Today’s interview is with Corinne Dauger – former VP of creative development at Hermes and artist, professor, and creative consultant. I was thrilled to have the chance to interview Corinne – to me, she’s basically the embodiment of those impossibly chic, incredibly accomplished women you see all the time in movies, but rarely in person. She is as gracious as she is lovely, and I hope you enjoy meeting her!
Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?
“I’m a woman, I’m a lover, I’m a mother, I’m a child, I’m a sinner, I’m a saint…”
I’m an early morning traveller of the city and amidnight painter. I watch, I listen, I create visuals (painting and photography), I teach and I advise companies who wish to build strong creative brands. I live in a small historical city next door to Paris, Rueil Malmaison. I work from my studio which is an extension of my house..or maybe it’s the other way round…
You have held some impressive positions at some big name companies (P&G, Hermes). Can you share a little bit about how your career evolved from your Fine Arts studies?
As a matter of fact I did study business in a French business school (HEC) and Fine Arts in parallel, as a side activity, trying to balance “reason” with “passion”. I started my career in business with P&G in France. This felt like a more “reasonable” path to make a living at the time. I thought I would stay couple of years…I ended up staying eighteen years, and I enjoyed almost every assignment I took and in particular the people there. Looking backwards I think I was happy and successful there as a seasoned business woman, yet with an unconventional creative mind.
I joined Hermès afterwards, which seemed s a logical next step to reconcile business with art. Hermès is a highly creative house grounded in outstanding craftsmanship. After some time however, I felt I was longing to be on my own, and focusing almost exclusively on creative expression…at the expense of management and dealing with a large organization. It’s such a relief to have only myself to manage now, even if I miss sometimes the excitement of teamwork.
Nowadays I think that there are many more possibilities for Fine Arts Students who wish to join “business life”, provided that they acquire creative mastery in fields that are applicable to the development of new products and new communication forms.
What made you take this jump to painting and art? Did you always know that you would do this full time, or did you think you might stay in the corporate world?
I always knew that one day or the other I would dedicate myself mainly to painting, yet I did not know when I could make it happen. It just felt right at a point in time when I felt confident about myself as a potential artist and also when my financials were more in control. Or maybe it’s to do more with “midlife crisis”, when you say to yourself that you’d better do now what you had in mind for later!
Where do you find inspiration for your work? Is it everyday, or is it in random periods?
I find inspiration almost everyday but there are more intense periods. I am primarily inspired by what I see and by the urban environment. I visit three or four big cities every year to look for new visuals, landscapes and lights. Last years I visited Shanghai, Chicago, Doha, St. Petersburg, Hong Kong, and Dubai. I like urban structures and and city lights!
What are some of the most inspiring places in the world to visit for you…both around France and around the world?
The most inspiring city for me is Manhattan, I make sure I go there regularly. I also like to go to places related to our urban life but that are not supposed to be beautiful. I like to seek beauty in the ugly. I visited many building sites throughout the world and I was particularly inspired by the demolition sites. It inspired an exhibition in Paris in the Christofle Salons around this theme. Last year, I started visiting junkyards, in particular those dealing with crashed cars…it’s a work in progress and inspiration for my next exhibition.
What have been some of the favorite pieces you’ve created…and what have been some of the highlights of your time as a painter and artist?
I would think of four pieces:
1. An oil painting on canvas 100x100cm called “Rosebud”. It’s a still life, an unusual subject for me. It was part of an exhibition called “Féminin Singuliers” dedicated to portraits of women in the city. It also included pieces portraying just women’s clothes as an expression of their personality or sensibility of the moment. This one shows an evening gown laid on a simple chair. I find it incredibly sensual and peaceful. I exhibited it several times and it appears that I’m the only one person who truly likes it!
2. An oil painting on canvas which was the “hero” piece of my last exhibition called “Vers là-bas” (Somewhere over there), inspired by an early morning walk in St. Petersburg. I like its light and it’s mystery.
3. A photograph from my series on demolition sites, called “Apocalypse Now”. I like its energy and the idea of a tide.
4. An oil painting on silver panels, called “Alice in Ironland”.
You have a tremendous background in luxury – an industry that has obviously been booming over the past decade. What do you think is the future of the luxury goods business? Will we only have large conglomerates and less and less small artisans?
It’s difficult to predict. I like to think that there will be room for both. Global luxury brands will keep growing as more and more people will be able to afford them, and provided they keep their creative appeal and do not fall into the trap of greed and commoditization.
I expect talented small artisans to do well, benefiting from new diffusion models and also because people first long for status, and later on tend to seek more authenticity and genuine craftsmanship with a soul. After all, all great luxury houses started as talented craftsmanship.
You have wonderful style. How do you approach dressing, day to day and for special events? Any rules that you follow? What are some of your favorite items in your wardrobe, that you wear frequently?
Half of the time I’m working in my studio, wearing worn out jeans and T-shirts covered with paint stains! So when I’m not busy painting or crawling on building sites, I like to look like a woman. I wear high heels, some with a red sole… silver or white gold jewelry, and simple outfits – mostly plain colors but with great cuts.
My favourites: a back sleeveless flannel jumpsuit from Chloe which I wear with a simple white men’s shirt underneath, a silk orange evening dress from Christian Lacroix, with a laced back…I could climb the Cannes’ Festival staircase with it! Black trousers from IKKS with a black & white top from Sandro…and my great Hermès leather coats.
On that topic – what are your favorite Hermes items?
From my wardrobe – a suede coat with a simple ziplock closure and a taupe colour. Fantastic material, great cut, no frills.
From the store: I dream of the articulated diamond whip, created two years ago by Pierre Hardy.
What are some of your other passions and hobbies?
Hiking in the French Alps and the Moroccan Atlas. Great tasting and looking food …I’m French! Surprising special moments, reading historical novels, and watching series on rainy sundays next to my fireplace (Games of Thrones, Downton Abbey, Homeland, Damages).
And finally….please share something surprising about yourself!
I sleep with….my teddy bear.