« An image never interests us as such. Its relevance lies in the fact that it contains the sum of preceding dialogues, stories, experiences with various interlocutors, and the fact that it induces a questioning of these preexisting values. This it what makes for us a pertinent image. A good image should be in between two others, a previous one and another to come.»
Michael Amzalag and Mathias Augustyniak
Through their work in art, fashion and media as Graphic Designers and Art Directors, French duo M/M, has become one of the most creative powerhouses of the contemporary Paris scene.
Michael Amzalag and Mathis Augustyniak first met on the benches of Parisian art school, the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs. Upon graduation in 1992 they founded M/M and have worked together ever since, applying their talents as graphic designers and art directors through many medium ranging from fashion to contemporary art but also encompassing music, publishing and even interior design. They are known for their longstanding collaboration with fashion designers Yohji Yamamoto and Martine Sitbon, and photographers Craig McDean, Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, but have since added Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, APC and Calvin Klein to their client’s list.
The M/M first started out working with the music industry in the early 90s. Indeed, thanks to Michael Amzalag who curate French music magazine Les Inrockuptibles from 1989-1990, they were able to get in touch with emerging French artists for whom they did album covers. This proved so successful that they have continued to this day to create unique sleeves and clips for artists such as Bjork, Madonna, Etienne Daho, Benjamin Biolay.
Intrigued by their work, art director Marc Ascoli casted M/M in the 1993 to work with him on projects for Yohji Yamamoto and Martine Sitbon, for whom they created all the invitations. The visual identity they created for Yamamoto and Sitbon was so successful that it attracted many other clients and that it is how M/M’s fashion adventure started. Today, they are most notably the known for collaborating with Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs, Prada and photographer duo Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin.
In an interview they gave to Design Museum, they addressed working within the fashion industry in the following words:
“In fashion everything goes much faster, every six months you have to reinvent yourself. We have to keep a bit above and stay calm. It forces us to do bolder things, knowing that they will be copied and watered down. When we are working for fashion companies, we still try and mix in other projects in different fields. This is very important to our fashion work, which we see as looking at culture through fashion eyes. We always try and link one project to another. We want our work to be considered on a larger scale.”
Nonetheless, their contribution to fashion has recently spread to publication. From 2000 to 2002 they were “creative consultants” to French Vogue, in 2007 they were guest contributors to the A Magazine, they art directed Interview Magazine in 2009, and have been creative directors to the re-launched Purple Fashion magazine since 2006.
This year for example, they have released a special typography for Italian giant Prada, called the ‘Pradalphabet.’ Made of 26 ornament initials, it will be released as a collector’s edition of t-shirts displaying the letters P-R-A-D-A / M, or as a made-to-order service for customized t-shirts. They had previously created a special typography ‘The Alphamen’ in 2001 for the first issue VMan Magazine, which was photographed by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin
In addition, Amzalag and Augustyniak have also been involved in the contemporary art scene of this past decade, often creating posters with other artists, curating exhibits or even showing their own work. They were involved in the creation in 2002 of the Palais de Tokyo, creating a typeface called Tokyo Palace and have often designed the posters for the museum’s exhibits. In 2005, the Centre George Pompidou in Paris organized the show ‘Vision Tenace’ where the M/M showed 32 posters they had created since 1999 with various French and international contemporary artists such as, Carsten Höller, Pierre Huyghe, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Philippe Parreno, Melvil Poupaud, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Sarah Morris… They also created a sculpture entitled Tree of Signs in Urriðaholt, Iceland which was conceived with artist Gabríela Friðriksdóttir.
The work of M/M is rich by its diversity and all the challenges they have been taking up over the past 20 years of their collaboration, always applying their vision and signature graphic details to whatever medium they are asked to work with. When asked about why they chose graphic design they replied the following:
“We chose graphic design not just for the sake of being graphic designers. It was some kind of social commitment, a way to earn a living and also to disseminate our ideas. The activities related to graphic design are very suitable for us. We enjoy the thinking process, but we prefer that it be related to form and that ideas have tangible results. Also, we don’t create things out of the blue; we want to form a relationship with someone. But, as such, graphic design doesn’t excite us more than any other media, than film or books for example.”
This is exactly what makes the duo successful, they don’t create new graphics for the sake of it, but for the purpose of creating a dialogue between past, present, and future for their audience, hence creating each time a unique and complex universe filled with signs, organic symbols and bizarre characters to be deciphered. And that is why we love the M/M.
The Design Museum – http://designmuseum.org/design/m-m
Times Magazine – http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/tag/michael-amzalag/
Wikipedia – http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/M/M