Andrée, Cyrille and Olivia Putman, and their work in luxury design Featured

An encounter with three artists, three personalities, one family.
by 06 October 2009

Andrée Putman, a style, a name, an art de vivre. These are projects full of madness and ambition, from architecture to the decoration of hotels, spas, boutiques, apartments, going as far as the design of furniture, tableware, and even a piano. André Putman is an artist, of open spirit, curious, playful, and overflowing with imagination. She was able to impart these talents on her two children, Olivia and Cyrille, who decided to take over the reigns of the agency created by their mother, in order to continue the style and spirit of Putman, and also to innovate.

Andrée Putman, you have often been presented in different articles as the «Parisian icon of French taste». Do you agree with this definition?
Andrée Putman: The ideal would be to have no image and start from zero. To create, always to create.

Can we speak of an Andrée Putman style today? How would you define it?
Andrée Putman: It’s work which is sometimes almost invisible, almost weightless. I often tell myself that it must be omnipresent but also flirt with disappearance. My spaces are simple but not void of personality, serene but not cold, seductive but not opulent, soft but not nostalgic, pure but not restrictive. Deep down I’ve always tried to reconcile poor and rich materials.
Cyrille Putman: It’s like a sort of alphabet where each person can write the words he wants. We can add some things, take away others, it’s something which is alive.

Today, an object or a space created by Andrée Putman signifies its success or contributes to its fame. How do you feel about this?
Andrée Putman: I didn’t construct a career plan, I’ve always been taken unawares. Success came when I expected nothing. This unexpectedness enters like a commodity of success. In a certain way, surprise and the constant idea that it’s not for me comforts me and makes me incapable of taking myself seriously!
Olivia Putman: On one hand, it’s a great name and signature, in relation to Andrée’s fabulous career, but at the same time before we arrived at the agency, her name was on hardly any products. She has always been discreet.
Cyrille Putman: Since I arrived here, I’ve seen another side to Andrée, I knew she was very well-known, but I had never realized to what extent, and how worldwide. Andrée is really an extraordinary case.
Olivia Putman: Strategically, because this is an extraordinary case, we can’t waste her legacy. It’s her rarity that has made her famous. We are therefore incessantly reflecting on the future, on what we will do.

When you are commissioned to design a space, how do you start your work? Do you work on instinct?
Andrée Putman: My approach and its origins are a sketch, a portrait which will be made, like the preparation of a movie, we find the nomenclature of themes, the obsessions. The letters, but not yet the words of a language, a sort of bank of accumulated emotions in the chaos since childhood.
Olivia Putman: We function on instinct but at some point, you have to be sure that people choose us because they understand us. When we are sure of this, we love them and we get going...
Cyrille Putman: For architecture, we do no prospecting, we receive things, we sift through them based on the programme.But when it comes to the design, we are much more proactive, we go out and find the great editors we want to sign with.

What is your definition of luxury today?
Andrée Putman: A beautiful object can be less expensive than an object without definition. Beauty has nothing to do with the price of things. I’ve always detested the image of luxury being linked to money and arrogance. We associate chic with expensive. But, for me, true luxury is linked to simplicity. I am against a design which does too much or, worse yet, which is attached to an idea of good taste. Style has nothing to do with money. It has to do with liberty and harmony. Finally, what counts the most is the person, the individual, and the way in which his personality is expressed.
Cyrille Putman: Actually that could be a reflection on ecology.
Olivia Putman: We support a lot of French craftmen, it’s very important and we feel that we have a responsibility. Luxury is already the power of choice, and should also be linked to pleasure, not to money, in the way that we are going to approach a piece of furniture, the design, the object of an artisan. It’s not because something is made of gold that it is necessarily beautiful.

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