As one of the most influential designers of the last ten years, Parisian auteur So Me (aka Bertrand De Langeron) is anything but your average pop artiste. Meshing his perspicacity for vibrant colour with brilliant typography and cheeky hand-drawn sketches, this award-winning wizard has seen his vivid trademark splashed across countless brands (Nike, H&M, Stussy and Revolver), shine on album sleeves for Ed Banger Records and music videos for artists such as Mehdi, Justice and Kanye West. We managed to track down So Me for a quick tour through his new project with Etnies!
Bonjour So Me, so far! So how’s things? Are you in Paris right now?
Hello Sneaker Freaker! I’m in Paris. Cooling a little bit with the travelling. I’m shooting a music video here and the next destination is Coachella with the crew. We usually don’t miss this one anymore now, it’s the perfect spot to try on our pair of Ednies for the first time!
How did you hook up with Etnies? I mean Ednies.
We’ve always wanted to do something with a skate brand. Both Pedro (aka Busy P) and me have our roots in this culture. We happened to have friends at Etnies for a long time and always had great respect for the French man Pierre Andre Senizergues (owner of Etnies) who made his mark in this game – first as a skater, then as a brand creator – and who happens to be an über nice fellow. Yet we didn’t want to do a ‘big’ skate shoe (talking about size and shape), which is more of the Etnies tradition. We had to meet in the middle which I’m sure has been interesting for both them and us. A mix of our two names seemed totally obvious to me!
Agreed! Minimalism isn’t something that people would usually associate with your style. What was the thinking behind the monotone look? If you’re sick of colour I guess we can all roll-over Beethoven!
Well, I love colour obviously. But there are certain items in my life where I wouldn’t want my graphics to interfere. For example I don’t think I would exchange a black leather jacket for a five colour all-over printed coat with my graphics. I think you have to combine your love for graphics with everyday life realism! At the same time, the lining of this leather jacket would be quite chic with graphics on it, like the tablecloth I’m eating on or my socks! It really depends.
Also, I already had the opportunity to have fun with a shoe, with Pedro on his Nike Air Force 1. For Ednies it is more like ‘Ok this is our pro model this time!’ The AF-1 wasn’t so much a design to be worn by me, but was more of a performance. It’s not like we wanna grab the attention with a crazy concept on a model that’s already been customised 500 times before, as was the case for Nike. We all have different styles and tastes but with this Ednies shoe I would like any member of Ed Banger records to be able to feel them, as well as the Etnies skaters. I really tried to come up with something classic and simple.
Red, white and black... def simple. I thought you would have been drapeau tricolore? (colours of the French flag)
True that, we like these small hints of ideas that tie everything up together. We didn’t think of this, mostly because we wanted a black shoe!
Ok, maybe next time! I loved the ‘You will probably never see this, will you?’ message in the insole! We did!
I’m glad you did, as I said before, I wanted the shoe simple. This doesn’t mean I’m fed up with graphics, so I tried to have fun with the insole and the packaging. I’m not sure if I’ve got ‘happy toes’. How do you keep yours happy? Mine are happy when they wear the right shoe. These days I’m into vintage boots and there’s only one spot in Tokyo where I can find the right ones. It’s not like I’m going everyday. Last time a DJ friend of mine accepted a gig in Tokyo only because he expected to find the right pair of all-white Jordan 1. And he found them! Japan = gold mine, but that’s old news. I’m sure you keep yours quite happy as a sneaker freaker!
We try... Speaking of Ed Banger, are you surprised that in this age of downloads that your cover art has made such an impression?
The internet might not be the place for material music in terms of packaging, but it remains a place for visuals. And more than ever, a place for music, actually. You might not hold a record cover between your fingers anymore, but you still need to see what an artist looks like or what his universe is. It’s as important as it’s ever been, if not more. The artists with the strongest visuals are usually among the most successful. The second important aspect is that, if people almost don’t buy music these days, one of the only ways to grab their attention is to make attractive sleeves. Then your record might be one of the only ones they might buy in this downloading era. But we didn’t sit with suits and ties at a table and plan this in order to sell records, it’s just something we can analyse afterwards. Actually, in the first place, our love for images at Ed Banger has always been our drive as much as our love for music, no matter the crisis.
Fashion, animation, videos, sneakers... is there anything you haven’t tried that you’d like to do?
There are so many things I haven’t tried yet. Nowadays I’m struggling in this ill music business to be able to do more music videos. This is a very exciting field, but for instance, the times make it very difficult.
We’ve been following your colabs with Japanese brand Revolver for a while now. Given how globalised the world is... how different is Paris from Tokyo these days?
In terms of selling clothes, the market is totally different in Tokyo. Even if more and more young people tend to dress casually and simple (Uniqlo and all) which is causing damage to the expensive brands, quality and exclusiveness seem to still be above all. This means that even if some items are sold at incredibly high prices, people who really want it will be able to spend a month’s salary on a jacket if they want.
With Revolver, we do small amounts, which increases the price a lot, and we build in Japan in order to have full control of the quality, which once again is a huge cost. This stuff makes sense in Japan, because it’s a way of doing things there. Sometimes, according to people requesting it, some Revolver stuff is for sale in Europe. It might be Colette or on coolcats.fr, and the prices for, let’s say a t-shirt, might be double compared to a French t-shirt. It’s almost impossible to justify that to a customer here, yet some people still want it because it’s good quality and rare, so I’m happy. Even if I might be embarrassed, the prices make themselves in this case.
Ever think about making the jump into the world of ‘Fine Art’?
Yes I have thousands of ideas regarding that. But as with fashion, this is a closed world that asks for tremendous effort to step in. Too much social stuff is going on. I don’t want to start as a Rastignac* in the art world. I keep myself busy so far, so I don’t miss it like crazy and in the meantime I have this naive and utopian dream that a great gallery would lend me a hand? Because putting drawings on the wall is one thing, but stepping up your game with more creative stuff needs investors and rich buyers. One can imagine why it’s such a closed world. It’s a whole different circus, it’s not about ‘art’ at some point, really.
And finally... seen Kanye lately?
Actually we were hanging out in Paris a few weeks ago. He’s a good man, trust me. I can safely say we’re buddies now!
*In French today, to refer to someone as a ‘Rastignac’ is to call them an ambitious ‘arriviste’ or social climber.