Photographer Fanny Viguier and designer Vincent Frederic-Colombo are blazing the trail with a club night that celebrates Creole culture
Step into LA CREOLE, one of the most talked about club nights of Paris’s underground scene, and you’ll find yourself in a sonorous world thick with paradox: there’s a cathartic rhythm to the chaos, a tender intimacy amongst strangers, a firm sense of safety through the unbridled freedom. And amongst the sweaty grind of the bodily bonanza, it’s highly probable that you’ll lose your shirt, lower your guard, and finally be able to take a breath of fresh air from the strictures of everyday life. Bienvenue to the magic universe of LA CREOLE.
Founded by Fanny Viguier, a photographer hailing from the Parisian suburbs, and Vincent Frederic-Colombo, a Paris-born, Guadeloupe-raised stylist, LA CREOLE is an artistic collective spanning music, dance, fashion, and photography. The two initially connected over social media in 2014 for work: Viguier was looking for a designer for an editorial and Frederic-Colombo, whose work focused predominantly on menswear at the time, fit the bill.
As their collaborations within the world of fashion harmonised, Frederic-Colombo began to share his personal questioning – or requestioning – of Creole identity and culture with Viguier. “Together we try to create a universal vision of this culture by building bridges with identity markers. We also deconstruct certain clichés relating to the idea that one can have about Creole cultures,” he explains. “And so, we started breaking down the rules, breaking down the clichés.”
Studying historical representations of Creole culture, as found in books and postcards, Viguier and Frederic-Colombo created a dialogue between the tired, homogenous clichés of this photographic past and the multiple realities that construct the present. “As we requestioned the term creole, which as a culture is very vast and complicated, we rooted ourselves in the discourse of Martinican poet and philosopher Edouard Glissant and his definition of la créolisation,” explains Viguier of their approach. They focused their lens on the unexpected and novel outcomes of this interpenetration of cultures – the creative possibilities that créolisation, as proposed by Glissant, can generate for the future.
The dialogue took the form of a series of photographs taken between France and Guadeloupe, and then a second series, featuring 50 young people from the Creole diaspora. “It was always with the intention to deconstruct and propose new identities that come from this collective imagination. We try to propose a different vision,” says Viguier. “It’s about how Creole culture really is, and not how people want to see it. We try to democratise the complexity of these cultures which are composed of multiple identities from the five continents. We speak of multi-racial cultures, and not only of a mixed race,” Frederic-Colombo adds.
In 2017, one of their exhibition openings twisted its way into a dance party. And so, six months later, they held their first club night. “It was organised with the idea of bridging what we already know from these cultures, such as Afro-Latin-Caribbean beats, with something more unexpected,” recalls Viguier. “Like alternative electro and techno.” To this music, they wanted people to be able to dance – ballroom, voguing, walking, ndombolo – uninhibited, taking up centre stage on their own terms and without being othered. “It was a liberation for our dancer friends in terms of how they danced because such a space didn’t exist,” Viguier explains. “But it also allowed people who wouldn’t have dared to take up space to do so. We are not there to judge anyone because of movement.”
This absolute sense of inclusivity – in terms of gender, race and sexuality – is the fertile soil from which these soirées have flourished, but “we speak of inclusivity in the opposite sense,” says Viguier. “It begins with the minorities and extends to those who are perceived as the norm.” And such a vision is rooted in the founders’ original reflections on Creole culture and identity. “The purpose of the party is all about meeting and sharing. It's about mixing life, human beings, races,” Paul Lavel, who joined the collective as manager four years ago, explains.
Since the first soirée, dance and music have formalised as the backbone of this inclusivity. As they were increasingly invited to take over spaces outside of their club residencies, such as festivals, they faced the challenge of recreating the inclusive energy that unfurled so naturally at their own parties. “So, we decided to create a collective – we are now 14 including the resident DJ and dancers. It is not a strict professional relationship, but something that just happened by itself,” explains Viguier. “The dancers are the real bridge between the DJ, the stage, and the public. They create something fluid which maintains the energy all night.”
Similarly, their collective has developed to support the music of artists from the Creole diaspora. Take, for example, their resident DJ, Greg. “He just messaged us once on Facebook, when he was 17, saying that he loved LA CREOLE and that he was tuning in from Mauritius,” remembers Frederic-Colombo. “He messaged us when he was in Paris saying he was coming to the party. Something messed up with our DJ line-up so we messaged him and asked him if would play for us. It was his first time ever at our soirées.”
“And now he is a resident,” adds Viguier, laughing. Their ongoing partnerships with platforms such as RinseFM and Boiler Room have allowed their DJs, like Greg, to promote internationally these new references for what constitutes Creole music.
Today, the soirées have taken on a dimension of their own, but a recent exhibition, held during La Nuit Blanche in Paris at the Fiminco Foundation, was an opportunity for the founders to reinforce the multifaceted nature of their collective to newcomers, who perhaps aren’t aware of the party’s roots. The exhibition featured imagery from the party flyers, as captured by Viguier, which continue to “make the link from the photographic origins of before and the parties for which people know LA CREOLE today,” she explains. These flyers were accompanied by photographs from the original series, where she and Frederic-Colombo first collaborated. The event was, naturally, animated by live performances as well as a ‘cat-walking’ and waacking (a type of dance stemming from ballroom) workshop, led by one of their resident dancers.
But the true takeaway from the exhibition was the sheer influence of LA CREOLE – not only on music, dance and photography, but also on human interconnectivity. The free event nurtured both interculturality and intergenerationality: “it was so cool to see so many different identities in one place,” Viguier reminisces. The founders’ spectacular ability to mine the historical narratives of Creole culture, in all their truth, to construct new universal notions of identity and inclusivity is a radical, and much-needed, proposition in the Parisian club world. And as they start to take their club nights across the world (they’ve already held soirées in Lisbon and London, with others in the works) here’s hoping that the magic of LA CREOLE will continue to spread, far and wide.