Her humoristic blog, followed by thousands of readers, gave French illustrator and author Tiffany Cooper the opportunity to publish her first book, Le Meilleur Des Mondes Possibles. Her second publication, Tout Va Pour Le Mieux, came out in 2014 and soon after she launched her first collection of tee-shirts and accessories at Colette, initiating a continuous collaboration with this unique Parisian boutique. Today, her cartoons are regularly published in various French magazines such as Voici, Elle and Milk. Last April, she presented a capsule collection of fun ready-to-wear apparel and accessories for Karl Lagerfeld, showcasing her sarcastic and yet easygoing sense of humor while capturing the Kaiser’s hidden personality. A collaboration that started with Karlywood, an amazing exhibition of posters, and that has also produced a short animated film and illustrations for the Karl Daily. Following her intuition, she is ready to conquer the hearts of readers and fashion goers around the globe.
What was your approach to drawing as a child? Were you allowed to draw on the walls of your bedroom?
No, unfortunately drawing on the walls was not an option in my household! But I remember very clearly that I was drawing in my living room when the 1989 earth quake happened in San Francisco, and I was only 4 years old.
What is your favorite memory of that time?
I don’t have very good memories from my childhood in France, but I am very fond of the memories of the two years we spent in the US. It was the best! Halloween parties, building gingerbread houses… We had a cat at the time, we would ride our bikes with my siblings and go feed carrots to a donkey. Good times!
Were you fascinated by any cartoon character? Tintin & Milou, Asterix & Obelix, Snoopy, Mafalda, Tom & Jerry…
As a kid, I was annoyed by Droopy! He was so slow… Tintin was really boring and I couldn’t quite get why Snoopy was popular, but now I’m the biggest fan. I thought Gaston Lagaffe was funny. He is always so disconnected from reality and so clumsy, but he builds caverns made of books and he has a pet seagull. That is very cool. I also loved Garfield. He is so easily annoyed and grumpy. He is hilarious!
What was your first contact with the arts?
My mom’s the one who pushed me towards art’s classes. I went to so many ones! Painting classes and drawing classes. I rarely wanted to go, but she always insisted. Ugh! (Laughs) I don’t know why she was so determined to bring the artist out of me. Maybe because I was never interested in school? I ended up studying at an art school, but then I got sick of creating and didn’t touch a pen for five years. I started again and now it’s my job. And I love it. So maybe my mom was right to push me in the end…
What made you decide studying arts décoratifs?
I wanted to study in a public art school because there are so many private art schools in France, but they’re all pretty bad. I mean, as long as your parents have the money, you can get in. Where’s the challenge in that? Apart from Penninghen maybe, which is a very good school but so expensive. And I wanted my studies to cost nothing. So the three best public art schools in France are les Beaux-Arts de Paris, les Arts-Décoratifs de Paris and les Arts Décoratifs de Strasbourg. I didn’t apply to les Beaux-Arts because it is too artsy and fartsy, and didn’t get in Arts Déco Paris. But when I got in les Arts-Déco Strasbourg I was really happy!
When did you realize that illustration was your own way to communicate and create?
I have always drawn some comics and my friends and family always really liked them, but I never took that seriously. I started realizing I could not only express myself but make a living out of it two years ago, when my first book was published. It opened a big fucking door of possibilities.
Your sense of humor is very much present in your work. One can say that you have an ironic approach about contemporary life and culture in general. Is that so?
Well, thanks! Yes, it’s true. As a real French girl I like to complain a lot. And as a Parisian I am snob about a few things. I love to mock people who take themselves seriously. There are so many! It’s nice to say out loud what every one is secretly thinking. Plus, before, my sense of humor would sometimes bother people. Some of them thought I was weird, so I felt a little embarrassed. But now I don’t give a damn, and my editor pushes me even further saying, “we want some Tiffany Cooper dialogues! Go ahead; don’t be afraid to say what you really think!” I mean the freedom!
