Olympia Le-Tan, a modern day Betty Page lookalike, has been making waves in the fashion industry with her immense appetite for the art of literature (dust jackets), fervour for more traditional handmade techniques and her allusions to the fifties housewife. It is no wonder that in her work I have found my land of promise (if you read this blog on a regular basis or follow me on Twitter/Instagram, you will already know that I own a huge repertoire of books amassed for the appeal and charm of their cover designs). She has invented her own very personal fashion language and imagery. Her collections are small, intensely beautiful, brilliantly focused and evocative of different times. She has not only examined the relationship between literature and fashion but also closed the bridge with her piercing observations and understanding of pictorial designs. The symbiosis of the two is delightful. Every single one of her bags and minaudières is a wonderfully constructed surreal treasure, equally elegant at home on display or in your hands going out! Her creative curiosity undiminished, she is now turning her attention to hair accessories and has made all the characters in the Spike Jonze film ‘Mourir auprès de toi’. The delightful strand of playfulness which is reflected in her creations also markedly comes across in her tumblr, the Olympia Press: it’s a cascade of inspiring elements ranging from cats (including Fritz), work in progress, her obsession with the House of Ghibli, amazing Pierre Le-Tan drawings, good music and fun personal pictures. She has me completely under her spell and needless to say I have a burning desire to acquire one of her bags (it's my birthday on the 14th of July, I might have to splash out).
I asked her a few questions for the blog and I’m thrilled that she agreed to answer them!
All pictures courtesy of Olympia Le-Tan, collage July Stars
Where did you grow up and which art school in Paris did you attend?
I grew up in Paris in the 2nd arrondissement. I went to an art school called L’Atelier Clouet. The teachers were mean and awful and I think it closed down. I got a job after a year there so I stopped studying quite soon.
Do you feel that your father helped you develop your creative spirit?
Definitely, yes. Growing up surrounded by beautiful things was very inspiring.
Is your mum also an artist?
No, a housewife, an ex-housewife now.
I’ve read somewhere that you are half French and half English, is that true?
My mother is English and my father is French and Vietnamese.
Who are your favourite artists?
My father, my grand-father was a great Vietnamese painter too. I love Man Ray, De Chirico, the Surrealists in general. I also love Ed Ruscha’s drawings, Edward Gorey and Robert Crumb.
Do you have a favourite author?
Anything produced by Phil Spector, The Smiths, Kate Bush and The Kinks.
Your vision and medium is a combination of art and fashion. In your opinion, which deserves a wider appreciation?
I like the fact that fashion people, art people and literary people can appreciate my work. It was just meant to be fashion at first but I am really happy about the way it has evolved into these other worlds too.
Your bags are beautiful and fascinating celebrations of books and more particularly the art of book covers. Did you ever think that such an unexpected and beguiling fusion of fashion and literature would be so hugely successful?
Not at all. It was supposed to be a “one off” thing!
Do you see yourself as a fashion girl or an artist?
I think I am a fashion girl but would be extremely flattered if people see me as an artist.
You seem to maintain a close relationship with techniques that cannot be mass-produced. Are you taking refuge from the modern world?
I’ve always taken refuge from the modern world. I am very old fashioned and quite a nostalgic person. I think I was meant to live in the 50s.
How many people work in your studio and what is your approach to fabrication and finishing? Do you oversee every single creation yourself?
I have 2 people working here full time and sometimes up to 5 people. I am a bit of a control freak, so yes, I oversee EVERY SINGLE creation myself.
What do you see yourself doing in ten years time and what do you hope for the future?
I hope to have a family with lots of children! I’ll make little clothes for them and embroider their initials on all their possessions.