Vanessa and Alex are the duo behind the smart Anglo-Saxon blog, Messy Nessy Chic ! Vanessa, aka Nessy, is the writer and Alex is the...
Jean-Christophe, who are you?
I come from Aix-en-Provence, and I live in Paris. I am an artistic director and scenographer, and, with my agency, Singular, I have been designing and building sets for shop windows, pop-ups and set-decor for different brands (mainly luxury brands) for more than fifteen years. I also carry out decoration and interior design projects for a variety of clients.
Explain to us what your job involves in your Singular agency.
My agency is called Singular because I essentially work alone. I do so many different things, it seemed fair to me to summarise my work with this name.
Tell us about your education and your career path.
I’ve always wanted to work in decoration. As a child, I repainted my room and, as a teenager, I got into bargain-hunting. Then I arrived in Paris to study applied arts at the Duperré School. I started working on Christian Lacroix’s windows, then joined Louis Vuitton when Marc Jacobs arrived. I spent five years there in charge of visual identity and merchandising. I have travelled a lot and sharpened my appetite for furniture hunt during my stays, often bringing back objects, small pieces of furniture, and so on. Since then, I have treated my apartments like real laboratories, mixing styles, colours, materials… Nothing is ever really fixed. One object calls for another object or piece of furniture, then a colour and here I am repainting a wall, a room, an element.
Is there a project that has particularly challenged, stimulated or enriched you, personally or professionally?
I am fortunate to have worked, and still work, with artistic directors with a strong identity. I have gained a wealth of experience and been involved in wonderful collaborations with people like Phoebe Philo during her time with Celine, John Galliano, Alber Elbaz and now Bruno Sialleli at Lanvin! All these powerful and impressive personalities have always really stimulated me.
What is your favourite time between the brief and the delivery of a window display/scenography?
There are several in the steps towards a window or decor design. First, there’s the phase of iconographic research and the search for materials for the design, then the dialogue with the designer on one of my selected proposals and then the setting up of the decor. And then exhilaration at the moment when the window moves from being a paper project to a concrete implementation, with the adjustment of details, such as the placement of products and the lighting to enhance the decor.
A garden, stained glass windows… This space is surprising. What is the story behind it?
I was lucky enough to find this somewhat “singular” space, too, at the bottom of a building in Pigalle where a magician lived at the beginning of the 19th century. This apartment immediately seduced me with its little hidden house with this patio that gives me the essential garden touch for my well-being and all these period stained glass windows that play with the sun’s rays like real prisms. I immediately fell in love with the place. I was, and still am, very inspired by its strong historical character.
How did you plan your interior?
I have always thought of my interior as a laboratory. A continuous work in progress. The day when I no longer have any inspiration, when I feel stuck, I will find a new place… For the moment I live with it, like living in a real theatre setting.
Colour runs through it like a common thread. Why is this so important to you?
In my opinion, colour is life! I treated my old apartment with powerful blocks of colour. This time, given the prevalence of stained glass, I wanted to play with the more subtle colours, on a white background, to bring back just a small element to each room. Whether it is the lower part of a wall, a door frame or a skirting board.
I have travelled a lot and sharpened my appetite for furniture hunt during my stays (...) Since then, I have treated my apartments like real laboratories
Where do you find your furniture, your objects?
I hunt around extensively in Paris for my work, combining my work with my personal pleasure. But I also bring back a lot of things from my travels, I often go to Belgium where I find furniture or decorative items, and also to Copenhagen and London.
Is there a trend, a period in the history of art or design that fascinates you in particular?
I love brutalism! I went to Le Havre this summer, and I was overwhelmed by emotion, the same emotion I feel when I go to the Barbican Centre in London. It’s a movement that is both intelligent and functional with a rather radical aestheticism that moves me. I’m pretty much addicted to concrete!
For your work, for you: what inspires you?
Everything! Music, cinema, the exhibitions I often see abroad and then, of course, fashion, designers…
Can you share any lessons learned from your experience in art direction that we can use, in our own decor?
For me, it is not enough to pay dearly for a decorative element to find it beautiful or interesting. My approach is rather to have an affection for anything that can move us. I love to mix valuable items with small pieces that seem to be of little value. Found objects or bargains picked up and used to enhance a space outside the context of wherever I discovered them.
The 9th arrondissement is a district where good addresses flourish… Which ones are your favourites for shopping, coffee or having dinner with friends?
Photography: Constance Gennari – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily