Kitsuné Talk: Damien Florébert Cuypers
New York based French illustrator Damien Florébert Cuypers is the nomadic portraitist that has caught everyone’s eye during these Spring/Summer 15 Fashion Weeks. With pastel colours and crayon drawings, Cuypers’s signature is makes his dynamic and pleasing portraits.
Closely working with New York Times’ lifestyle T Magazine, he certainly knows how to catch the Fashion week spur of the moment. He seizes the ‘cool’ crowd by transposing them on his drawing paper.
Hello Mr Cuypers! Could you tell us a bit more about how you got into illustration?
I’ve always drawn. I guess it was a logical path to go to art school. After graduation I decided to shake things up and try to make it in Paris. I lived the most miserable years of my life with no network, no money, barely any friends and shitty jobs there.
After 3 years of this it seemed pretty obvious I wasn’t good at selling my art to anyone. I was too exhausted to draw anyway. So I decided to go to New York for 2 months and see what “business” meant. There I understood there was room for my work. And I met the guy who is now my husband.
That trip gave me confidence and drive. Eventually I came back and put up with one more year of bullshit jobs before leaving Paris and bringing my stuff back at my mom’s.
This coincided with a friend of a friend asking if I wanted to draw something for an online magazine he was working at. So I did portraits of some Art world celebrities for a website I had never heard of: Nowness. From there on things snowballed pretty fast and I got more and more assignments. Within about 6 months of starting back my life as an illustrator I had enough assignments to live off of it.
Why focus on fashion?
I don’t focus on fashion. I guess it seems that way because covering fashion week is such a big window for my work and it happens two times a year.
I see fashion like a real life character design. Colors, shapes, movement all combine to create a story and a persona. Even if you’re not into fashion you tell a story with your non-fashion.
But I’m conflicted about this industry: I like beautiful things, I just wish they were a little more ethical and ecological.
What are your daily inspirations?
Very simple things inspire me. Going for a walk is good to reboot the brain and let the mind wander. I also have a tendency to buy little beautiful trinkets and curate the objects I surround myself with, they naturally create a visual conversation when put together.
And the internet for random images on tumblr and oligarchs-hating news on Mediapart
How would you describe the Parisian fashion crowd?
It’s curated. People care more about having a versatile garment of good quality for a long time. From an outside perspective French fashion can seem austere and boring, but it truly is about self love.
Also people tend to dress well when they go out of the house, regardless of whether they’re going to work, to a cocktail or to buy a baguette. There’s a balance of perfection and imperfection, it’s more humane and poetic
In New York – especially for girls – there’s a dress code for every moment of the day : work wear, yoga wear, slutty cocktail dress… American girls live with a lot of pressure to look exactly like their part 24/7. It must be exhausting.
Where do you live at the moment?
I live in New York. I love that even if the winter is freezing cold there is sunshine to lighten up the mood.
What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you during Fashion Week?
Let me think hard. I’m not funny, I should drink and take drugs. People who take drugs have funny stories when they can remember them.
Two years ago I was going to the Dior show (merely just to hang out outside really) and arriving at the Hôtel des Invalides a guard told me the event was all the way at the back. I saw a very well dressed Asian lady – an editor for some magazine – trying to figure that out, looking absolutely panicked as she clearly would miss the show if she tried to run 1km in 3 minutes on 15cm (6in) heels. So I told her to hop on my Velib and I dropped her in front of the show’s venue. I did a drawing of it for my spread for T magazine.
Credits: Paul Mpagi Sepuya