The man who is re-writing fashion
It’s little wonder that his list of clients reads like a who’s who of the fashion world – Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Gucci, Christian Dior, Miu Miu, Cartier – rival brands that commission him to dream up exquisite invitations, logo types and a creative play on letters and signatures. During Paris fashion week alone, Ouchenir estimates he creates 20,000 invitations, each handwritten, for approximately 60 clients.
Ouchenir credits his upbringing in the bustling Paris district of Belleville as influencing his career early on. “How could I not be moved by the melting pot of Chinese, Arabic and Jewish people; I was utterly submerged in all these cultures and religions.” His parents, an Algerian locksmith father and a French administrative clerk mother also played an important part: “My whole family write beautifully, when they travel, they send letters and postcards full of beautiful thoughts. They love the cinema and theatre and we would regularly visit museums and galleries together.”
It was a childhood visit to the doctors, however, where he first became entranced by the potency of ink on paper. To distract himself from the doctor’s bad breath he focused on the prescription the doctor would scrawl. “I was fascinated by how illegible his writing was but similarly, how intense and visceral it seemed.”
It was while working at the gallery of Jean-Gabriel Mitterrand, (the son of former French president François Mitterrand) that Ouchenir got to ‘flex’ his calligraphy when he was put in charge of the opening dinner for an exhibition. The 100 invitations he made for the occasion were a success, and he later found out that many guests had kept their copy.
“People these days are really afraid of writing because you have to be more honest when you write with a pen; people find it easier to sms or email as they are scared of their feelings.”
It’s a sentiment that perhaps explains his decision to attach a handwritten note to his husband Hugo Matha’s artisanal crafted bags.
The pair met while they were both engaged to other people. At the time Ouchenir was with the ballet dancer, Benjamin Pech. Ouchenir laughs, “I was at Hugo’s boyfriend’s party and was bored so I got up to say goodbye. Hugo turned to me and said, ‘Leave me alone and go and do ‘pointe’ with your ballet dancer’. I loved what he said, it was a ‘coup de foudre’ and I fell in love with him.”