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Materializing a coherent, free and captivating aesthetic and lifestyle in the form of a project is not easy, but it’s possible.  Carhartt WIP built its universe on this premise, starting from a blank canvas and finishing with a consolidated way of seeing and understanding fashion (and life), being democratic and addressing a design and culture-conscious audience that shares its values. And it is precisely on this constant interdisciplinary synergy that their new Carhartt WIP Winter 2021 campaign is based on, inviting us to transport ourselves to winter in the city. We speak with its creators, Joaquim Bayle and Sylvain Sey, whose friendship began years ago when they worked in one of the brand's stores.

“I met him when the Carhartt Store opened in Lille in 2012,” explains Sylvain when we ask him about the first approach between the two creatives, who are now partnering again to make the Carhartt WIP Winter 2021 campaign a reality. “We bonded really well and thinking about it I'm so glad that we came from different horizons,” adds Joaquim, the other artistic mind responsible for the joint project. Far from being an anecdotal fact, having known each other in one of the Carhartt WIP stores connected them (even more if possible) with the essence of the brand. They understand its philosophy, as they know the customer first-hand, and are aware of the importance that communication and visual resources play in the construction of the brand's identity.

There is no doubt that their commonalities (and their notable differences in how they face the workflow, which they highlight in our conversation) make teamwork a winning combination. A good example of this is the Carhartt WIP Winter 2021 campaign that they now present. Being a completely different campaign to the one unveiled last summer, the creative duo work on this occasion around the idea of boredom at night through highly cinematographic lighting and moody visuals in the outskirts of the city. From the haunting and meditative paintings of Edward Hopper to their favorite TV shows from the early 2000s, Bayle and Sey once again make the exploration and reflection of emotions their star proposal. We speak with them to find out all the details.

