5 questions with benjamin paulin & alice lemoine on carrying out pIERRE paulin's legacy.
Eponymous with modernism, Pierre Paulin was a global leader in the design world up until his death in 2009. Paulin Paulin Paulin, which refers to Pierre’s wife Maia, their son Benjamin and his wife Alice Lemoine, is a company who seeks to keep the designs of Pierre Paulin alive.
PPP recently joined Pucci this past May with 14 archival pieces. The collection houses designs from the 1960s, 70s and 80s that were never before in production for the public. This includes chairs designed for a commission for France’s Elysée Palace, along with select other one-off, limited editions.
We were fortunate to have Alice and Benjamin speak with us about their company, and what it means to carry out Pierre's legacy.
In a company that is meant for continuing legacy, what is something that paints a personal picture of your Pierre? Are his designs a true reflection of how you saw him?
Benjamin: You know, all the comfort, the relaxed look, the sexiness in his design, is not really a reflection of him as a person. I think he was someone who was very exacting. He came from functionalism; all his pieces were based on function, not just fantasy, it was always important he put a sense into what he did.
Alice: yes, I think of him as coming across as rude, or very strict, on the surface. But really it’s because he was chasing another world, he wanted to give others an ideal. When he was designing or drawing new pieces, the people in his sketches are always happy and playful.
So if he wasn’t a fluid, colorful person, like his designs what do you think was the motivation behind creating this way?
Alice: He always had lots of things, tiny objects, on shelves and tables that were children’s toys. Something silly or fun, because I think he was really childlike under the surface. His creativity, his inventiveness was from that kind of child-like place.
Benjamin: Maybe then, if his own personality wasn’t able to let him be this way on the surface we can say that it was his motivation. He could give that to others; he could work for others, in giving them this kind of world he would dream up.
(To Benjamin) When you were growing up, were there little things you noticed from Pierre that ended up being big lessons in life or design?
Benjamin: So I never worked with my father. He kept his work separate in a way. But I would say I kept very close to my mother and for her relations and negotiations were her specialty (in the family business). I think I am a mix of both, because I can read people but can also be firm— in an idea— if I need to be. What I do try and take away from my father is to be a man so dedicated in my work that I am able to make something that matters.
Are there any new developments we can expect to see from the company? New ideas or totally new designs?
Benjamin: That’s really not our point at the moment. Right now we are trying to bring back the models that were prototyped and designed, but were either never produced or produced only in very limited numbers. For President Pompidou’s quarters, there was a very small series produced in the 70’s that are extremely rare on the second market and sold at a very high price. There are so few original pieces that not many can invest in this vintage collection. So we feel we really have to bring back those designs that have a right to exist, and a right to continue to exist.
As a family business, do you find any crossover with Ralph Pucci as a brand?
Benjamin: Totally, there is a long-term story that is always important with family business. Often we realize that, and now more than ever. In France we have one of our manufacturer contacts whose father worked alongside my father. We like to work with them because they understand a type of moral standard, and it’s really a good part of our story. We like when people take care of us, and the investment of our heritage.
Pierre believed that design had the power to benefit society. Is there any way in particular that you see evidence of this through his creations?
Benjamin: The thing with my father is he was really inspired by Scandinavian design. And back then you had a lot of wooden, simple furniture made by local craftsmen. It was a community thing, making furniture, and he loved that democratic side of it. Where you involved a hand-made process in order to bring people pieces that made life easier.
But unfortunately it’s not always possible to be completely democratic, because now there is no middle ground. As furniture-making has disappeared, construction costs make it not possible to reach to lower priced markets. But still he had this way of thinking that was bent on designing for the people.
And in that way, he showed design could still have the power to change the world. You know, you think about President Pompidou and the cocoon room; I think there’s something very warm he added. Because most of the palace’s interior designers used furniture that is very strict to history, it’s harsh. Beautiful but cold. At the palace President Pompidou received dignitaries from all over the world. It was in that room they discussed important issues on my father’s sofa, so just to think: he was a part of that. He helped create that moment.
Interview, Christy Rappold.
Photography of Gallery Space, Antoine Bootz
Photographs of Paulin & Family, Paulin Paulin Paulin archives