The designer of French lifestyle brand Astier de Villatte revealed its latest project with Japan’s renowned department store Isetan Shinjuku. The brand held a pop-up event titled “Voyage a Tokyo Astier de Villatte” until Dec 1 at Isetan.

The brand was founded by Benoit Astier de Villatte and Ivan Pericoli, who met when studying at Ecole nationale superieure des Beaux-Arts. Astier de Villatte began its business by designing, manufacturing and selling pottery. Now, the brand also designs tableware, furniture, candles, incense, stationary and more.

The brand is known for its beautifully shaped and antique-like white designs. The designs are handmade in Paris using the black soil from the suburbs of city. For its collaboration project with Isetan Shinjuku, Astier de Villatte designed tableware themed after Japan.

Fashion Headline (FH): Why is white the signature color of your brand?

Benoit: When I was studying in Paris, I would imitate the art techniques of paintings and sculptures created by other artists. I learned a lot about traditional techniques and expressions. When I launched the brand Astier de Villatte, I decided to create pottery using traditional methods and create each piece by hand. That’s why each piece is unique and has an antique like finish. I wasn’t set on designing white pottery from the start. You can almost say that the choice of making our pottery white was by accident. In the beginning, we would show our pieces at the trade show Maison & Objet Paris. I realized then that I wanted to design something for everyday use. That’s how we came up with tableware. We wanted to work with something simple and chose white ceramic glaze. After creating a few samples, we were pleasantly surprised, and this is how white became our signature color, by coincidence.

FH: The Japan series you created for Isetan includes traditional pieces such as sake bottles and cups. How did you come up with the design concept?

Benoit: Actually, I wasn’t aware of sake bottles when I started the project. When Isetan asked us to design something Japanese, we went about it freely. We began by thinking about the kind of tableware used for Japanese cuisine and came up with sake bottles and cups and chopstick rests etc. I was surprised to find out that the sake bottle is shaped just like the small water bottle French people place by their bedsides. I’m particularly fond of the chopstick rest that we designed.

FH: We were surprised to find out that Astier de Villatte’s incenses are produced on Awaji Island of Japan.

Benoit: We were looking to partner with a Japanese company to create our incenses, but we weren’t able to find a suitable candidate. However, when I visited New York to attend an exhibition, I met an incense manufacturing company from Awaji Island. I had to find someone to translate our conversation on the spot and was pleased to find out that the company was interested in doing business with us. After that, we visited Awaji Island and saw that the incense is being produced using traditional methods. And the quality was great too. It was a challenge though to incorporate the French essential oils into the process for creating Japanese incenses. With the help of the company, we were able to merge the new with the old. This is one of our working styles.

FH: You also presented a collection in collaboration with Setsuko, the wife of the artist Balthus. The teapot in the form of a cat, an incense burner and other items from the Setsuko collection were also presented for your pop-up at Isetan. Do you have any other ties with Japan?

Benoit: Including the time I visited Shibuya to exhibit my works at Parco Gallery as a student, I’ve been to Japan 15 times. My parents met Setsuko Klossowska de Rola at Villa Medici in Rome, which is how I came to know her. Setsuko’s husband Balthus was very fond of cats, which is why we chose cats as a motif for the Setsuko collection. We created the teapot like a sculpture and spent lots of time to come up with the final form. Tea is poured from the front paw of the cat; the design is comical, but the expression of the cat is very serious, creating the kind of contrast that I love.

FH: What kind of projects have you planned next?

Benoit: We want to continue to create new products under an open-minded approach. Amazing things can be created by accident, which is what makes the design process so interesting. I want to continue to cherish such spontaneous moments.

【About the Brand and its Designer】

Astier de Villatte (Brand)
Launched in 1996. Began by creating objet d’art inspired from antiques found at flea markets and lost items found in the city. Now designs a variety of items including ceramic tableware, candles and incense. In 2000, opened its store along rue Saint-Honore in Paris.

Benoit Astier de Villatte (Designer)
Born in Rome. Studied paintings and sculptures at Ecole nationale superieure des Beaux-Arts. His favorite landscapes of Japan include Mount Fuji and Nara, which perfectly blends nature with town areas.