The GQ&A: A.P.C.’s Jean Touitou
GQ‘s latest GQ&A interview series catches up with A.P.C. founder Jean Touitou. The magazine talks to Touitou about the brand’s new West Village store, his plans to collaborate with Kanye West and Azealia Banks. See below for the full interview.
GQ: The West Village is the perfect environment for A.P.C. but what attracted you to the space in the first place? Why West 4th Street now?
Jean Touitou: Frankly, walking down those streets, because I’ve rented an apartment over there, I was so jealous it was not Paris. I find it prettier than Paris, and Paris is beautiful, but this… I really love those streets, and then we were looking for another location, and since the restaurant across the street was a good restaurant, I thought, “Let’s try that.” But by doing this, I put my hand in a lot of danger because of the landmarks in the neighborhood. Not complaining, just saying it has been one year longer than I thought, but I’m really happy with the results.
GQ: The store’s exterior is composed of wood slats, which is a very specific look and very particular for the neighborhood. Did you consciously want to build a modern exterior that was different from the architecture in the area?
Jean Touitou: Not at all. It’s because the work permit kicked in so late for the actual window, and I wanted to open the store by any means, and the window was not done yet, so it’s a temporary thing. But if you do something temporary, you might as well do something beautiful, is what I thought with this. Because it might take two months to get the new construction done.
GQ: You better watch out, New York people are going to start copying that.
Jean Touitou: Well, anything that makes the world more beautiful, I’m happy. But it will be sad to take that away, I’m sure.
GQ: Well, it looks great and it’s very unique for down there. It’s funny that it’s not meant to be there, but it looks like it belongs.
Jean Touitou: Even a crazy person wouldn’t dare to try to register such a thing with the landmark there; there’s no way they could be accepted. I’ve been proposing a few projects before, and none of them was wood, it was glass, and they refuse. I mean it’s difficult. But it looks good in that environment, it’s not aggressive, and to tell you the truth, it would save me a lot of time and money to keep that permanent, but I really like it, and the light’s still beautiful inside. I was afraid of darkness, but my architect has got it together there, I must say.
GQ: The A.P.C. Specials store, which is now a Surplus store, is so close to this new one. Is that concept of having two stores so close together something that you’re looking to create in other areas of the world?
Jean Touitou: No, there’s no real concept. It’s just the fact that I was looking in the West Village, and I found West 4th and Perry, and then I found Bleecker and Perry and I could not really refuse. So I did both, but no, it’s not a concept. I’m really glad I can do Surplus; I don’t know how English that sounds, Surplus, but I don’t like the word “outlet.” I find it totally unproper and inelegant, so with Surplus I hope people will understand. Because fashion is absurd. You’re in the middle of real winter now and your store is spring/summer, so it only makes sense to have winter somewhere. And on top of that it’s going to be 50 percent off, so who would complain? And the store itself looks good, you don’t feel like you’ve been badly treated going to somewhere, you know.
GQ: Switching coasts, you’re celebrating the fifth anniversary of the A.P.C. store in L.A. What have you learned about your customer in Los Angeles in five years and how does that compare to your customer in New York? Are they the same, or are they different?
Jean Touitou: They’re the same, but as you know, life is pretty different there, this car business. I think, I believe, I imagine that cool people, they don’t spend their life in their cars, it’s not possible. When I think about those people, if they want to go shopping, it’s like me going to my country house. You go to the country house, but to go buy a sweater, you take your car, and if you’re lucky, it’s one hour and fifteen minutes, and the same on the way back, maybe, with traffic, so if you’ve spent three something hours to get a small sweater, that’s no good. So yeah, the little I’ve learned there is that you have to have many stores to have your brand… I wish I had a truck.
GQ: And just be able to kind of take it around?
Jean Touitou: Yeah, I’m actually looking to buy a nice truck, and you just put boxes in it, like nice boxes, and you go to peoples’ houses, because, I mean, if you’re a writer in Malibu, why would you go shop?
GQ: The A.P.C. aesthetic is reflected in the design of your stores and really helps create a distinct environment for the brand. Do you try to recreate this online with e-commerce and the A.P.C. Journal? Or is that something that you recognize as separate?
Jean Touitou: Well, obviously it’s not the same artist that did the new, online presentation and the store, but yes. There’s a lot of things you could do to get much richer in this business and that includes having bad aesthetics on your website. I mean, if I had bad aesthetics on my website, I could add one more zero to my figure, I’m sure. It’s proven, it’s documented. So this is where people call us crazy in the business, because they say basically we should be doing half a billion, where worldwide I think our company only does fifty million. But to expand like crazy, you have to have cheap stores, stores in which you apply every time the same formula of architecture, that’s like all cheap, but we don’t want to do that. I want my architect to focus on every location as a different project, so that’s heavy. We’re going to open in 2013 a store in Bergen Street in Brooklyn, Bergen and Smith. I know that’s a nice neighborhood, and maybe I do Venice, and maybe something else in Paris. But you know, when you think about it, three stores a year plus a major architectural project, that’s a lot. You could open 50, if you have the same formula over and over. That’s how you make the money. And then, same thing, I asked the art director that did the website to not compromise the beauty. We’ll listen to what the professionals say on e-commerce, but we just listen.