IN CONVERSATION WITH MAXIME PLESCIA-BÜCHI

„Its not an inspriration. It’s a goal. And the goal is to create something that continues.“

We sat down with tattoo artist, graphic designer and creative director Maxime Plescia-Büchi, to discuss his collaboration with Hublot, his design approach, and the merging of different art forms. Maxime studied psychology and graphic design in Switzerland, then fell in love with tattooing and moved to London. There he opened the tattoo studio Sang Bleu and quickly celebrated great success. His clients include celebrities like Kanye West and Adam Lambert. In addition to his tattoo studio, he also founded two magazines and the type foundry “Swiss Typefaces”. As part of this, he designed logos and typefaces for popular brands such as Mugler, Rick Owens, Balenciaga, Vogue Turkey, Rolls Royce, Sky Television and Android. Maxime has also designed clothes of fashion brands such as Alexander McQueen and has also been the creative director of Swiss watch company Hublot for some time. While constantly venturing into new projects, the artist reflects on his journey thus far, the joy of creating, and the collaboration with Hublot.

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the Sang Bleu Watches and the collaboration with Hublot?

Its not an inspriration. It’s a goal. And the goal is to create something that continues. It’s like when you get an update on your computer, on your phone, you have this sort of myriad of fields, of research development. You have developers who create apps and they will come up with things they want the app to do. And then they will code the apps in an innocent way. And then you get to a point where an upgrade of your phone is both, new tools that the platform offers but is also a reaction to it. It’s also like saying, “oh, well you need, for example, face recognition to work with a mask because it’s the pandemic. So we could do an upgrade of the OS to recognize a face with a mask and then you have the app.” So it’s this sort of complex game of many, many human projects that move in directions that might not all be perfectly parallel to each other. There’s like a general direction of things. And then each thing adjusting to each other constantly. So is watches, so are our watches and so is watch culture in a certain moment in time when it comes to everything, but more specifically to the design Zeitgeist. But it goes beyond design per se. But the most tangible thing is the visual esthetic zeitgeist that watch brands need to continue to be part of. So the goal is to do these little upgrades to continue to identify and express watch design in a way that increases its presence in the field of design at a given moment.

Can you walk us through the process of creating a new watch design?

The way I do is, I will break down the core, the very core of what I consider to be the deepest essence of what makes a watch. What kind of information does it give? What makes not only a watch, but a Hyblot watch? And then I will literally design away. We draw it in its purest form, in the most stripped down form that can still be identified as the Hyblot watch or as the specific model. And then I rebuild the design with my design process on that basis.

How does your background in graphic design and tattoo art influence your work with Hyblot?

They don’t influence it because all of those are just fields in which my creative process is expressed. So they exist in parallel, not one above the other, if you will. But they definitely inform. Maybe not at this stage anymore, because I like to rebuild a world in my head where I just start with what I think. But I would say in the beginning, before I got more acquainted and familiar with the design process behind watches, that was my main frame of reference. I used everything I knew about designing other things that I know how to design and try to see how it applies to watchmaking. And it’s a bit of  trial and error. But you could say that I still use a lot of graphic design tools. I use Illustrator, I use shapes, I use typography to create. So there are graphic design elements. But obviously graphic design is generally very 2D, very flat. Tattooing is, as I approach it, much more of a 3D thing. It’s much more like tailoring than illustration or painting. It’s really like something that needs to function with a 3D body that moves, that has all kinds of narratives and all kinds of functions going on. So I tend to consider a watch as something between architecture and tattooing. In the sense that it’s something that  you experience in an economical way. There’s no ergonomics going on with tattooing, it’s just that you don’t feel it, whereas a house, you feel. If your house is badly set up, if your stairs are too high, if the door is too narrow, or whatever, you will feel it in the same way. I want watches to have these kinds of qualities. There are also watches out, especially today, which are almost on the edge. But to me that is pretty much part of what I would call jewelry or accessories. But let’s see it as some form of jewelry at this point. They definitely have elements of overdose.

„I will break down the core, the very core of what I consider to be the deepest essence of what makes a watch.“
What do you think is the significance of tattoos in the contemporary fashion and culture?

I don’t think it has significance in fashion. I think that tattooing exists on a pretty wide spectrum of the tools that people have today to adjust their appearance and their physical presence to their identity. And fashion is one maybe in the very end of the spectrum of things that are quite casual, that can be changed very quickly. And tattooing is pretty far on the other end of things that are very deep and that last long and that take long to do what that really exists in your flesh, not as deeply as plastic surgery but very close. So for me, that’s what tatooing is and what watches can be as well. But I think that’s how tattooing can be taken today. Of course people just like the culture of tattooing and take tattooing as a whole package. But I think of tattooing as a technique, as a practice, not as a culture. There’s two in that wide range of tools.

How do you approach the design process for a watch collaboration compared to your tattoo designs?

It’s like working with the same client for a very long time. You get to know each other really well. You get to think together. I have tattooed clients that I’ve known for a very long time. We have sometimes become extremely close friends. I consider that we are collaborating. I don’t even consider that I’m doing a service for them. I don’t feel that we are facing each other. I feel that we are facing the same direction and that can literally give me ideas that I really like. And maybe it’s something that I wouldn’t have thought about, but it makes total sense. And the collaboration with Hyblot is definitely on that level of maturity at this point.

How do you balance your work as a tattoo artist and creative director with your collaborations?

It all balances quite naturally. I might just have an idea that I get while I’m trying a tattoo design. And I’m like, “Oh, that’s an idea that’s not relevant just for a tattoo, but it’s definitely worth a watch.” And I’ll be thinking of things as innocence. And as my ideas come up, I’ll be like, “That’s an idea for what? It’s really this sort of stream, this train of thoughts, a continuous train of thoughts. And then I’ll be progressive, channeling my ideas as they come..

What advice would you give to aspiring artists and designers who hope to make their mark in the fashion industry?

The fashion industry is in dire need for people to have a much more encompassing perspective on what fashion is – the way I try to approach watch design for example. There’s a lot more interest for fashion that is just self-referential.That is what is happening to some extent. But fashion today is still struggling. Either it is still just very like fashion fashion or it gets conservative and it’s like, “oh, we’re just going to do some sportswear inspired stuff or some classic tailoring inspired stuff.” And it’s all very boring. There’s a need for fashion design to really be like “Let’s put this outfit just next to a house, next to a car, next to furniture design. Let’s put this outfit in a demonstration on the streets, not just on an athlete we keep seeing. What does it look like when I’m walking down the streets in this type of environment and that type of environment? What does it say?” The sort of trickle down of fashion is a bit compromised. And especially high fashion stuff pretty much went from driving innovation to being just following. They just look at what other brands do and copy them. It’s time for the fashion industry and young designers to bring back real innovation. There’s a need to really begin with the idea that fashion is one part of a much wider culture of identities, appearances, movements, and a physical and visual presence in the world. And stop being so scared!

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