apc's jean touitou talks about the new london store
The brand’s owner Jean Touitou – insistently apologetic after a recent race row - sets up shop on Soho’s Lexington Street.
Jean Touitou, the French-Tunisian owner of APC just opened a new store on Lexington Street in Soho to follow on from his relatively new Redchurch Street in Shoreditch (his first London store was in Notting Hill Gate, 20 years ago, and he's due to open one there again in the near future). It's a clean, fresh, almost Scandinavian space from the Frenchman, all bright wood, clay coloured tiles and cream walls. And it sits in an emerging corner of Soho, near the Our Legacy and Aesop stores. It should have been a celebratory time for the designer, but at a presentation of his autumn/winter 15 collection two weeks ago in Paris, he caused indignation when he presented his collection in his trademark salon-style along with a sign reading "Last ni**@s in Paris" (a misguided play on the film Last Tango in Paris and the Jay-Z/Kanye track Ni**@s in Paris). In the presentation, he also described Timberlands (with whom he'd collaborated) as "a very strong ghetto signifier", causing the boot-makers to pull out of the joint collection.
He's since apologised for his "ignorant and offensive" remarks, adding that he spoke "recklessly" and was "deeply regretful." i-D had already arranged to meet the French designer before the scandal broke, and went along to see what he had to say. Looking forlorn, he told i-D, "I cannot do more than issue very strong apologies. There's nothing else I can do" and bowed his head in silence. Clearly regretful, he went on to tell us some more about his childhood in Tunisia, his kindergarten in Paris and Wes Anderson recording in his music studio.
Jean's father was a stylish man.
"I suspect he joined the army just for the uniform."
"We were living in Tunisia when I was born, and then we moved to Paris. My father's family were Jews from Algeria. If I could have such a thing as a Mediterranean passport I would take it, because I can't stand the idea of being called Tunisian or French. Technically I'm French from North Africa."
He loves English plumber style.
"There is something in the look of the working man in England that always seduced me. I cannot explain why it did in a way that the working man in France did not so much. Then with the girls, I like it when they are not so posh, because when they have checked everything on their fashion list - hair, make-up, pedicure, shoes, bag - that I don't buy."
He gets many of his fabrics from Britain.
"Britain's industry doesn't exist anymore for manufacturing, but it still has some yarns from Scotland. The remaining spinners in England are good and some remaining suiting fabrics are very good too, from the Sheffield area."
He runs a kindergarten.
"When I started my school, my kindergarten, for two to five-year-olds, I thought it was very important for the furniture to be the most beautiful furniture; not so that the kids would be 'oh cool!' but so that it would be imprinted on their brain and maybe it's helpful for them subconsciously."
He has a recording studio at his design studio.
"We recorded a piece of the Wes Anderson soundtrack from Fantastic Mr Fox there. We've done a piece there with Jarvis Cocker. And we took a mobile studio to Cuba once and did an excellent record called Havana Mood."
APC has always been huge in Japan.
"At some point with the incredible success we had in Japan, I could do just about anything, drop it and it sell 5000 pieces. But I think this put me to sleep, and that's the kiss of death. That was around 1996. Then I realised everybody was doing the same stores - white walls, piping rail - and then I realised I needed to have more creativity in the architecture, and stop with the non-architecture architecture, and go somewhere else."