In A Nutshell: Five collaborative fashion adverts with Paris-based painter Natacha Paschal
The Parisian painter on representing mainstream culture, reinterpretation, deformation, and why adverts and magazines are art forms in their own right.
When Natacha Paschal was five years old, all she wanted was a Barbie card game like her best friend Mathilde. “My mum didn’t want to get it for me because she was against the doll and what it represented,” says Paschal. “So I took some paper, pencils, and scissors and started to reproduce it. This was my first representation of mainstream popular culture.”
These Barbie bootlegs combined with teenage years spent cutting pictures out of fashion magazines and loitering around malls in the Parisian suburbs: “we’d bum around on a Saturday afternoon buying cheap clothes and eating McFlurries” led Paschal to develop an artistic practice routed in adapting pre-existing sources from the fashion industry. “I’ve always been obsessed with reinterpretation and deformation. How you can take something from someone else and make it yours,” she explains, stating that in doing so she has subconsciously “imitated the Pop-Art way of doing things.”
One of the most direct examples of how Paschal takes inspiration from fashion media is her series of paintings reinterpreting magazine covers. She has even painted her own version of a full issue of Vogue magazine, reimagining the pages with her deformed, childlike, and wonky-faced style. “I take a picture that inspires me, start brushing, changing some details and keeping others the same,” Paschal explains. But she doesn’t think her transformation turns her original sources into art. “For me, advertising and magazines are artworks already. They are a big theater where a lot happens and is being said.”
Instead, the main point of difference between the adverts and magazines Paschal is inspired by and her painted variations is the way in which women are presented. “The media constantly sells us the same image of what an ideal woman should be,” she says. “Through my painting, I try to take this character off that pedestal and give her life again. Her teeth aren’t perfect, she doesn’t have a symmetrical face or the right makeup application, she might even look tired… ”
“The media constantly sells us the same image of what an ideal woman should be. Through my painting, I try to take this character off that pedestal and give her life again.”
This being said, Paschal still loves fashion media, and after signing with Agent 002 in Paris, she has started working on commissions for titles including Grazia, Kiblind and Papier Magazine. “I love it! I’m doing things for them that I wouldn’t necessarily do on my own, and it’s a great way of researching too,” she says. But does she alter her approach when she’s creating for a client rather than for her own artistic purposes? “I always try to be faithful to my way of thinking and painting when I am working for someone else, but sometimes I have to make some concessions depending on the type of media and target market,” says Paschal. “It’s really fulfilling when people let me be completely free.”
One such project where Paschal has enjoyed artistic freedom is her recent collaboration with fellow Paris-based feminist art collective Band of Sisters (BOSS). “I met the team last year at a talk about feminism and the first French translation of Gloria Steinem’s Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions. We immediately started talking about working together and we decided to create a T-shirt in collaboration with conscious fashion brand Patine Paris.” All the money from the project will go to BOSS. “I hope it will help to keep the discussion going on feminism, sisterhood, and everything related to women in general.”
Five fashion adverts made in collaboration with notable artists and directors
I really enjoyed all the Women’s Tales made by female artists and directors for Miu Miu. This one by Miranda July is among my favorite. It’s fun, offbeat, and sensitive. It offers an interesting, fresh point of view of how to use social media, and the app the characters used was real, they made it available to the public! I wish I had a chance to use it, but I was too late. They took it down before I discovered it.
I’ve chosen another film from the Miu Miu collaboration because I like the romantic feminist vibe it creates. This film by Crystal Moselle shows young girls on skateboards and explores how communities and sisterhood are important notions to grow up with in this world, at any age!
Kenzo World, The New Fragrance by Spike Jonze
I love how the woman in this advert is not the regular type of female we are used to seeing in fashion adverts. From the faces she makes to her movements and gestures, this is absolutely not the kind of thing we are usually shown in media or big brand communication.
Kenzo, Here Now by Gregg Araki
I discovered Gregg Araki for the first time when I watched Kaboom in college. I know it’s not his most famous work but when I saw it I fell in love with how he curates his characters and the crazy fashion looks he creates. It makes total sense to me that he ended up doing a short movie for a luxury fashion brand like Kenzo. It’s exciting to see him return to his favorite actors, aesthetics and subjects in Here Now.
Prada, Castello Cavalcanti by Wes Anderson
This advert just combines everything I love: Prada, Wes Anderson, and Italy!
Natacha Paschal is a painter based in Paris who takes inspiration from fashion magazines and advertising. This portrait of Paschal was produced as part of our new series “In a Nutshell.” Head over to read more articles where creatives around the world talk us through objects that inspire their work. Or, if you fancy reading more stories from the French capital, why not take a look at our recent interview with Parisian “yéyé noir” band Juniore, who also curated one of our FvF Mixtapes.
Text: Emily May