Unknown No More

lifestyle February 19, 2013 00:00


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French blogger the Unknown Hipster brings his funny stories and clever art to Bangkok

 French artist Jean-Philippe Delhomme bears little resemblance to the gangling alter ego who ambles in catchy illustrations through his book, “The Unknown Hipster Diaries”. The Hipster looks like John Lennon circa 1970 – long flowing hair and beard plus spectacles. But the memoir is truthful enough, a breeze around the cultured side of life, with celebrities at every turn.

 Delhomme’s talent with watercolours, gouache, finger paints and coloured pencils has won him some major clients, including Louis Vuitton, Moet Hennessey, Swedish car maker Saab and the famed department stores Barneys in New York and Le Bon Marche in Paris. Now Sansiri Plc, the Thai property developer, has hired him to liven up its “Life Comes Home” advertising campaign.

Sansiri has mounted “The Unknown Hipster Exhibition”, continuing all this month in the Sansiri Lounge at Siam Paragon. Delhomme autographed 300 copies of his book at the opening last Friday, surrounded by 26 of his illustrations. The books were printed specifically for the Sansiri event.

Gawkers wanted to know who this unknown “Unknown Hipster” was and how he wangles invitations to A-list happenings like Prince William’s wedding and New York Fashion Week.

Well, Delhomme said, the Hipster of his illustrations is nobody in particular, just a character he concocted based on a look that predominated in the late 1960s.

“Three years ago I was living in New York and looking for a new project, and I saw a guy on the sidewalk in the Bowery who seemed like a reincarnation of the hippies. I thought, ‘I could draw and use this character on my blog instead of myself – it would be funnier!’ He had a liveliness, a lightness and a uniqueness.”

In the blog, also called the Unknown Hipster Diaries, he shares his experiences of and opinions about culture, especially art and fashion. Schooled in animation at L’Ecole Nationale des Arts Decoratifs, Delhomme won critical acclaim for both his prose and illustration, but in particular as a fashion illustrator after producing a series called “The Cultivated Life”. Bound copies of the series are sold at Colette, another eminent Paris department store that specialises in designer items, and the images were also exhibited at Tokyo’s Rocket Gallery. The Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Vogue in Britain and Japan all ran stories about it.

Of particular interest were Delhomme’s drawings of top clothing designers like Karl Lagerfeld and such artists as Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst. He was hitting on the right subjects for the moment, and the international luxury brands took notice.

In the meantime Delhomme authored three novels on top of articles for magazines as diverse as GQ and the French Architectural Digest.

The Unknown Hipster did indeed get to meet Karl Lagerfeld, as well as Marc Jacobs and Stella McCartney – and Hirst. He was at the exclusive opening of the controversial British modernist’s “End of an Era” exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery in New York (Mick Jagger was there too), perhaps en route to the Venice Biennale, among many other high-powered art gatherings.

All of these experiences are related in the book with a great sense of humour, lively sketches of the Hipster appearing on nearly every page, in famous places and the company of well-known personalities.

“You can draw inspiration anywhere,” Delhomme said. “I get ideas even in a taxi, on the sidewalk, and so on. And fashion is a wonderful subject for drawing – it is very eccentric and can be funny too.”

Delhomme acknowledged that Karl Lagerfeld is “one of the most famous personalities in the fashion world” – and he really did meet him, gleaning some “advice” for a chapter in the book.

But he wasn’t at Britain’s big royal wedding last year. Only the Hipster of his imagination got to go.

“It was in the news everywhere, on television, in the newspapers – I was in my room, and I thought, ‘My character could go to the wedding and maybe cause some disturbance by doing some stupid things, and it would be very funny too!’”