Nike Running has Called on FAKE to Resurrect the Van NRC
His name may not be familiar to you, but if you lived in Paris you must have come across one of his graffiti pieces. Laurent Poignot aka FAKE began his career in 2002 as a designer, but his passion for graffiti has always had an important place in his life. Just take a look at his Instagram account to realize how committed he is to what he once considered a "hobby", but his passion didn’t fade with the time, quite the opposite actually. After spending 5 years with the Clark Magazine as Artistic Director, he decided to continue his career as a freelance designer, collaborating with prestigious labels such as Kenzo, OTH and Stussy. When Nike Running decided to resurrect their mythical van they naturally turned to him. The original van of Phil Knight worked from was a Plymouth Valiant. Laurent decided to affix a modern and raw pattern for the 2017 version of the NRC van. We went to the workshop to talk to him - going back to the beginnings of his career and how he managed to bring his two passions together, design and graffiti. Meeting with a Parisian OG.
What was the Parisian graffiti scene in the 1990s?
I often came to Paris, but I finally settled there in 1997, so I mostly lived through magazines in the 90s. I was very active in the streets and on trains between 1998 and 2001, sometimes it took a long time to find a place to paint. At the time Paris was a huge hall of fame, the walls of the city and the Suburban trains were not cleaned, it looked like NYC in the 80s.
You grew up in Besançon and then you moved to Paris for your studies ... When did you start to take an interest in Art and what was your career?
It is clear that Besançon is not a [city of] reference in art, it is the capital of watchmaking. My parents imagined for me a future in Engineering. Rather die. At the time I was hanging out with art students. It inspired me a lot and I quickly knew that it was in this area that I wanted to evolve. It was necessary to leave Besancon to flourish and give me the means to do so.
At the time Paris was a huge hall of fame, it looked like NYC in the 80's.
So I studied graphic design and graduated in 2002 with honors. Yeah. Then I worked directly in freelance for MTV Networks France and I looked for a job in an agency. I worked a few years in agencies where I was editing, designing logotype or video animation. I then joined the editorial staff of Clark Magazine in 2007 until the last issue in 2012. I then joined the OTH boutique in Montreal. It is my family. I always work with them. At the same time I multiplied the projects. I always wanted to work a lot and I had so many customers that I forget.
Do you consider graffiti to have influenced your career as a designer? Do you consider yourself a graffiti artist?
Although it influenced my first steps in the visual arts, graffiti did not always help me in my studies. As a living model, my drawings looked more like b-boys than naked women. On the other hand, I immediately liked working with colors, typography, drawing letters and by extension, creating logos. Graffiti also helped me in the compositions, a wall or a wagon are like a canvas, a frame in which you have to compose. Today I consider myself a 100% designer. Graffiti is a hobby very present in my life, but it is the graphics that make me live, not graffiti.
In 2007 you joined the team of Clark Magazine. Can you come back on this period?
I met Clark's team in 2006. It's funny but my first freelance job for Clark was an illustration for Nike "Joga Bonito". I officially joined the editorial team in 2007 where I replaced Veenom who was DA before me. It was the perfect job. I had previously worked in publishing and being in charge of the artistic direction of a magazine [such] as Clark was a great challenge! It was a period with incredible energy. We worked in collaboration with the rising labels like Institubes or "cool" brands like Sixpack France. We organized parties, we met artists from all over the world, we traveled... It was a very rich, very creative period with a permanent emulation.
In 10 years Clark magazine has explored and unearthed many talents.
You've been with Clark until the last issue. What did you feel when the adventure ended?
I was sad a little, relieved a lot. Making such a good magazine with so few resources was challenging. Today I have no regrets. It was time for me to move on. You know I was [the] Artistic Director on 27 issues. The last issue of Clark (# 52) is, for me, the best. In 10 years Clark magazine has explored and unearthed many talents. The death of the magazine is a culmination, not a failure.
To get back to graffiti, how do we go from tagging trains to tag the podiums of Kenzo?
Perhaps ripening. It was not the same adrenaline but seeing the parade was like seeing my graff on a train coming to the station. Kenzo's DAs are friends I've known for a few years. They wanted a dirty, spontaneous treatment and 100% vandal-inspired club toilets. I can do it. I painted everything in my left hand.
What do you think of the democratization of street art and the marks of luxuries that appropriated the codes?
Graffiti is born in the street and unless it is part of the concept, it has nothing to do in gallery or in fashion where there is no provocation. Graffiti is, in my opinion, the most powerful artistic movement in the history of recent art and must remain authentic. Recovery of graffiti by brands is too often opportunistic and soulless. For projects I've done for Kenzo or more recently Nike, it's different. I did not do graffiti, but design using my background and my graffiti expertise.
Many graffiti artists who today have a career have mostly stopped graffiti. What is it that after all these years you still have the same passion?
I do not agree. I see a lot of guys from my generation coming back into the game. It's the quarantine crisis. I took a break of several years between 2005 and 2011 to concentrate on other things, but graffiti missed me. I returned to 100% in 2013, stronger and with more inspiration. When I get involved in something, I always do it thoroughly. I imagine not stopping to paint one day.
Your Instagram feed is impressive. All the achievements that you post are recent or are you allowed to publish your archives?
Most of my productions are recent. You know, most of my archives are silver prints so I do not post them. I have however published some old prods, but generally I prefer to keep them for me. The past is the past.
By being so prolific you never had a problem with the justice?
The past is the past.
The most improbable anecdote that happened to you?
In the 1990s, my buddy Akroe and I painted railways in Besançon. The police arrived in the car and chased us. We hid in a pile of dead Christmas trees. We were scared. When we heard the police get closer to us, we counted up to 3 and we ran faster than ever. No way out. We climbed onto the roof of the first train and went to bed. We remained without moving, we dared not even breathe. We stayed there a part of the night, hyperlit by the spots of the station. The police were looking for us everywhere, but never thought to look up and we were never found. #acab
For the NRC van, Nike Running was looking for an artist who was also a runner.
Today you realized work for Nike Running. What is your relationship with the brand and how did you meet?
I believe that Nike has always been my favorite brand. I had already worked for Nike in 2009 on the Tour de France and more recently on ACG for one of my best friends, Hami, who works at Nike NRG Paris. For the NRC van, Nike Running was looking for an artist who was also a runner. I have been running for 3 and a half years and today I am completely addicted to running. A meeting was organized and you know the rest.
Again it seems that the limit between graffiti and your career as a designer is only a thread ... To be contacted by a brand like Nike to graffle a truck would you have thought of it 20 years ago?
Twenty years ago I was stealing my bombs to paint. It is true that I would never have imagined one day being paid to paint. Graffiti is a great way to meet people and, on this NRC project, I met very good people and professionally it is very important.
What advice would you give to a young designer?
As Fabe said "Never in the trend, but always in the right direction"
Thank you Laurent! Did we forget something?
Yes. The people who made this project possible: Antoine, Sandy, Nike Running Paris and Hami. Thanks to them.
Words: Benjamin Benichou
Photography: Ben Berzerker