The Paris-based artist Frédéric Forest is everywhere. With his own design studio together with Clémentine Giaconia, clients such as Hermès, Adidas and Cartier, 110k followers on Instagram, more than 1000 people tattooing his illustrations all over their bodies and his book coming out, we can say he is a one to watch. 
He started years ago selling his drawings on the streets of New York City, but nowadays people from all over the world know his name. Besides his artwork for big brands, Forest is well known for his drawings, especially the ones of the female body. We are a bit obsessed by his work, so we want to know more about him. That’s why we asked him for a chat so we can see what’s on his mind.
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Can you tell us more about yourself? What is the story of Frédéric Forest so far?
I grew up in Annecy, French Alps. I spent my time skateboarding, skiing, snowboarding and drawing. Like everyone else, I started drawing before writing. I didn’t stop there and I love that. It's a viral emotion. But I always wanted to study product design because it was not about drawing for myself but for a project, for something larger. So, I graduated from ENSCI/Les Ateliers in Paris. While being a student there, I worked alongside on projects for Cartier leather goods. I left France for Italy and the Adidas Advanced Design Studio in Montebelluna, where I designed for the brand’s high-end sports shoes range. Then, for international luxury firms, I used my approach for brand image, visual identity and product design. In 2008, after various experiences working with designers Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec, Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance and Jean-Marie Massaud, I set up with Clémentine Giaconia our own design consultancy studio FRST (partner with houses and brands), and an eponymous studio Forest.Giaconia (furniture and interior design with editors, and private projects).
You worked for big brands such as Cartier and Adidas and now you have your own design studio with Clémentine Giaconia. But how did it all start? When did you start with drawing in a professional way?
Since we set up our design studio FRST, we have worked across a wide range of disciplines, creating everything from furniture and household objects to commercial stores or restaurants, yachts, jewellery and timepieces. Confidentiality is our first concern. Never talking, never showing before the client agreement. They are mainly luxury houses with high-end knowledge and know-how. We are committed to respecting the charter of confidentiality of our customers every day. Alongside this design consultancy, we founded our eponymous studio Forest-Giaconia. Together, we sign several pieces for Hermès, Ligne Roset or Collection Delcourt. This part is growing a little more every day and we are glad of that. As for my drawings, I've never looked for a professional life. Instagram has cut a new part in my life, and made my drawings evolved so far. Drawing was very personal and now the drawings are sent worldwide… Maybe, it’s because they are personal at first. This is also why I don't sell all of them.
Can you tell us more about your collaboration with Clémentine?
Clémentine Giaconia is an interior designer and product designer. As project coordinator with a Parisian design agency, she worked in an environment of luxury brands. This is also where I met her. We are a duet. As woman with man, we cross our experiences and inspirations. Together we sign projects where the object and space form a whole, in a consistency of line and evidence materials. First we must surprise ourselves, otherwise others probably won’t be surprised by what we do. This is one of the advantages of working in tandem: good ideas grow by themselves and the bad ones disappear along the way.
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What is your main focus; illustrations or design?
My artwork is not really art or illustration. It is more about drawing. My main focus is design. Actually, I love all of them; there is not a favourite one. Each field gives a new look on the other ones and feed them all. Because they are also very different: drawing stops on the paper, although paper is just a beginning on design.
You have a very specific minimalistic style. What inspires you?
Inspiration is a result of random moments running in my head and stealing everything I see. These moments could be everything, a smell, a sound, someone who you come across on the street, a cloth or its detail… My influences are around the edges, in photography, fashion, gastronomy, music, typography, dance, poetry, colour and light: the 1967 E-type Jaguar, the Malaparthe's villa, the villa Cavrois, the architects Frank Lloyd-Wright, Carlo Scarpa, Auguste Rodin, Tilda Swinton, the choreographers Wayne McGregor, Benjamin Millepied, Angelin Preljocaj, Dorothée Gilbert, Pierre Hardy, Radiohead, Haruki Murakami, Moebius, Katsuhiro Otomo, riders Nicolas Müller, Pedro Barros or Candide Thovex, the photographers Robert Mapplethorpe, Zoé Ghertner, Paolo Roversi, and Maud Rémy-Lonvis…They enable me to express new feelings and suggest new stories, whatever the scale of the project.
When we take a look at your work on Instagram we see a lot of illustrations of female bodies. What is your relationship with the human body and then especially with the female body?
I grew up into a feminine family, with a mother, sisters, aunts, and grandmothers. I draw women like they are, not like I would like them to be. But I draw males, landscapes, architectures, still lives too. Women have always been a main inspiration. Their attitude, their gesture, their pose, their shapes. They come from the magazines or from walking the streets.
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For non-professionals a simple illustration can look easy. Can you tell us more about your process? How long does it take to draw one etude?
I often draw without any model or pictures. This is just a memory that I build the fragment or some pieces of it. Drawing an etude doesn't take a very long time. But coming to draw one takes time. Finding the right pose, the good light, the most important aspect of the image that I have in mind and the perfect tool. What is appearing on the paper is a second phase… And now, there is a whole process with scans, cropping them, confirming the drawings by bailiff, upgrading catalogues, answering requests, checking payments, preparing packages, etc.
You are using Instagram as a medium to expose your illustrations. And we can say with 110k followers that you are a success. Why do you choose Instagram to show your work?
First of all, one year ago, I had an old smartphone and I used Instagram as a cloud and for personal pictures only. Zero followers. Then, Clémentine and I decided to close our websites and update them with new contents and art direction. It takes time. So, I started to post some images of our design work on my account, and some drawings, just like that, to show our work in progress, a kind of artwork, something aside that feed us, something that I do every time I can, something very personal at first. And it started to go out of control. No business plan at all.
Do you get a lot of personal requests through of this social media platform? Are you open for personal requests that are not in the style you are normally drawing?
I get a lot. Really a lot. But I don't draw personal commission.
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Your illustrations are now inked on bodies all over the world. Is that something you could think of when you started as an illustrator?
No, not at all. I'm stoked about that world, this tattoo audience. Now, there are more than 1.000 tattoos from my drawings. For example, a man has inked on his body 4 drawings at once. Really crazy! I think that’s because I don't draw faces. Not so much. I used to but I didn't find the right lines. So, I guess that is the main point: everyone can think about some in specific way because the drawings are focused on attitude, moment and gesture.
You are now working on a book. Can you tell us more about that? 
There are several current book projects. But there is a current one that I love working on. It's a free collaboration with the French photographer Quentin Simon with a very natural approach. We liked the idea of having a dialogue between our works and we spoke about architecture, trips and the Barcelona pavilion drawn by Mies Vand der Rohe. Fairly quickly, we have focused on the sculpture of Georg Kolbe laid in the recess of the water basin: Dawn. This suspended time when light and shadow are facing each other. For us, she was the beginning of the building, but also a prisoner of her reflection in the water and in the marble and glass, thereby creating the sensation that she is multiplied in space. So, we started to imagine the rest of her story, how she would go out, where would she go, what she would do in other places, new sites, other architectures… This work is still in progress and we are going to look for a publisher soon.
Where will we find your name in the future?
I just finished a movie poster. Now, I'd like to draw something about the dance, I'm a huge fan and I've got some ideas. With Clémentine, we'll follow our collaborations with our current clients, other houses, brands and new editors. We are currently working on retail areas, private projects and a hotel.
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