when it’s over, maybe we’ll continue to have some dresses like this.
Had you been following her career for a long time before you chose to work with her?
The funny part is she used to design for Loris Azzaro, and when I was a kid in Tunis, Loris was a French teacher—very, very glamorous man. He must have been the first gay, blond man that I had seen in Tunis. I’ve seen gay guys in Tunis before, because in Arab civilization, to be gay has never been a problem, but it was the first time I saw a glamorous white guy with long hair with an American car in Tunis; it must have been in ’62 or something. The reason I mention this is because then I was very familiar with the brand, because some people in my family were very involved with the brand.
I totally admired the fact that her presentations [for Azzaro] had something very—I won’t say old-style, but pretty glamorous. But yet very, very human. You would be sitting on the sofa like this and she eventually would be there with you and there would be 15 friends and only four models going one by one out of the fitting room. And then she would talk about what she tried to do with the dress, and I really admired that; I think that’s a perfect way to show. I usually never go to shows, but I never missed one of theirs.
The collection sounds like a mix of what she did for Azzaro and what you do at A.P.C.
When I shot those dresses for the lookbook, it was some sort of a fashion moment, and [it was like] I was like back in the beginning of the eighties. I don’t know—it was a very different moment. That’s pretty different from our archive, even the hair and makeup.
But it looks great. It’s a new idea of chic for you.
I do believe this is not done. I do think it should be done by some brands. People are so fascinated by this red-carpet thing, they don’t think about the woman and the everyday casual thing. I mean, this is not casual, but sometimes you do want to have a feminine dress [like this] for the day.
Do you think that red-carpet fascination translates in Europe and worldwide? It’s an obsession in America.
Oh, totally. It’s true that in America, it’s so obsessive. In France, too. Once I was on a shoot on location and the model wanted to grab a croissant and the young girl behind the register said, “Are you a star?”
Everyone seems to want stardom so much.
I feel it’s strange. You go to parties and one person out of two…OK, I’m exaggerating, but there are so many photographers shooting everybody and everybody poses. After going to all these parties, you feel like, I wish I could see one humble person not looking like a rock star.
Even at the shows now, there are all of these photographers, and they’re desperate to catch the editors—just as much as they are to catch the models.
A photographer says [to me], “Hi, my name is blah blah blah, who are you?” I say, “Fuck you, I’m nobody.” That was at the Boom Boom Room.
That’s what I’ve always found very refreshing about A.P.C.—that the clothes are very chic and very wearable and very cool, but not about standing out the most in the crowd.
No, no. Believe me, we have major celebrities wearing our clothes, even going to major heavy catwalk shows in Paris with our clothes; we don’t talk about it. I don’t advertise. Those people happen to be celebrities, but they are workers, they pay for their clothes, so why should I use them for advertisement? I think they appreciate that.
Do you ever see the possibility of going into a small collection that would be for red-carpet dressing?
No, I’m not interested in that. I’m not saying it’s bad, but I wouldn’t. First of all, there’re not enough incredible movies, so why should I?
Point taken. You’re here in New York to open your third New York store, in the West Village (above). Tell me about it.
It’s very beautiful and I’m really happy it’s open. This part of New York, I think, is really prettier than Paris. You know, pretty back streets and any place for coffee is particularly efficient, good, pretty, good quality. I mean the restaurants across the street are pretty. Sant Ambroeus is very good. I like the way it’s totally untrendy inside. You might even say ugly.
Yes, it’s just…itself.
You can tell the interior decorator was not trying to be trendy. This is why I took that store, I wanted to open there. I was surprised to be lucky enough to grab the place. Tomorrow we go to Los Angeles for a small party we’re doing for our store, and we might also look for a small place in Venice. More stores in Paris, too. But it’s only three projects a year, you know, it’s not invading the planet.
You already have stores in L.A. and in Paris, though. Are there new countries and areas you’re hoping to expand into?
No. There are some big city capitals and places I would like to go, but I’m not trying at all to go to Abu Dhabi or Kuwait. They don’t like me, I don’t like them. Period. It’s as simple as that. Russia, sometimes they come over. I think we are not flashy enough for those countries. In China, I believe we have four stores in Hong Kong and maybe two on the mainland. I know in this industry everybody here says it’s a gold mine over there, and yeah, it’s a gold mine if you push your logo very far, and if you do a lot of glitter…But it would change my fashion to be successful there. I would rather be heavy on Paris, London, Berlin, which is evolving in a very nice way. And Berlin, it’s not as big as Los Angeles, but Berlin is endless, and all the European energy is there right now.