Interview: Aurélien Arbet of Études

January 16, 2013

French brand Études first caught the menswear world's attention under the name Hixsept, specializing in wardrobe staples like button down shirts, perfectly fitting khakis and blazers made quirky, with squiggly lines and muted shades of sky blue and peach as their signature. The cross-continental duo of Aurélien Arbet (based in Brooklyn) and Jérémie Egry (based in Paris) changed the name of the company to Études to encompass an ever-expanding group of projects they've undertaken, like a series of photography books and graphic design work. It's a collaborative, evolving project, made more expansive by the introduction of a series of work with artists, like a recent team up with digital-graphics maven Travess Smalley on some prints for Études' fall line. Here, Arbet tells us why it's fun to run such an independent brand.

Why did you change the name from Hixsept to Études? It’s not a new project or new direction, it’s more just an evolution. We’d been doing Hixsept, but we also had a book publishing company that called JSBJ, working with photography and design. So we were doing all that at the same time but nobody really knew we were the same person behind all these projects. We finally decided to join together all the projects we have under a new name that is Études. After 10 years working, we finally found what we were doing.

It seems smart because the biggest brands now have their hands in every sort of pocket—they can put YSL on a candle or a notebook, they can put it on anything. Yeah, that’s that’s what we like.

Collaboration and crossing boarders has always been super important to you. That’s always the way we’ve been working, we always like to experiment and do different mediums, to just be creative people, not really with any particular skill in one thing. Tomorrow, maybe we can create something new under Études. Études, the idea behind the word is experimental, about researching around certain topics. That’s why we picked that name and we why we put the ‘S’ at the end, which means that there is multiplicity. The first collection is Études #1, and the next will be Études #2, and that’s the same for the book. We are publishing the book as a collection so the first 3 books will be #1, #2, and #3.

What do you guys have out in the photo book world at the moment? We were just at the New York Art Book Fair in September and Offprint, another book fair in Paris. We released three new books—one from Nicolai Howalt, who is a Danish photographer, one from Daniel Everett, who is an American photographer, and one from Nicolas Hosteing, which is a French photographer, and each one of those books is a part of what we call the Blue Book Collection, and so they are all made in the same format, same number of pages, they really look the same except for the content.

How did you start working with artist Travess Smalley on those beautiful prints for the collection? We had created a project last September where we had one of Travess' pictures in a show, and that’s how we met him. He showed us one of his projects, a book, and that’s how we saw that collage and that’s how we came to him, like, Oh maybe we could use it and invite him to do a patch for a shirt.

You have a really clear color sense—a muted one, with rusty browns, pinks and oranges, and all that rich, blue denim. Are these just naturally your favorite colors? Because we are independent, we can use colors that other brands and other people are not really allowed to, because a lot of brands prefer to go with blue and grey and black because those are the colors that are easier to sell and that people will wear. For us, we don’t put on any rules. We like to experiment, so from that, it’s opening doors that posers don’t really hold open, and that’s why we like to play with colors. I think it’s really the way we see things.

Do you feel like there’s something particularly French about the line? We are fine that people associate it to France. I think it’s important that that’s what we are and that’s where we’re from, so I guess it’s important that there’s that feeling behind it, but I live here in New York. Jeremy lives in France, but I think, more than anything, it's about traveling. We like to get that open vision of how the world is and how people live. We have different ideas from different countries, and so I don’t know that in the end it’s really French.

Are there brands that you look up to? We feel close to the vision of a brand like Acne, because alongside their collections, they are making Acne Paper and they work as a studio. We also like Bless, Henrik Vibskov or Christophe Lemaire—we love the way they experiment with fashion. Designers like that are the direction to where we want to go for the future.

Interview: Aurélien Arbet of Études