We asked French photographer Romain Bernardie James to give us his personal interpretation of the KENZO Spring Summer 2013 "Clouded Leopard" (we will reveal the first images of his story on the blog on Wednesday) and we decided to sit down with him and have a little conversation about his work, his plans for the future and his vision of the brand.
Could you tell us a little about your background?
I studied marketing and advertising at university, and I have a masters in communications, after which I learned my trade, which is graphic design and art direction. Photography came much later, on the job. I worked mainly with publishers, Le Book, WAD magazine, the chain MCM, a long time ago now... before starting my own company and becoming fully independent.
Could you briefly describe your photography? At first glance, it's all about color and pop art, but it often involves a shift, a disturbing element.
Yes, it's quite fun and spontaneous. There is often humor, bold colors and a slightly retro feel.
Could you tell us a bit about this "Clouded Leopard" series?
Kenzo's take on leopard print is quite unique and original. It's nice not to end up with the same motif that's been done a thousand times already, every year magazines do the leopard thing again. For this series we wanted to use the principles of still life, but using a living model: the very cool Diana, who was perfect for the job despite not knowing the Fugees or Melrose Place (or Alyssa Milano Ed.)! The idea was really to compose a still life. The body is used like any other decorative element.
Why do you think leopard print has become so iconic? What is so special about it?
As I was saying, what's unique about the Kenzo version of leopard print is that it takes the leopard’s “spots” as a basis, but then reinterprets it in a completely different way; this is what I think makes it work. Using fashionable colors, it's new and unfamiliar, and it's pretty nice!
What do you associate with Kenzo as a brand? Which of the brand values resonate with you?
Ever since I was a kid, I've always seen Kenzo as a brand that brings exoticism, but in a sincere way and not just to stay on-trend or purely for marketing, like when tropical retro comes into fashion and suddenly all the brands are doing it.
I remember your blog "Apérolog" a couple of years ago, and now you have several tumblrs: "And we drink and drown" and "Les Bécanes." How do you think the internet has changed photography over the past few years?
The internet and especially platforms such as tumblr have changed photography in terms of access and the fact that it's free. But finding good pictures always requires effort, now more so than ever. When you had to pay - and pay dearly at that - to buy books or art magazines to access beautiful images, now they're freely available in large numbers but are often hidden in a huge pile of crap. From a creative point of view, it was probably better before, everyone did their own thing. Now, so many people just reproduce the style that’s on tumblr without looking any further, so it's a double-edged sword.
Can you tell us about these tumblr blogs and what they bring to your work?
For "Les Bécanes" it's not about photography work at all, I mean, I certainly don't see it like that, it's more your basic fan that takes photos at old motorbike shows at the weekend . I travel such a lot as well so I can exercise this passion everywhere, but it’s nothing more than that.
You currently have several different projects underway, how do you think they complement each other?
Even though I am involved in several projects, via the MAN shows or The Imaginers creative agency, underneath it's really all the same thing. I am a graphic designer by trade and I take pictures. These disciplines work together pretty well, the graphic design taught me to compose, and as I never learned photography, that's been crucial!
Here's a portfolio of his personal work:
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