Maison Nue: 4 Girls, Unlimited Projects

by: Marine de la Morandière

May 20, 2013

Maison Nue is a hybrid. Creative studio, music lab, fashion brand… that and much more. Their motto, “Act like a lady, think like a boss,” speaks for itself. This multiplatform agency knows how to keep it sharp, efficient, seductive and far from all stereotypes.

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Photos by Boris Camaca

Introducing four talented and, quite frankly, pretty phenomenal twenty-something Parisians making things happen.

Who they are:
Claire Zarnitsky Operations Director /MAISON NUE
Caroline Benaouda Label Owner/MAISON NUE RECORDS
France Vannier and Justine de Montalembert Creative Directors/ MAISON NUE LE STUDIO

Tell us, what is Maison Nue?

Justine: We really saw this project as a multi-faceted and versatile structure. We have three areas of expertise. The Creative Studio, where France and I take on projects related to visual identity and design, as creative directors of Maison Nue.

Caroline: The Music pole, where I take care of the label MAISON NUE RECORDS. And then the Capsule department where we all work together around different products.

Justine: The starting point or the original idea was that we all worked for different service areas but that we still longed for something which could give us the possibility to do something more substantial and defined, not only in the service domain. A way to showcase all our talents combined through actual products. We have this whole professional side to Maison Nue, working as an agency, and then, there’s also this desire to communicate about Maison Nue as a whole through our Blog/Journal, through our different personalities and the things we love.

So you want to position yourselves as a brand, developing products as well as an agency offering a set of skills…

Claire: Exactly. We want to be able to reach a wider audience through our personalities and by establishing Maison Nue’s identity. The main goal for us is to be open to every possibility!

France: Yes, from the start, our aim was to consider things comprehensively and always with an open mind. We made this commitment to work together so that we would have more freedom in our choice of work and really position ourselves as a versatile creative studio with our own unique voice.

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You all come from different backgrounds and each one of you brought their own talent to Maison Nue…

Claire: To make things short, they [Justine and France] take care of art direction and design, Caroline is the Music.

Caroline: We aspired to meddle in all areas of creation, so we decided to take advantage of the talents and capabilities of each one of us. And our own respective networks.

In what way to you complete each other?

Justine: Overall, being four of us girls, it gave us the opportunity to take a stand, giving us some « counterweight » if I can say so. By joining forces, we could offer something appealing to the industry in the sense where we are a multidisciplinary team.

Claire: We keep an open mind about everything and above all we boost and motivate each other.

You are a pretty unique structure in Paris today, so to speak.

Justine: It is unique but on top of that, it gives us the opportunity to have an echo from each other’s work. To give you an example, when we communicate about the Music through our label, it will showcase at the same time the work we have done visually (covers, flyers etc.). In a way, we keep returning the favor to one another continuously.

Claire: What’s important to us really, is to articulate everything in a certain manner so that everything stays logical. So that nothing is done hanging in the abyss, we try to stay as grounded as possible.

France: It really makes sense in terms of competence, because we all bring very different skillsets to the table but also we bring in our personalities and backgrounds. Even though, yeah, it’s true that we all have similar lifestyles because we are Parisians and we mostly hang out in the same places and areas… But prior to that, we all have had the chance to make our own journey, through very different experiences and travels.

And more specifically, what were those different journeys of yours, leading to the Maison Nue adventure?

Claire: Well, for my part, I studied Law and Management as well as Political Science.

Justine: France and I both studied Design at Penninghen; we graduated about two years ago. After that, France moved to NY while I stayed in Paris. We found each other again when she got back and then voilà , let’s go!

Caroline: For me, it was Tokyo. I moved there straight after graduation and it changed my life completely.

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One of Maison Nue’s SHOUT OUT Bags

And now you are all back and settled in Paris, your cradle/home/HQ of sorts?

Justine: Yes that’s what it is, the place where we want to settle down.

Claire: Actually, we could say Maison Nue gave us all a pretty good reason to stay in Paris (laughs)

Justine: Exactly. And also, after all the buzz in Paris about going abroad, when everybody thought they had to go see what was going on elsewhere, it seems like Parisians are finally coming back home. The new hype now is about the city and people are really opening up to the idea of a Parisian lifestyle.

Claire: How great are we in Paris! (Laughter)

France: In the end, it’s a place we understand. We know the rules; we know the codes. But whatever happens, if we are in need of inspiration, Paris will always take us by surprise. What we can’t really tell from the outside is that Paris hides many different worlds. To give you an example, if you are tired of your crowd, basically, you just have to take the metro, go four stations away and you won’t see them there; a whole other world. It’s a city where you can breathe!

Caroline: Even though we still have this desire to travel, that’s for sure. But, for us, being able to establish ourselves in Paris, it’s idyllic. When you make it in Paris, you can make it anywhere..

Claire: Life in Paris, funnily enough, gives you a lot of maturity. It’s so demanding at times!

So you do feel the support of your Paris people in your project?

All: Yes, we feel the love. Especially from the guys! (Laughter)

Caroline: It’s true that from the moment we started Maison Nue and until now, especially our friends and families, everyone was there for us. Last Friday, the launch of the paper for L/INCONNU (The 1st issue was launched in November 2012), was real proof of that, so many people made an appearance to show us their support.

Claire: We noticed lately, that the ones backing us up the most are often the people we expected the least. We are not in conquered territory yet, to say the least. We do feel the pressure of having people watching our every step along the way.. Which is very motivating!

