Edouard Leret and Salomon Faye deconstruct “the mad artist”
When artist Salomon Faye met French cashmere designers Edouard and Andrea Leret, founders of New York cashmere brand Leret Leret, “Mad Artist” was born. Their collaborative short, which premiered today on the Leret Leret website, follows Faye – decked out in the brand’s sophisticated knitwear designs – as he furiously lathers a canvas with paint, on a dramatic narration of one of his own poems. Leret Leret’s sumptuous cashmere silhouettes mingle with Faye’s words throughout the film’s 3½ minutes to create a compelling campaign for the brand’s latest collection, but it also raises questions. What is a mad artist? What is the difference between madness and brilliance? We brought together the founders of Leret Leret and the artist to discuss.
EDOUARD LERET: Hi Solomon.
SALOMON FAYE: Hello! So tell our audience about Leret Leret’s mission.
LERET: The idea, beyond the design of sweaters, is to work with artists on all media. During COVID, it was difficult, as a brand that wanted to work with artists, to come together and collaborate. I met Solomon here in New York. We met about three times in the space of a week – you know when that happens? Something was right there with us in terms of energy, for sure. We started hanging out and talking.
SALOMON FAYE: Then we met at your place when I was working on the “NOT HERE” video. What was the hardest part of working with me? What was the easiest part?
LERET: The easiest thing was all the brainstorming, the coming and going of ideas, with you and me and Andréa [Leret, Edouard’s sister and the brand’s co-founder]. It was very exciting, and everything was flowing. That’s what gave us the confidence to give you full creative direction on this film. I would say the hardest part was the post-production – creating a video out of all that raw material…how shall I put it? Since you are an artist, would you say a conceptual artist?
FAYE: Yeah, yeah.
LERET: So you’re very careful about the work you do there, because you care about it and it’s very valuable. I appreciate that, and I guess that was the hardest part. We had to make decisions about how to share this material, tag people, etc.
FAYE: I can feel it. The hardest part for you was also the hardest for me, but at the same time, it was my favorite part. The three of us working through those times, figuring out how to meet in the middle, and figuring out what to keep and what to throw away, there has been a lot of growth and development in our friendship.
LERET: That’s often the hardest part of working with friends – the professional line is crossed. Andrea and I know this because we are a family and we work together. Things are getting better every day, but it’s hard to work with very close people. Then again, the reward is sometimes so much sweeter. I also enjoyed those moments with you.
FAYE: Beautiful clashes that then turned into a harmonious connection. How was the transition from friends to collaborators? Personally, it didn’t feel like a great transition. When we met, there was an immediate mutual appreciation. When creators become friends, you intuitively want to find a way to work together. Right from the jump, as our friendship was building, we were trying to figure out how to collaborate.
LERET: Yes, there wasn’t much of a transition in that direction, but there was a time when our conversations were going all over the place. It’s always nice, but acting on it is the part where people don’t always follow through. There was a moment, which made me happy and surprised, when you started acting like a producer. You were sending pitch decks, press materials and all that. Overnight, I went from talking to the artist, the spiritual being, to working with a producer. I was like, “Oh, okay. We’re working now.
Fay: [Laughs] Law.
LERET: But the chemistry was always the same, that’s for sure. Let’s talk about the movie!
FAYE: The idea of “the mad artist”, the concept of the piece, was informed by the conversations that Edouard and I had, just like the brothers kind of started it. When we started focusing on the project and the new collection came out, it was about expressing the extremes that we come and go between as people. The ultimate version of this is a painter. They are the stereotypical mad artist, and when they reach the pinnacle of uniqueness and brilliance, they often get lost in translation for their audience.
LERET: After the long conversations we had, the first piece of the puzzle was the poem, right?
FAYE: I would say that was probably the most integral piece of the puzzle.
LERET: The poem brought another dimension to the project. As soon as I read it, I thought you were talking about me, but I know you were talking about you, and everyone, really, who achieves something and is misunderstood, and isn’t in a space where they feel comfortable. I think that’s why it’s so special to me, because a lot of us feel that way. Many times in our careers, they applaud you before—
FAYE: – They’re attacking.
LERET: Before they attack. [There’s an] the importance of being yourself in the face of others’ incomprehension. It is important, as artists, that you continue to surpass yourself. It’s pretty much the same in fashion. We live in an age where instant gratification is like a currency, but it’s so much more than that. It’s about hard work, and that reward will come later. This is one of the messages I take away from this piece.
FAYE: The importance of being unwaveringly yourself in the face of others’ incomprehension.
LERET: The poem is almost a revelation about a feeling of anger. We decompose to be on the level of others. What do you think?
FAYE: I think one of the most important aspects of the piece was the importance of honesty. So many of us in this creative, capitalist environment are dishonest in satisfying what is generally accepted. More products are made than parts as a result. What we’ve done challenges, and even contributes to, the marriage of product and expression.
LERET: It starts as a kind of insecurity. Like, “Is it okay to be angry?” This is the journey of the mad artist. You go on to explain what will happen to you if you open that door – your curiosity becomes delusion, your contemplation becomes depression. I love this part because it really breaks down everything that’s going through this crazy artist’s head. Then comes a happy ending. That, to me, is so beautiful, because I’ve had great insecurities about those things.
FAYE: It’s the bread and butter right there, because it’s not necessarily that the artist is crazy, it’s that when he engages in his own truth, he is perceived as such by people who may not share his conviction.
LERET: “The crazy artist” is a title given by the public.
FAYE: Absolutely. And we all had to trust each other to allow this process to complete.
LERET: This project really touches us Andrea and me, because both our parents had cashmere sweaters inherited from their parents. My dad had cashmere sweaters from his dad and we wore them a lot. They have the best feeling, those old sweaters. There’s just something about them that will stand the test of time. We try to do fewer things, but better. It’s more about passing things down from generation to generation – it doesn’t have to go through the family, and this project shows that. The work continues.
Creative direction / Co-production: Solomon Faye