Chloe Perrin
Design Specialist

Photo by Isabelle Le Normand

“It’s our paradoxes, contradictions, and random decisions that make us interesting individuals.”

Chloe Perrin is a French American design specialist based in Paris. She currently works at Carpenters Workshop Gallery and has previously worked for FIAC and Galerie Perrotin. Prior to entering the world of contemporary art, Perrin worked as the artistic director at her family’s luxury heritage leather brand Perrin Paris. She rebranded Perrin Paris by bringing in young talents, creating a capsule collection in collaboration with architect Zaha Hadid, and designing handbags herself. Her aesthetic eye is supported by her Parisian education in fashion design at the design school Studio Bercot and in art history at the Ecole du Louvre. 

In this interview, Chloe Perrin shares her process for designing a new bag, how she transitioned from the world of fashion to contemporary art, and what new trends and challenges she's noticing in contemporary art.

TGL: How was your childhood?

CP: I was born in Seattle in 1991, however my family moved to Istanbul when I was two years old, and then to Paris when I was five. I remember dressing up and playing with imaginary characters inspired by the movies and books I loved. Later on, I spent too much time playing computer games such as the Sims or Rayman, which were quite new at the time. My father worked in the software industry and traveled a lot, so he would bring back games from the United States or Japan that hadn’t been released in France. My French schoolmates loved coming over to my house, because they weren’t allowed to have a computer at theirs. 

TGL: You are French American. What do you like most about both cultures?

CP: I love both cultures equally, because they are complimentary. America is free, wild, fast, intense, brave and independent. France is more about culture, time, contemplation, intellect, and beauty. It’s hard for me to work 100% of the time in either, because I get depressed at the idea of rarely having vacation in America or frustrated with the lack of energy and optimism in France. I have to go back and forth to feel energized, inspired, and find my balance. 

TGL: You have a distinctive style. How would you describe it?

CP: I would say my style is uncomplicated yet romantic with a twist. I like simple, well-cut clothes with interesting details. I usually include an unusual accessory I found somewhere I traveled to. I like contrast; wearing a long feminine dress with old adidas sneakers, or an ornate pair of vintage earrings with a simple black tank top. 

TGL: You designed bags for a period. What was your process for starting a new design?

CP: My family has had a leather craftsmanship business since 1893. I studied design, so I felt like I should contribute at some point. A handbag is complex to design, because unlike a lot of creative clothing, it must remain 100% functional. I have always collected objects and loved going to the Puces flea market with my mother. To design a bag, I start from a beautiful functional object and transform it into a purse. My favorite personal design is a small bucket bag, le Seau Perrin Paris, that was inspired by an art deco champagne bucket. 

TGL: After a few years, you transitioned from fashion to contemporary art, how did this transition happen?

CP: I was always more drawn to art than fashion, but I didn’t feel legit enough to choose that path in my early 20s. I was intimidated by the French contemporary art scene, because it seemed so elitist and intellectual. It was in New York that I discovered contemporary art and realized I could engage in it too. The American contemporary art world felt more free, open minded, and self deprecating. 

TGL: You worked for Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin and now for Carpenters Workshop Gallery. What are the new trends and the new challenges for contemporary art today?

CP: Galleries are facing a challenge, because emerging artists don’t rely on them for exposure as much as they used to. With instagram, an artist can be in touch with anyone directly. Galleries need to adapt to that and reinvent their role for young artists. I also think the market feels saturated at the moment, too many galleries, art fairs, trendy artists, but it’s only temporary.

TGL: You work with private art collectors. What makes a good collector?

CP: A good collector is passionate and aims to build a coherent, thoughtful collection that will perhaps reflect the zeitgeist of their time. By carefully selecting elements and bringing them together, one creates a bigger piece of art; like a symphony including many different sounds. The great collectors we remember supported movements and aesthetic currents as a totality. They didn’t collect random, trendy art at high value to feel important. 

TGL: Which artist studios have you visited recently?

CP: I recently hosted studio visits and drinks at Laura Garcia Karras, François Malingrey, Chloé Royer, and Romain Lecornu’s studios that are all adjacent in the outskirts of Paris. The building they work in is a beautiful 19th century factory called l’Orfevrerie that was converted into artists studios supported by Manifesto projects. The artists I know there are all in their late twenties and shaking up the French art scene.

TGL: Who inspires you in your daily life and in your creative process?

CP: I love the life story of Leonora Carrington. She inspires me to never give up on my creativity and to be my own independent person…and maybe end up with lots of pets in an exotic country. She came from a stuck up British family and ended up being one of Mexico’s most adored surrealists. I also often think of Marcel Duchamp, who believed that one’s entire life could be an artwork.

TGL: Who would you like to have dinner with that you don’t already know?

CP: I would love to have dinner with Esther Perel, a psychotherapist that specializes in the tension between the need for security and the need for freedom in human relationships. I love listening to her podcasts.

TGL: What advice would you like to give to The Genius List’s readers?

CP: Stop worrying about being consistent in life. There is no such thing as consistency…it’s our paradoxes, contradictions, and random decisions that make us interesting individuals.