Surface to Air: The Brand Givenchy and Vuitton Hire to Stay Cool

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Photo: John Lamparski/WireImage

Jérémie Rozan's first dream was to run "a kind of factory to make products and shoot films — I've always been passionate about films, in fact." And he's achieved it, too, along with having a thriving international clothing line. After a six-month stint at a consultancy firm in London, a friend introduced him to Aldric Speer, who had worked for Comme des Garçons and i-D, and in early 2000, the pair founded the multifarious brand Surface to Air. At the time — a full two years before Opening Ceremony burst onto the scene — the concept of retail-operation-meets-creative-group "was a new thing. But [Aldric] was really into fashion, so we had a parallel development of creative pursuits and fashion," Rozan told the Cut. Enlisting him came from "a desire of doing everything." 

S2A is still divided into two parts: the clothing line, which is sold in its four shops (one in New York, two in Paris, and one in São Paulo) and has a number of stockists; and the Studio, for Rozan's projects and films. In the past, he directed a clip for Kid Cudi's "Mr. Rager," featuring Cudi-designed S2A leather jackets; chronicled his visit to Kim Gordon's home, where she showed off a capsule collection she designed for the brand; and made Justice's first music video. Surface to Air is also the ad agency for Lanvin's Avant Garde scent, Uniqlo, Louis Vuitton Haute Joaillerie, and Dom Perignon. We recently spoke with Rozan about his next big project, lessons learned while working in the fashion industry, and how the Justice dudes behave in private. (Does the tall guy talk?)

How would you describe a normal day at Surface to Air in the beginning as opposed to a normal day as it is now?
A normal day at the beginning of Surface to Air — we're in a tiny office, we're three people, and we're working on exhibitions and events. But we had a sort of open suite to hold shows with Banksy, and artists like that. A normal day at Surface to Air now is working on a Givenchy campaign, because we are the agency, shooting the next Surface to Air ads, working on the new collection for Surface to Air (men and women), opening our fourth store, which is on Rue de Grenelle [in Paris].

Do you have plans to open a fifth store?
Yes. Definitely in the States, but I don’t know if it would be in L.A. or New York. In 2013, for sure.

How do you balance the fashion line with the rest of the projects you do?
Our ideology is to make products that have the best mix of price, quality, and creativity, tastes of the moment, and our references. If an idea isn't exciting, we won't do it. For example, we're not going to hold a fashion show just because it is an obligation for a fashion brand — our design and style speak for themselves. But if one of these days, we find a relevant performance idea that is worth asking people to attend, we'd put in all of our energy to produce it. Same for films. There's so many meaningless images around us and we don't want to add to it — that's the ideology. And the reality is that we're a fashion brand and we have to follow a cycle and fill the stores. So now that we're grown up, it's about finding the meeting point between the ideology and the reality.

How many full collections does Surface to Air put out a year?
Four collections: two men's and two women's of 160 pieces each.

And what is your team like?
We have three people for men's fashion design and five for women. And we have six people at our creative studio, plus project managers for clients, and Surface to Air look books, campaigns, films, and everything — that's my direct team.

Tell me about some of the projects that you've enjoyed the most.
Sincerely, it's all been great. I enjoy jumping from thinking for Louis Vuitton, or Givenchy and Lanvin fragrances — which are our clients — and going back to problems or strategies that are more for ourselves. Opening a store in New York was great; I liked shooting Justice’s first music video; meeting Kim Gordon was like a teenage dream. Right now, since we are also considered part of the creative world, we can pretty much work with anyone we want, and have a very natural type of relationship. It's just like you and a friend doing something together.

Do you approach other people about collaborating or do they come to you?
We've been approached once, and we did the project — I won't say the name — but I did not enjoy it. Now, it's part of our world, so there's nobody approaching anyone. We meet, and have discussions: "Ah, I've seen you've done that with Kid Cudi, I'd like to do something." There's no strategy behind it.

What is it like to work with Justice?
They're friends of ours. We've been hanging out with them for eight years; they weren't even Justice then. They are super-sweet and extremely smart guys. And very sensitive — they have a pretty unique sense of crafty, beautiful, arty things. They are full of mainstream culture, with some type of superior minds.

When you partner with them or, say, Givenchy, how much of the concept comes from you?
Givenchy is particular because we are working for its fragrance, and we are both creative director and director, as we have been for Louis Vuitton Haute Joaillerie, for example. It's an unusual process and even more pressure because it's a worldwide TV spot. It's coming out in the summer.

What are some of the challenges you deal with that you didn't expect to encounter?
I'm like you — if you decided to do a fashion brand now, you would discover so many obstacles. It's a performance to produce a collection and deliver every season. We have, like, 137 steps for ourselves from starting to develop ideas January 1 to the delivery of the collection in the store a year later. It's a test of perseverance and precision.