Philippine Tatler: The Ones to Know
It is a Long Story.
Prosper and Martine Assouline have defined an era of stylish luxury fashion and art books. Now their sons are writing the next chapter. By Bambina Olivares
So here’s the pitch: a woman arrives in Paris from South America. A lawyer and model, she is striking and glamorous. She meets a dashing Morocco-born Frenchman making a name for himself as an art director in fashion and advertising. He is drawn to her taste and elegance; she is impressed by his creativity and, a decidedly un-French trait, his “enthusiasm”. Starting out as friends, they become husband and wife, and eventually launch a publishing company that turns the tables on the world of coffee-table books. The story of Assouline is, if you’ll forgive the pun, one for the books. It could well be a rom-com with a literary theme come to life, where the characters are so suave and attractive and polished, their homes and boutiques so exquisitely designed, so expertly curated. And then there are the books: sleek, alluring, delightful and irresistible, adjectives that apply just as aptly to the Assoulines themselves.
For indeed, they Prosper, Martine and their sons, Alexandre and Sébastien, who are now part of the family business—inhabit the same world of luxury that their books embody. Assouline did not so much reinvent the book business as stake out a niche all its own when it launched in 1995. Other revered publishing houses like Rizzoli, Stewart Tabori & Chang, Phaidon, Thames and Hudson and Taschen produce books that can be equally lavish and beautiful, but Assouline books have a je ne sais quoi in their DNA. Their tomes celebrate the heritage of the world’s most exclusive luxury houses, such as Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton and Gucci. They focus on glamorous travel destinations like Capri, the Amalfi Coast, Tulum, Mykonos and the latest, Zanzibar. They catalogue in glorious detail the art, photography and design of Picasso, Gruau, Warhol and Mario Testino. “Our creation of Assouline”, Martine says, “was led by the desire to propose a new style in publishing.
Bookstores in the early Nineties were filled with volumes that were a bit too conventional and boring for us book lovers.” Prosper and Martine envisioned Assouline as “the first luxury brand on culture”. As Martine explains, “We are inspired by the opportunities of life. Prosper and I are very curious, and we need inspiration to breathe. Whether it be travels, exhibits, books, films, music, people… we are always in a degree of mutual stimulation.”
“We do work very well together because we each have our own area of specialisation within the company”
— ALEXANDRE ASSOULINE