In 1994, Prosper and Martine Assouline published La Colombe d’Or—a book on their favorite hotel in the South of France—out of their basement in Paris. A year later, the couple opened the first Assouline store on rue Danielle Casanova. Today, they have published over 1,500 books, opened 22 stores, and curated a variety of libraries. Assouline releases 50 to 60 books a year, with the latest being Hot Wheels, Mykonos Muse, and Italian Chic.
Whitewall spoke with Alexandre Assouline, the founders’ son and recently named vice president, about the influence of art, working with family, and what’s next for the brand.
WHITEWALL: Tell us about working with your family and how your role at Assouline began.
ALEXANDRE ASSOULINE: It’s a small family business. As you could imagine, every aspect is really hands-on. Two years ago, my role was to focus on restructuring the digital department, especially e-commerce and social media, but also the whole marketplace aspect. I started there, researching what it meant and what was done before. This year we also launched a new sophisticated website. I also worked on every aspect of the marketing side, whether it was building the right set of tools for the sales team or better communication between each team, creating titles, or delivering the promise to the customers.
And I developed a side business for interior design that curates and creates libraries for luxury buildings, hotels, and private clients. It’s been a fun experience with really good clients, and very clever, fun projects.
WW: And now you’re the vice president of the company—a recent change. Tell us about that transition.
AA: Coming into the role of vice president from a marketing-based role was extremely beneficial. I was able to look at the bigger picture of the business from the alternative perspective of the buyer. I know what goes into marketing each of our titles and have taken time to get to know our clients. I’m now able to unify different teams within the company. I’ve also had the opportunity to work more directly with our editor in chief of 15 years, Esther Kremer, to bring new titles to life, which has been very exciting.
WW: What are you working on now?
AA: We’re about to open our new Maison Assouline in Dubai in 2019—a 5,000-square-foot space with a restaurant and terrace. We just launched our new bookstand—the A Bookstand, which I designed—and we’ll be launching our fall titles, including New York by New York and Rolex: The Impossible Collection.
WW: How do you choose whom to collaborate with?
AA: It’s really about the right opportunity for a specific book at the time that we want to do it. We’re a small company (there are 35 people here), and we don’t want to be the whole machine of a huge company. We want to be an insider brand.
Of course, there are the big brands that we want to work with. We launched a big collaboration with Gucci on products.
And when Azzedine [Alaïa] passed away last November, our whole calendar for this year was blocked. He was my godfather. We revived a book that we did with him because it just makes sense for us.
WW: There are certain elements when publishing that make a book or magazine feel luxurious, like printing techniques or paper quality. What specific design elements are special for Assouline?
AA: Always the covers. It’s beautiful in its own way, but playing with the embossing, the foil, the gloss—it’s always interesting. We’re trying to push as much as we can.
The whole packaging aspect is important to us as well, because it’s more than just a book with content. Last year, we did The Impossible Collection of Wine and it came in a wooden crate, and we did The Impossible Collection of Golf and it replicated a golf ball. It’s a luxury object and a piece of home decor. So, the packaging stays very, very important.
WW: What is a book that you have not produced, but you would love to do?
AA: I would love to do a series on astrology—on every sign with a good author that really explains what the signs stand for. I hear people talking about astrology and they go, “Oh, you don’t like oysters? You must be a Leo.” What does that mean? I really want to capture that essence there. I’m doing 12 small books on it as a package. I think that’s a great gift, so I’m very into that idea.
And countries! I want to do a book on every country. Something that puts order, essence, and DNA into a book. Celebrating what the country is and what they stand for. A big statement.