Interviews | January 30, 2018

Filip Pagowski

Artist and illustrator, he grew up in Poland but moved to NYC in the late Seventies. His work appeared in The New York Times and Le Monde. Creator of the Comme des Garçons’ ‘Play’ logo, he recently accepted a new challenge in the eyewear biz

words Enrico S. Benincasa

How can you describe your style?

I think simplicity defines my style. I grew up in Poland and I started drawing when I was a child. using my hand to create became really important from the beginning and was totally normal to me. There weren’t a lot of chances to draw differently because Poland was underdeveloped in technologies for graphic arts. I think my attracion for simplicity started in this period of my life. The images I draw with my hand are a sort of reaction to the overuse of technology we face, especially nowadays.

What’s the best part of your job?

The most enjoyable part of being an artist and a designer is working after coming up with an idea. I mean the moment when I’m passing from something very conceptual based on my understanding or something I saw, to an image, something that physically represents physically what my ideas are. It’s the most challenging part but the playful one.

Do you have any advice for a young designer or artist?

Stay independent and develop your own professional personality. That’s what I have tried to do my whole life. I’ve achieved what I’ve achieved because I always start from my own ideas and my own dreams, even though in the early stages of my career it wasn’t easy at all. I was unsure whether I would have been able to live doing what I’m doing.

May we say that remaining independent has been one of the keys to your success?

I think so. Honestly, I can’t say that being part of a big environment influences your creativity in a negative way because I have never really worked from 9am to 5pm in a situation like that. It sounds ne to me that a group of people that understand each other very well, open a studio and work together. That’s great too and doesn’t stop creativity and, in many cases, helps people to develop their professional skills.

Have you ever had a mentor in your career?

I may consider my father a mentor. He was important in many stages of my career. I would frequently ask myself what he would have done in a particular moment. It doesn’t mean that I want to copy him, and he thought that one of the most important lessons is that copying is the wrong thing to do. I can’t say I’ve been a mentor for anyone in particular, but when someone says that my work has been important and inspiring it’s one the best rewards I can have.

What’s your feeling when you see someone who’s wearing something that you have designed?

It’s a very nice feeling. Sometimes I look what kind of people are wearing it, what they find interesting in it. especially with ‘play’ for Comme des Garçons that became so popular in different countries in the world. I was in Gambia years
ago and I found play T-shirts in a big market. They were fake, but it was interesting to see that even there this image of a heart was popular and people related to it. I think I was lucky with ‘play’: you cannot plan on designing something that is going to bring so much positive energy to people. It just happens.

You lived in New York for a number of years. How did this city influence you as a person and an artist?

New York had a big influence on me. I lived there for 30 years and I still consider myself a New Yorker, even if I did move back to Europe seven years ago. I come to New York quite often and I still think that it’s a very lively place. The city changes very quickly, I may say that I see a different New York every five years. It has ups and downs, but sometimes the downs are more interesting than the ups. The most interesting me was in the late Seventies and early Eighties: the city was in a very bad shape but at the same time there was an amazing amount of creative energy in the arts and in music. Nobody even thought at that me, that hip hop or punk rock, for instance, were going to be important. I witnessed those things grow up and it was very exciting.

Speaking of New York, how did you get in touch with NYC based brand District Vision?

Actually, they found me. We decided to work together last year; we have been doing projects together centered on their product. I designed their logo, their graphics and right before the last New York City Marathon I did visuals for their pop up store, including the signage.

What do you like about this company?

I like the way they approach the business of eyewear combined to running and yoga. They
are quite spiritual but also very driven in a positive way. I also like their sense of aesthetics and I think the product is really good. They are younger than me, but they decided I was the right person for their project. I think we are a good match.

You wear glasses on a regular basis. What are the important features that a pair of glasses should have?

When I buy glasses, I want to find something I like and that looks good on my face. The quality of materials is another fundamental aspect for me. Luckily, at the moment there are plenty of companies in the world making really good glasses, so it’s fun shopping for them.

What are the projects are you working on right now?

I recently created a capsule of sneakers
with Ash. I’ve never done anything with a tridimensional object like a sneaker, it was challenging, but I’m very satisfied with the final result. The capsule was launched last September. At the moment I’m working on two projects, one for Ikea and one for Nike, but I can’t say too much about them. They will be out very soon.