We speak to the founder of the French skate and footwear brand about their new exhibition at the Parisian gallery, featuring a life-size skateable house
This summer, Jérôme Delormas (La Gaite Lyrique's director) and Vincent Carry (La Gaite Lyrique's AD) launched the new series of exhibitions 'Public Domaine' at their Parisian gallery La Gaite Lyrique focusing on skateboard culture, assisted by Ed Banger's Pedro Winter and Morgan Bouvant. Cult skating brand Etnies' founder Pierre-André Senizergues was invited to host Level 2 of the space to celebrate their 25th year in the game. Taking over the whole museum from large-scale installations to mini-skateboards dashing across the LED lights on the floors, the exhilarating exhibition features a life-sized fully skateable house built by ex-pro skater Gilles delaPointe, a specially commissioned film breaking the usual themes of skateboarding footage from Mike Manzoori, and select pieces from consultant Yogi Proctor founded from aritsts across the skateboard world. We speak to Senizergues about the label hitting 25 years and what's to come for the next 25...
Dazed Digital: How did you curate the artists that are involved?
Pierre-André Senizergues: Well, I knew them for a long time. I’ve probably known Gilles since 1978, he used to be a sponsored skateboarder, I was seeing him on magazines and he was living in France. Yogi, he interviewed for a job to work at Etnies as an Art Director to do advertising in 1994, but he was a painter actually. I knew Mike from probably around the same time cause he was a sponsored skater too. So I’ve seen those guys for many years, and I’ve seen them change along the way with everything they were doing. And when I went to celebrate the next 25 years at Etnies I thought, their minds are so creative - so I wanted to give them a carte blanche.
DD: So how do the artists link together in the exhibition?
Pierre-André Senizergues: It was about Living, Moving and Thinking, so with Gilles I already had this idea ten years ago to make a 'Skateboard House' but I hadn’t had a chance to do it.
DD: So do they exist now, skateboarding houses?
Pierre-André Senizergues: No this is the first one. There've been houses before where the people put ramps against the wall so you could skate through it but it was not architect or design with skateboarding in mind. So this is the first house where skateboarding comes first, before the architecture, and the architecture is a consequence of skateboarding. So it’s a world premiere for this architecture!
DD: Why do you think fashion is so important to skaters?
Pierre-André Senizergues: I don’t know if fashion is important to skaters or if skaters create some sort of fashion. Skaters are generally a very independent-minded people and true skateboarding is about defying convention. Because they are thinking differently, in a sense they are creating things and they will be creating a certain look… the way they wear their pants, the make of clothing, their shoes, the graphics or the way they move with their clothing, or their stance - the whole mindset is constantly to change the establishment, and to defy the convention.
DD: What do you think has been Etnies' direct influence on skating style over the last 25 years?
Pierre-André Senizergues: Well, first when I started pushing Etnies in the 80s, I saw a lot of mid-tops but I realised actually a lot of the kids, our skating boys, were cutting their hi-tops for low-top shoes so I started making shoes lower, I also realised they were wearing bigger pants… so I start making the shoe wider to go with the pants so it falls onto the pants correctly.
DD: What’s the benefit of having a low top in terms of skateboarding, does it make it easier?
Pierre-André Senizergues: I’m not sure there was a benefit so much - it was more a style. We didn’t want to wear a hi-top as much anymore, we just wanted something different. At that time there was also a lot of graffiti happening and music like The Beastie Boys, etc and the shoes had to fit together. So I think it was just like an observation. I think it definitely had a lot of influence in the street because we were in the streets so much - we are maybe in the street more than anyone else.
DD: Apart from celebrating the 25th year, what has made this year’s collection different?
Pierre-André Senizergues: For example we've designed a new type of technology for the shoes, which is invisible but is much more in tune with the conscious age. We are more environmentally conscious about what is happening around the world so we developed a new technology, called STI Fusion technology. It's a new way of making shoes so they perform better, are more resistant and create less pollution in the way they're manufactured. The design inside reduces Co2, and last longer… The upper and the outer sides of the shoes are fused, so it's a different way of thinking about design.
Sometimes the design is more on the inside than it is on the outside. I think it's a big change, we also designed some shoes where every time we sell a shoe we plant a tree. This year we also just did a collection of shoes that are released for the next 25 years - some are in colette, Double Park in Hong Kong, Livestock in Vancouver and Blend in downtown LA - exclusive to and inspired by each city.
DD: Where do you want to be for the next 25 years… Do you think you’re going to continue to do environmentally conscious collections?
Pierre-André Senizergues: Yeah we'll definitely keep going in this area. I think it will become more and more important because of climate change - things are changing, seasons are changing, so one day it’s hot, the next day it’s cold - it'll only amplify. Also I think there is going to be a lot of decentralisation, for me I produce something in one area of the world and it goes everywhere, but we're going to have to be more sustainable and produce locally.
Public Domaine will be on at La Gaîté Lyrique until Sunday, 7 August 2011; 3 rue Papin, 75003 Paris, France