By  on November 30, 2010

NEW YORK — In tandem with its 50th-anniversary celebration, Roche Bobois, the Paris-based upscale furniture chain, today launches its fanciful Jean Paul Gaultier collection in the U.S.

The line signals the company’s intent to accelerate creative ventures with fashion designers, a strategy that’s been limited in the past to a few fabric and furniture collaborations with Missoni, Emanuel Ungaro and Kenzo. The 240-unit Roche Bobois is rapidly growing, opening about a store a month this year and next, and as the footprint expands, so must the offering.

“Roche Bobois is very keen on working with fashion designers,” Gilles Bonan, chief executive officer of Roche Bobois, said during an interview at the 20,000-square-foot Roche Bobois store on the corner of Madison Avenue and 35th Street here. For tonight’s party, the space has been draped with floor-to-ceiling khaki banners graphically depicting the history of the furniture retailer, and merchandised with the Jean Paul Gaultier collection. Bonan said he would like one day to work with an American designer, but for now, it’s all about Gaultier.

For Roche Bobois, Gaultier reinterpreted the low Mah Jong modular sofa with his signature scribble, sailor-stripe and tattoo patterns, and created a paravent platform bed, a leather storage unit with drawers that also function as suitcases, a striped rug with red pom-poms on the corners and embroidered pillows and wool throws, among other elements.

In an interview by phone from Paris, Gaultier provided his take on his Roche Bobois collection and the link to his iconoclastic style.

WWD: What inspired you to do this collection?

Jean Paul Gaultier:
My inspiration for this collection was mobility, freedom and travel. Almost all the pieces in this collection have wheels, because I wanted people to be able to move each item from one room to another. I feel that it is good that when you’re at home, you are able to move things that you love. This gives you so much more possibilities. It’s even better when you are in a chair, like my Ben Hur chair, you can move around your home in your chair. I don’t do roller skates but I can roll around in my chair. It is actually much less effort and much more enjoyable.…Same thing with the Mah Jong sofa; as it is a modular one, you can modify your composition according to your mood, and with all the different fabrics you can play and create a new and unique display as many times as you want.

WWD: What was the challenge in collaborating with Roche Bobois?

J.P.G.: This collection is more available to the public, compared to the one I created in the Nineties with VIA [the French Association for Valorisation of Innovation in Home Furnishings]. Here, the pieces are more affordable, and reaching out to more people is always a good thing.…It is also a very diverse collection in terms of product ranges and contents. The challenge for me was to bring my savoir faire and adapt it to the furniture world, which is quite different from fashion.

WWD: As a designer, how have you grown through this collaboration?

J.P.G.: Working with Roche Bobois has allowed me to reach towards a wider audience and I find that wonderful. Also, I always tried to create timeless designs that I could revisit and modernize with the current trend, and yet keep the same classic basics. At this point, furniture is about the same. It carries this same ageless characteristic, something we own and we don’t change. It means a lot to me when someone tells me that he still wears one of my designs of 15 years; it’s truly flattering. This notion is one of my deep fundamentals. I love tradition, and yet twisting it. For example, the best example would be the Mah Jong.…The way I conceived it allows mixing them among each other. The 2011 summer collection, once revamped in 2012 with a new pattern, will still work perfectly. Five years later, after adding I don’t know how many motifs, the first patterns will not be considered old-fashioned.…This is very relevant for me.

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