Joaquim, Sylvain, you are both the architects of the new Carhartt WIP Winter 2021 campaign. But before we get into your new creation, could you introduce yourselves to our audience?
Joaquim: I grew up in the north of France. During my childhood, I was around skateboarding and I filmed my friends for a time, we traveled a lot and did a bunch of small projects. Years later, I found myself living in Paris and working as a director and photographer for production companies and agencies. Looking back to this, it sounds like I got myself a bit too serious in life...
Sylvain: Born in Paris, I grew up in Lille, North of France where my mother is from, my father is from the Ivory Coast. I spent my childhood in a popular hood where I developed a sensitivity around street culture in any form. I started taking some photos 10 years ago for myself because this is what I liked to do besides my job, and I decided to work as a photographer when I came back living in Paris a few years ago.
Your relationship goes a long way back and has its origin in Carhartt WIP, but not precisely in the field of cinema and photography, but in one of its stores. Specifically in the one located in Lille, a city in the north of France defined by its university life and its rich cultural and artistic heritage. When and how did that first approach take place? What was your role in the store exactly?
Joaquim: Lille is such a small city, it feels almost weird that we didn’t know each other before we opened the Carhartt WIP Store there. We bonded really well and thinking about it I'm so glad that we came from different horizons, the three of us with Sylvain and JP.
Sylvain: Before we worked together we didn’t know each other because we are from different horizons; we found out later that we had mutual friends. I met him when the Carhartt WIP Store opened in Lille in 2012. I remember when we met before starting working together with JP, our friend and colleague, I was really glad to meet Joaquim and to know he was part of the team. He’s really open-minded and has a different and great taste so we all could learn many interesting things from each other. This is how we became friends.
It’s said that working and traveling is how you really get to know people deeply, and it seems that you found common ground that ended up leading you to join forces later in the creative field. What passions do you share? And which are your main differences?
Joaquim: I think we share the same appetite for building visuals, creating atmospheres, and attention to detail. I love the fact that we quickly understand each other. Our differences are in the workflow and how to proceed with things. I need to prepare and do a lot of testing to be excited about a creative idea. I'm kind of a control freak while Sylvain I think enjoys when there are some unknown aspects before we start shooting.
Sylvain: I think we both have a sharp vision and ability to analyze, describe a visual, an atmosphere, and understand each other real quick, this is really helpful. I think the main difference is that Joaquim spends a lot of time on preparation, he’s kind of stressed, but it's the good kind of stress, the one he needs to make sure we won’t forget anything on D-day. He’s so good at it, everything is detailed! I am less comfortable with this, I visualize everything but it's in my mind not on paper (laughs). And I love improvisation due to street photography.
In a world marked by continuous changes and growing instability, fewer and fewer professionals stay connected to the same brand for so long. And even less so, those who explore different facets of a project as you have done. Did your in-store experience help you understand and connect with the Carhartt WIP DNA? On what values is the brand identity built?
Joaquim: For sure it has played a big role. It’s maybe one of the projects that I didn’t actually have to feel or understand the brand DNA before we started pitching the idea on paper. It’s like the Carhartt WIP visual landscape is part of our own references as well. I always felt connected to Carhartt WIP’s identity because they've been about subcultures since the beginning and not just for using the coolness part of it, but investing in it and giving the opportunity to the key people in these different fields to do their creative ideas with more resources but without trading-off their visions.
Sylvain: The store experience helped a lot to be in touch with the Carhartt WIP DNA, 100%! I knew and I wore the brand before but after working in the company you realize many things like, who is the customer? What does he like or doesn’t and why? Also about communication, advertising, special projects, etc. The store is the place where you deliver the final item so you could sometimes see if some communication project had an impact or not on customers and what type of customers. Being sensitive about visual and communication and working in a store obviously helped a lot. I think Carhartt WIP has a strong and very open mind vision, that’s why the brand reaches everyone; for me, the identity is built on quality and durability for everyone.
And how do you now apply that learning in the creative field as a filmmaker and photographer, respectively?
Joaquim: Hard to tell, maybe this in-store experience helps you to understand that there is a long and complex way from a creative pitch for a campaign to the customer understanding of the final outcome.
Sylvain: It depends on what we are talking about. If it’s about photography for a brand, fashion, etc., it helps to make a connection between what I’ll shoot and the final target. For my personal photography that learning has no impact.
You are now presenting the Carhartt WIP Winter 2021 campaign, but you worked together before last summer. An exciting experience that I guess you remember with special enthusiasm. How did you live it on a personal level? Is there any anecdote you want to share with us?
Joaquim: This Summer 2021 campaign was a long process with a lot of ups and downs. The campaign evolved quite a lot from the first format we presented. But we kept the original core idea and I think we are really proud of the tone of that campaign. We made it with a lot of love from all our technicians' friends, like on a passion project.
Sylvain: I have no specific anecdote to share. It was just really nice as an experience to work together and with all the staff, and also to see our photos exposed on billboards in different big cities (laughs).
