Behind the Brand: Assouline

Sep 1, 2022

Founded in 1994 by husband and wife duo Prosper and Martine Assouline, the eponymous lifestyle brand is created for those seeking style, culture, and art de viver. Working with the globe’s foremost architects, culinary masters, designers, and artists, their exquisite collection of books soon became coffee table book sensations. With over 1,700 titles published, we caught up with Martine to find out more about the brand and their future plans…

Describe the brand in 3 words.

Stylish, luxurious, cultural.

Can you tell us the story of Assouline?

The idea behind Assouline was ambitious, we wanted to elevate the style and design of books and push the boundaries of the very classical interpretation of culture at the time. By creating a distinctive editorial style, we’re publishing books that are also thought of as objects with a true creative identity and a respect for savoir-faire. Since launching our first title, La Colombe d’Or, in 1994, we now offer a vast collection of books and accessories fit for a contemporary library.

What’s been a standout moment in your brand’s journey so far?

There have been three standout moments for us: our first boutique opening thanks to Ron Frash, the CEO of Bergdorf Goodman, who understood our vision before others; the day we decided to categorize our books into collections; and the arrival of our son Alexandre, who now builds the business side of the company.

The topics for your books are broad but very niche – how do you decide what subject to publish next?

Prosper and I decide on the titles we are most interested in working on. When we are ready to share the project, we then brainstorm ideas with our close team. I love to dive in and determine the best ways to create the book; it’s a very special moment when we find the book’s flow. I personally select the images that will compose the book’s melody, and those choices help build natural visual understanding.

How long does the whole process take, from commissioning a book to publication?

The average is about eight months. Some books can take years for multiple reasons, but it’s very rare.

What makes an Assouline book special?

The style and the way we compose a book. We like to think of the book as a beautiful object, similar to how Chanel would design a dress or Pharrell Williams would write a song. It is all a question of style and method.

Assouline books are known for being incredibly eye-catching, so should you judge a book by its cover?

As Prosper used to say, “a book spends more time closed than open.” Both are important for different reasons.

What do you find the most challenging aspect of creating a book?

The most challenging aspect of creating a book is finding its direction. Once we have found the direction, we then find good materials to help create the story of the book.

What’s your favorite book from the whole collection?

My favorite book is New York by New York. There are hundreds of books on New York, but none like ours. Some others include Cecil Beaton: The Art of the Scrapbook, The French Riviera in the 1920s, Swans: Legends of the Jet Society, Capri Dolce Vita, The Impossible Collection of Fashion; The Impossible Collection of Art, Frida Kahlo: Fashion as the Art of Being, Hair, and so on.

Shop Assouline Coffee Table Books

What’s your best-selling book to date?

Our most sought-after work is the Chanel slipcase (set of 3), which we regularly update in volumes. Our next best-seller is the highly acclaimed Dior series, which we initially began producing years ago and is yet to be completed in terms of volumes.

Can you tell us somewhere unexpected that you’ve seen an Assouline book?

The first thing that comes to mind is an Instagram post someone sent to me. It showed our Athens Riviera book placed in a small Greek house on a small Greek island. For me, that was pure gold.

How would you style an Assouline book in your home?

It depends on my mood and our new titles. We are constantly changing our libraries and coffee table books to keep the room fresh. I also love the stylish combination of propping a big painting up against the wall and putting stacks of books on the floor strategically around it.

What’s on the horizon for Assouline?

We are planning to start developing the brand into more of a lifestyle direction. We have been doing it since day one through our bookends, bookstands, candles, and Assouline branded objects. We have a strong sense of style, and plan to adapt it beyond books.

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