You traveled around for a while right after you quitted your job. What did inspire you the most?
I first traveled to China because I had an opportunity to live in Shanghai. It’s a very strange place, I must say: a mix between the very poor and the very rich. And learning Chinese is so difficult. It was really inspiring to be confronted with a very different culture and environment, but I didn’t like it to be honest, so I changed my mind and came back to France. I found a new job at a major fashion company and got fired only 5 days afterwards! Looking back, I’m happy they did, or else I would never be living what I’m living now, but it was really tough when it happened. So after that, I was unemployed again and had some time on my hands, so I went to New York a few times because my brother used to live in Brooklyn. There are so many cool restaurants there: Five Leaves, Sweetwater, Fette Sau… I love NY! But I wouldn’t live there: it’s so complicated to have a visa, the health insurance system is nuts and the rents are so expensive. I love it here in Paris.
What made you decide to create your own blog after that experience?
My mom, again, suggested that I start a blog when I went to visit them in China. But I didn’t want to at the time. It was actually when I got fired by that major fashion company in Paris that I decided to start a blog. I wanted to express how hard it was to work in fashion, to talk about the struggle of finding a new job, but with a humoristic twist. I could say whatever I wanted, talk about my experiences and give my opinion on things with people giving me good feedback. I remember some days were harder than others, and it always felt like a relief to be able to laugh about it by drawing comics and posting them on the blog to share my frustration.
You get inspired by celebrities, fashion icons and their projection to the public eye. What does it interest you about them?
I like to talk about celebrities and fashion icons because the media depicts their every single move and action to a ridiculous extent. Sometimes it’s as stupid as: “Gwyneth Paltrow would rather smoke crack than eat cheese in a can”. I mean, seriously? That kind of crap inspires me. Also, I like to play with characters that are very recognizable, like Karl Lagerfeld with his black sunglasses and white ponytail, or Alber Elbaz and his huge glasses and bow tie, or Anna Wintour with her legendary bangs and sunglasses... They become a gimmick.
What do you take out of your experience as sales manager for high end fashion brands when you illustrate the fashion world?
My experience as a sales manager did not help me illustrate the fashion world. Sure, I loved being a manager because I liked my team and I am a very controlling and organized person, so that job was fine for me. But what inspires me from my past work experiences are the crazy and horrible bosses I’ve had. To me, they represent everything that is wrong in the fashion world, because the stylists are usually really nice and cool people. It’s the CEOs of all these fashion companies that are the worst! They have no creative talent and they are craving for money and power. I got to learn so much from this kind of people. Especially to never ever have a boss again!
What were your personal motivations to dedicate an exhibition to Karl Lagerfeld’s iconic figure?
Karl inspires me so much. Once that inspiration button is pushed, it’s hard to stop me. He is so iconic and he’s got a big sense of humor. When I suggested the fake film posters, we had already designed our capsule collection together. He had already said yes to patterns of him and Choupette dancing, eating ice cream and so on. So I figured he would like the fake movie posters idea, and he did!
What did you know about him?
I knew what the media could tell me: I had read lots of interviews with him and seen documentaries about his work. I also followed his collections closely, either for Fendi or Chanel… And I read the book The World According to Karl. It gathers all his famous quotes. Some are really philosophical, and some are really hilarious. Everyone should read it! I relate to a lot of things he says.
Gossip Karl, Fifty Shades of Karl, Karl Fiction, Karl Bill, Breakfast at Karl’s… How did you select the film’s titles that inspired the exhibition?
They just came to me and I had to stop at ten titles because we decided it would be a ten poster exhibition, but I could’ve made a whole book of them: Karl of Thrones, Jurassic Karl, Karl Scissorhands…
What similarities are there between the chosen films and Karl’s personality, if any?
The only similarity is the fact that he is famous and these are famous films. Karl is certainly one of the most curious and cultured person in the world, so it was fun to mix film culture with his character. It could also work with fake book covers, fake song titles, fake artworks… He could become a meme!
