When I first met the artist, illustrator, and designer Cédric Rivrain he was standing outside of a gallery dressed as a schoolboy, asking for a cigarette. He has the most sparkly turquoise eyes, and a rare gift for mischevious conversation. But he is also a force of creativity, illustrating for magazines, exhibiting his artwork, and designing for an amazing array of houses that has included Martine Sitbon, John Galliano for Dior, Nina Ricci, Sonia Rykiel, and Chloé. He recently drew a much-loved lookbook for Chanel milliner Maison Michel (which has partnered with Opening Ceremony to produce an exclusive line of hats and hair accessories for the end of November!). At the end of Paris fashion week, I sat down with Cédric over a noisette at Café de Flore to discuss the many layers of his work, with a bit of manga and Diana Vreeland thrown in.
Rory Satran: Most people know you as an illustrator, but you're also a fashion designer. Did you study anything in particular?
Cédric Rivrain: I didn’t really study. I’ve always been drawing. And my mother knew it and loved that. My father was a doctor, but he was into art as well. They drew so well, both of my parents. As soon as they knew that I could draw, they pushed it very far. They just instantly felt that I should express myself that way. So they were always giving me pencils and materials, so it was great.
RS: What did you draw when you were little?
CR: I remember that when I liked a cartoon, I didn’t want it to stop, so I would draw a continuation, I would invent the rest of the cartoon. I liked “Candy Candy.” It was a Japanese manga…one of the first ones that came to France. And I used to love something called “Bomber X.” I think in America it was called “Star Fleet.” It had puppets in it. I was obsessed with it. (ed. note: Cédric also loved Mrs. Pepper Pot and Dr. Slump!) And also my father had a lot of anatomical illustrations around the house. That can be scary for a child, but I loved them. It was amazing to see the muscles and everything. So I would record these things. That’s how I studied…with the human body. My mother tried to make me to go to drawing class, and I didn’t like it. It was against my own process of drawing. I’m more instinctive when I draw. As soon as I arrived in Paris, it was great. I took a nude drawing class, which was really fascinating to me. I was really young, and it was shocking to me in a way to see all these men and women posing in front of me. Opening their legs and all. I was not used to that, and it taught me a lot to go further than I could see without being intimidated by it.
RS: So you didn’t grow up in Paris?
CR: No, I went to boarding school in the center of France. The same region where Coco Chanel went to that convent. It was nice—sad but nice. Then I joined my parents for my later teenage years in the south of Britanny. But I was always going with my mother to Paris for shopping. She loved designers. She wore a lot of French houses, like St. Laurent and Chanel, so we used to go. As soon as I finished high school, I went to Paris. I quickly found some jobs with my drawing. And working with Yazbukey, we both lost our mothers just a few months apart from each other, so that made us very close. The first illustration I did for magazines was a double spread for Dazed and Confused
ten years ago. I always just did what I liked, because it still has to make me feel free. I draw to feel free.
RS: Do you consider yourself more an artist, an illustrator, a fashion designer, or you don’t distinguish?
CR: I think I feel more like an artist, because…it depends on my mood and all. Sometimes when I am working on my drawings, it can be quite far from fashion. For example, the drawings I did with the mechanical eyes, obviously the plasters…even sometimes when it’s people who are related to fashion that I draw, it’s not about fashion when I do it. It’s more about what’s deep inside myself. I don’t feel they’re really fashion drawings. I just don’t want to put a label on myself. For example, Andy Warhol. He was a fashion illustrator before he was a big artist. Sometimes I wonder if I should stop with fashion and concentrate on my personal drawings, but then I realize I miss fashion. So I just want make everything evolve and keep on doing it all without making any distinctions.
RS: You draw your friends a lot, your girlfriends. When is the moment that you look at them and know you have to draw them
CR: It’s maybe when they’re not here. Maybe when I miss them is when I draw them. For example, when I did Masha Orlov, I couldn’t do photographs of her at the time because I was doing my exhibition. She was in New York and I couldn’t go to New York because I had only three months to prepare all the drawings. I think one day all of my friends will at least be in one of my drawings. Some people, I knew them for a long time before I could draw them. For example, I want to draw Marie Chaix. But we never take the time to just take the photos. Some illustrators just trace, and I don’t do that. I love photography, but if you draw just a photo, you lose some of the sparkle of the face, some of the 3-D. I don’t know why, but it’s totally different. Sometimes I prefer to do a drawing of someone who doesn’t even exist.
RS: Do you always take photos of someone before you draw them?
CR: I want photos that I do of them at that moment, because I look at the way they look at me normally. It’s important, in drawing especially, because I’m obsessed with the eyes. When I draw someone, I focus on their eyes and the way I see them looking at me. I need to feel like they’re talking to me when I draw them. I have a conversation with them when I do drawings of my friends.
RS: Is there anyone you dream of meeting and drawing? Maybe someone from the past?
CR: Someone like Diana Vreeland. I don’t know why, but I’ve always loved her personality.
RS: Have you read her book, D.V.?
CR: Yes, I have and looked at all her pictures. She was one of those people who made fashion about dreaming. So much of it now is so commercial. That’s why I am careful with everyone I work with and which jobs I take. I went into fashion because it made me dream.
RS: Is there anything else you’d like to tell the Opening Ceremony blog readers?
CR: I just hope they will follow my blog
, thank you [laughs]. Opening Ceremony is something happening in fashion that I really like. It’s not like high fashion that’s something weird. The big houses don’t realize how strong the less high fashion houses are. I love the collaborations Opening Ceremony does, they’re great. Especially the t-shirts with Aurel Schmidt
, I love all that. I have one: the "C."
cafe de flore