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  • Karl Lagerfeld’s calligraphic portrait by Nicolas Ouchenir.

  • Carine Roitfeld’s calligraphic portrait by Nicolas Ouchenir.

  • Nicolas Ouchenir at his studio. Photo by François Goizé.

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Nicolas Ouchenir’s calligraphic portraits take over Colette, Paris

Nicolas Ouchenir is one of the most famous calligraphers of our times, having created handwritten invitations, original signatures and logos for the world’s leading luxury brands, from Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Prada and Dior to Cartier, Lancôme, Vivienne Westwood and Maison Margiela. Ouchenir, who is completely self-taught, started writing invitations for art galleries, soon realizing that a beautifully written invitation had the power to make more people turn up to an event. What started as a mere experiment was finally transformed into a full-time job, making Ouchenir worldwide famous. Only during Paris fashion week each season he writes at his atelier on St-Honoré more than 15,000 invitations, creating every year bespoke alphabets for the brands he collaborates with. “Seeing your name calligraphed on an invitation makes you feel desired, and that’s what everyone secretly wants,” the Parisian designer recently told Nowness. “Calligraphy might be an age-old trade but it follows current trends,” he continued. “From Gareth Pugh’s violent lettering to Kanye West’s signature-like alphabet, it’s a craft both timeless and ephemeral.

Ouchenir’s latest project is an exhibition of his calligraphic portraits at Parisian concept store Colette, paired with extracts of novels and poems that match the personality of the depicted subjects, among them Karl Lagerfeld, Carine Roitfeld, Nick Cave, Julianne Moore, Parisian it girl Jeanne Damas, Colette’s owner Sarah Andelman, as well as his partner, accessories designer Hugo Matha. Bringing together his two passions, writing and literature, the artist conceived the portraits as a love letter to those who are close to him and inspire him creatively. The exhibition consists of twenty evocative portraits developed by the artist as a singular and poetic interpretation of the men and women that he admires, using calligraphy, the authentic and eternal signature of the words. The final result is elegant, still powerful, an exceptional ode to the art of calligraphy and the immediateness of portraiture. “Portraits” by Nicolas Ouchenir will remain on view until July 18, 2015, at Colette, 213 rue Saint-Honoré, 75001, Paris. During the exhibition, the artist will be available for commissioned portraits that will be accompanied by selected quotes, each priced at €2,500.