Somehow your illustrations do humanize him, and even make of him a funny guy. Your portraits also approach his iconic figure to a younger customer. Was this the main intention when creating the capsule collection?
When I draw Karl, I draw the vision I have of him. I see him as someone who likes to play with his image. He is very curious, he wants to know everything. He loves creating and hates the word “work”. He has a great sense of humor but hides it behind a total self control. I’ve seen interviews of him where people try to rattle him, but they never succeed! Karl always responds with a little twist of humor. But not many people see him that way. They stop at their first impressions of him: a strict and serious man. I wanted to collaborate with him because I thought it would be fun to show people that they are misleading. Karl is actually a very funny person with a great heart.
Karl’s cat, Choupette, is crucial in your illustrations for the capsule collection. What caught your attention about her?
Everyone knows Choupette! She is as famous as Karl now! I can tell you Choupette is not a joke: he is completely crazy about her. It’s like his baby. The first time I met him, he showed me pictures of her on his iPhone, just like my friends show me pictures of their kids. I mean, we are living in a huge cat culture: Choupette, Grumpy cat, cute kitties… Cats invade the internet! So it was obvious to me I had to include Choupette in Karl’s world.
Their special relationship inspired you to create very amusing situations: they go on holidays to a Caribbean island, they roller-skate together and they even go to a summer camp. Is that what you think the customer might do when wearing any of the collection items?
I sure hope so! Better than wearing them in front of the TV!
What can you tell about the book Karl’s Secrets that will be presented in September?
The book is done. It was very intense… I had only three months to do a 176 pages comic book. I almost had a burn out three times but I made it! It’s going to be about Karl’s life, but my version of it. It’s a very colorful and humoristic graphic novel. I hope people will like it as much as I do. It was approved by Karl, so I guess that is the only approval I need.
Do you share any similar secrets with him?
He likes to throw away stuff and can’t stand being polluted by unnecessary things. I’m the same. He is careful about what he eats to maintain a good health and body image, but he actually really loves to eat. Me too! And like him, whatever happens I need eight hours sleep.
Right after the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, you posted an illustration on your Instagram account showing your solidarity. What was your first reaction when you knew what happened and what is your own conclusion about that dreadful attack to freedom of expression?
At first I didn’t want to react to the tragedy. It seemed obscene to do so. But then I felt like I had to. It really shook up France. About the whole attack and what it represents, I would rather not say something stupid or clumsy. It was just very tragic and sad, really.
Your career is booming. What is your next goal or project? Will you continue collaborating with other designers?
I hope so! I am currently working on various projects: a new book, Fairy Tales As Seen by Tiffany Cooper, a collaboration with French brand K-WAY in September, book covers, fun pins, a collaboration with Edifice Japan in December, windows for Plum in Beirut, designs for a cosmetic brand in Korea…
In regards to your work ethics, would you refuse to work for a client in particular?
Surely, but I will not name any of them.
Your campaign for the SNCF and your books show that you also get inspired by real life situations. How do you see human relationships, in general?
I am a very sociable person, coming from a family of four siblings. But the truth is I need some distance with people. I find my energy in solitude. Like Karl, actually! I can be a social person only if I have time to refill my batteries on my own (laughs).
How do we recognize a true Parisian?
(Laughs) I did a post on my blog recently about that! A true Parisian has a bike or a Vespa, smokes and drinks way too much. Has seen the most recent films and art shows to be able to show off in society. Likes to be seen and complains a lot... Looks effortless but actually works hard to do so.
What are the places to be and to be seen in Paris right now?
To be seen, you should go to Le Progrès, Le Silencio, or Chez Jeanette. All of them are places I hate going to for that exact reason. And the places to be because I like them are Chilango, l’Epicurianu, Aux Deux Amis, le Café de la Poste, Holly Belly, le Pure Café… and so much more!