Nicolas Ouchenir: Paris' preferred calligrapher
The fountain pen behind so many French labels
There are few better feelings than the arrival of a beautifully handwritten invitation to a fashion show. But if we had to think of one? Perhaps when that show is in Paris, say for example, being held at the Grand Palais set up like a giant supermarket for Chanel, or a magical fairy forest in the name of Dior. And long before the event takes place, or the invitations even sent, the work of many skilled artists comes into play.
Cue Nicolas Ouchenir, Paris' finest calligrapher, who has been working with various fashion houses for more than a decade, signing said invitations, helping to develop dedicated bespoke fonts and logos depending on his client. The 34-year-old counts everyone from Chloé to Lancôme, Givenchy, and Miu Miu as regular clients – an unsung hero of the most haute fashion circles, if you will – and his influence can not be understated.
From his atelier on the famous Rue St. Honoré, Ouchenir works alone and is known to create nearly 1,000 invitations daily in the lead up to Paris Fashion Week, or on a quieter day to brainstorm typefaces and logos for the Louvre's special projects.
"From an early age, I have always admired my father's handwriting, and later Christian Lacroix's"
Ouchenir has no formal training. "I always loved the 1940s, and the period of Art Nouveau," he says, adding, "From an early age, I have always admired my father's handwriting, and later Christian Lacroix's." It wasn't until a stint working at the JGM. Galerie – where he amused himself replicating artists' signatures, from Andy Warhol to Niki de Saint Phalle – that his talents were discovered and nurtured by Parisian PR queen Pia de Brantes.
She immediately took him to her office and charged Ouchenir with penning invites for events, lavish receptions and dinners, and it didn't take long for the talented penman to establish his own business.
So what does it take to become a calligrapher? "Calm, the ability to continuously research and the ability to see the features that make each brand special," he says. Surely patience is a big part of the job? "Being a calligrapher is almost the same being a dancer," he adds. It is necessary to train every day to become a master." Ouchenir believes that the best way for him to 'train' is to scribble logos, designs for tattoos, letters, illustrations for magazines and books on the side. "Every time I have an opportunity to write, I write," he says, "But it does not seem hard work – it's not only my job, but also my major passion."
"Being a calligrapher is almost the same being a dancer," he adds. It is necessary to train every day to become a master..."