What about the fact you are four girls?

France: Some people could think it would be a problem but it is also our strength because we want our work to be feminine. We value our feminine side. To us, it’s an asset. And, so far, people have been pretty receptive to the fact that we are four girls.

Justine: That’s it, and also it’s a way of proving that we can be four girlfriends who have fun and enjoy partying, but at the same time that we can make things happen professionally. We will always get those remarks, which are a bit chauvinistic without being mean at the same time. But in reality, nobody suspects what we are capable of doing, the extent of our projects, being just the four of us. And that’s definitely our strength!

So you never fall into the expected clichés, being four girls in a man’s world.

All: Ah non! Not at all! We play a 100% on our girly side (laughter)

France: We try to take everything we can’t get elsewhere in terms of credibility and we make our own path.

Justine: And it’s true that it has been an incentive to set up this structure. Telling ourselves that we wanted so many things that we couldn’t get with the current state of things. We realized we needed to use different means. It really encouraged us to take matters into our own hands.

Claire: And we are already four people having faith in this project. Not too bad isn’t it!

What does the future holds for Maison Nue in terms of structure? Would you ever consider bringing other people into the adventure?

Justine: Let’s say it’s a bit premature to consider that for the moment.

Claire: We will never close doors on bringing people in, on new collaborators we would all agree on. But right now, we are focusing on finding balance between the four of us. We are gaining stability, achieving things through good communication. We have a nice flow going on, information wise.

Justine: I mean, theoretically, we are open to every possibility.

Caroline: We have this desire to work with so many different people. Being strong, as a group will give us the opportunity to bring people into our work. But for the time being, it is always in the shape of collaborations, for example with the contributors of our blog/journal. But the core of Maison Nue, it’s us four. That really was the starting point; joining forces all the while diversifying our line of work through different collaborations. It gives us the chance to open new doors without losing ourselves.

What was your first project together?

All: The bags! (See Maison Nue’s capsule collection “shoutout”)

Caroline: Actually, it started with the bag line and lead us to the project of Maison Nue.

Justine: Ok, so to make it short, we collaborated on an accessory line but it wasn’t too long before we realized that we wanted the same things, to build our own business in a line of work which appealed to all four of us. Then, it became quite clear, Caro is all about the Music; we [Justine and France] didn’t do 5 years of study for nothing obviously; with Claire’s management skills on top of that, we realized that our set of skills made sense together.

France: Yes, that’s why we thought: why not see things bigger?

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If you had to describe your visual identity in a few words what would they be?

Justine: France and I, we met when we were in design school. We both had a liking for things relatively simple and sober. We like things to be well thought out. Our aim is not to follow trends. We are not going to do anti-design right now because everyone is high on Comic sans MS and because they think Internet app is awesome or that there should be Cyan blue and Magenta everywhere! We are not going to do that.

Justine and France: Even though it makes us fantasize, and we would love to be able to do just that! (Laughter)

France: We really agree on the fact that we want our visual identity to be coherent. It is really important to us to have a research phase in our process before starting any project, to be able to stand up for our work with real ideas. Then there’s the whole creative step that, obviously, we can’t always put words on. I’d have to say our work is instinctive and smooth.

Justine: When we started out, we had the idea of  Elégance décalée / Offbeat Elegance  in mind. We have the idea of heritage, authenticity, and at the same time,  “offbeat,” because we never settle for anything predictable. We always try to give our work this little twist of humor, which cracks us up. We never take ourselves too seriously!

Any current projects?

We are working on a project in edition with an artist in NY, Maripol.

Then there is L/INCONNU Journal for which we have carte blanche.
For this project, it really started from a shared desire with their team to create a new media for the space. We were regulars at this bar and clearly, we thought it would be an interesting collaboration. L/INCONNU, the space, the scene, it sparked a concept to us. So we thought we’d suggest the idea of a magazine to them. As we advanced with the project, the team was more and more receptive to the whole concept and they were like  “Let’s do this!”

Caroline: Already, it was a bar that had many artists’ exhibits. The idea was to create a magazine, which would showcase everything L/INCONNU had going on. It all worked out pretty spontaneously on both sides.

There are of those people who truly believe in us in Paris.

As for the label, we just signed our first group of artists, Mad:AM. Their EP came out last month and we just had a release party for them at the Social Club in Paris. We already have a few new artists on our radar, working on their new EPs. The label is really on its track, finding its grounds here. Hopefully, we’ll be able to have our own lineups in the European club scene anytime soon.

France: Also, we just started a couple of new projects. We are working on the artistic direction of an art book collection with a Parisian curator and, currently, we are taking care of the visuals of an upcoming tradeshow of “Haute Horlogerie”.

If you had to describe each one of you girls, with just a word, what would it be?

Ah so difficult!
Ok so Claire would be determination; Caroline, passionate; France, the perfectionist; Justine, the intuition.

You all had your share of travels. If you had to agree on one place you would like to be right now?

Berlin. No, actually now it would be Istanbul!

Your dream collaboration?

Caroline: Guy Bourdin

Justine: Einstein

France: Jesus

All: Collaboration with a Parisian establishment, on their identity or a product, would be a dream too!

Your latest obsessions?

All: Maxime-Jean, our former intern. We miss him terribly!

And more importantly, what is your WILD Wish!

To move around! Maison Nue goes Worldwide!

Follow the girls of Maison Nue on Twitter, Facebook and their blog!

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