Joaquim, you are responsible for the video of the campaign. An enveloping 30-second piece with which you immerse us in a feeling that we have all experienced at some point in our lives, which springs up in winter in big cities. What have you been inspired by and how has the creative process been?
Regarding the winter visuals, we wanted to highlight the collection in a simple and strong approach with a totally different art direction and tone from our Summer 2021 campaign. We wanted to work around the idea of boredom at night through highly cinematographic lighting and moody visuals in the outskirts of the city.
Inspired by documentary night street photography, the artificial light serves as a strong visual and art direction. It was our first point of interest, then we brought the talents and collection in the frame. We took various inspirations, from the lonely characters standing at Nighthawks in Hopper’s paintings, mixed with the cinematography work of early 2000’s TV shows and feature films shot in Baltimore, London, and New York City that we like a lot and which could resonate with Carhartt WIP DNA.
And Sylvain, you have shot the photos of the Carhartt WIP Winter 2021 campaign. Images that together with the video emphasize the feeling to which we refer. And it is enough to take a look at your Instagram profile (turned into the star portfolio) to realize that you seem to feel comfortable portraying the urban and cosmopolitan scene, capturing the energy that each city emanates. Who are your main references?
My main references are me, my childhood friends, and my Berlin friends.
Speaking of cities, are there any that especially inspire you? Why?
Joaquim: Right now, I don’t know if the big cities inspire me, I feel more attracted by the countryside and lands which have a form of emptiness due to their historical past. For example, when I want to find inspiration I like to go back to a certain landscape of where I grew up in the north of France.
Sylvain: Paris, of course, it’s my first crush. London because I have never seen a city so multicultural with such an open mind! No judgment, great talent on any level; and the music is really inspiring! I grew up with a lot of Afro and Caribbean music because my dad always played music at home, so I am really in touch with Black culture and other minoritized communities. It's the reason London is a city that inspires me. Berlin because I have a group of friends there that I consider like family and I spent a lot of time in its streets by night with them and I love that as street photography work. I think I found my inspiration in minority/suburban/popular/ghetto areas wherever is on the world map. This is where I come from, this is what I am attracted by and what inspires me.
We highlighted the cultural life of Lille, where you met, previously. But Carhartt WIP has also demonstrated throughout its history to be intrinsically connected to the art scene, especially music. Is it important that the different artistic disciplines coexist with each other, generating synergies never seen before?
Joaquim: With the perspective of a director, this is what I like the most in the creative field when everything merges to be ‘one’ big idea.
Sylvain: Of course it is, every discipline is linked. Whatever you like or you do in your life, you listen to a type of music. Music is an art that touches almost everyone in the world. Different artistic disciplines always coexisted. So coming from a brand like Carhartt WIP that transposed workwear into a lifestyle it’s really important, smart, and normal. I think it’s also why this brand reaches out to so many different types of people.
They even launched a podcast series dedicated to the work of groundbreaking record labels around the globe, Relevant Parties. A way of publicizing new proposals, promoting them, and engaging with young and independent talent. And it seems that little by little brands and companies are becoming more and more aware of the need to listen to the young generations, don't you think?
Joaquim: Like creatives, I think companies and brands have to reflect the social changes we are experiencing now. They can’t just stand and sell without digging further. I guess this reflection has to be part of their own story and message. They have to take risks as well as build their own visual landscape which makes sense with their products and roots. In a saturated market of clothing brands, what I expect from these companies is to surprise me and to initiate an inner question, and feel that is sometimes put on the side or considered odd in the society we live in.
Sylvain: Sharing and listening experience is the key to keep growing and reflecting further. The older generation has the experience that could be or has to be shared with the younger generation and vice versa. The young generation is in harmony with any current cultural movements, a movement that is certainly an evolution of a previous one. If you want to understand the current movement you have to listen to the youth. And if the youths want to know how a movement was created or where it’s coming from you have to turn to the older ones. Nowadays, we are constantly connected to anything with social media… especially the youth. We have access to a lot of different information and knowledge from any place in the world at any time. We definitely can learn so much from the younger generations, so we have to let them speak and we have to listen to them.
If the Carhartt WIP Winter 2021 campaign was a color, a smell, and a taste, what would it be?
Joaquim: Yellow, metal, smoked.
Sylvain: Red, the smell would be gasoline and the taste rooibos tea.
And what do you enjoy the most about your job?
Joaquim: I guess it’s the reflection on people's emotions and myself.
Sylvain: Meeting and working with different people, learning a lot about many things like technical things or people’s life experiences. It is important to have any connection with people, to talk, to listen, to learn, especially now that we are slowly getting away from any form of humanity due to technological evolution.
Do you have any dreams to fulfill?
Joaquim: Maybe being able to abstract me from this social alienation we live in.
Sylvain: Design and build an architect house, many other dreams but mainly find inner peace.

David Alarcón

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