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Peering Inside The Carmine Vault: Q&A With French Street Artist Fafi

Details on Fafi’s new book, plus an exclusive interview with the graffiti-artist-turned-music-video-director.
May 21, 2012, 5:22pm

French artist Fafi is best known for her sassy street art personalities, called the Fafinettes, who started emerging on the gritty streets of Toulouse, France in 1994. After some time spent tagging the world, these relentless characters—feminine and seductive in nature (though not necessarily female)—became the subjects of Fafi’s collaborations with brands like LeSportSac, Colette, Adidas, and MAC. You can dip into the Fafinettes’ world and uncover their stories and struggles in Fafi’s new graphic novel The Carmine Vault, now out on Rizzoli.


We spoke with Fafi about her transition from street art to developing virtual characters and directing music videos, and picked her brain a bit about her new book. If you’re in or around New York, make sure to stop by Fafi’s book signing party at New York’s The Hole Shop this Wednesday from 7-9 PM. RSVP and after party details below.

The Creators Project: Who is Fafi? Can your spirit be found in every Fafinette whether she be a street tag, illustration, or virtual animation?
Fafi: The Fafinettes always reflect the spirit I am at any moment, whether it’s seductive, adventurous, or chillin’. The more spontaneous Fafinettes were those I was painting in my hometown. I used to draw in my bedroom, prepare the colors and brushes, wait for my parents to go to bed, and then [paint] the walls at night.

Now they are part of The Carmine Vault, and it’s a whole system that [responds] less to fulgurant creation.

Can you explain the personalities of your main Fafinettes?
In the comic there are two kinds of Fafinettes—the regular Fafinettes, the familiar, funny, and outgoing ones wearing striped leg warmers, and the Hululus. They have alcanized already (a kind of death) so they have turned [toward] the left hand, drived to hussle, get drunk, and provoke volunteer alcanization. They are wearing black capes, white allovers, and proudly wear buck 50 [facial scars]. They are merciless and hysterical. That’s why Birtak, the hero of the comic wants to leave.


© Fafi, Fafi: The Carmine Vault, Rizzoli New York 2012

What does their world (and the title of your new book) The Carmine Vault look like? Will this world ever exist on the internet?
The Carmine Vault is an entity of its own, I have just started to create it. Now that the first volume is published I can say that it’s a good first attempt, but I know I can go deeper into the characters’ behaviors, creating a nature of its own, imagining food, fruits and vegetables, vehicles. I can picture it as a video game, like if you’re a Hululu you earn points by getting high. If you choose to be Birtak, you get a better score by preventing the Hululus from being nasty!

All images © Fafi: The Carmine Vault by Fafi, Rizzoli New York, 2012

You've created animated Fafinette characters for music videos like Lily Allen's "Oh My God" and Carte Blanche's "Do! Do! Do!". How does your creative process change (if at all) when you're creating for video? What kinds of tools do you use?
I had just designed Lily Allen’s outfit and global attitude, but 3D wasn’t the best solution for my characters. So when I co-directed the Carte Blanche video, I knew we had to go with classic, 2D animation.

There were three animators and I was supervising them, mostly because they were making Kid Sister too sexy cute. I had to calm them down and explain a certain subtlety to express something strong and powerful. They were working on a Wacom Cintiq and we were singing R. Kelly and Shakira songs all day long.


Have you ever thought about tagging online… taking taking graffiti into the virtual realm? How would that work?
I am not interested in tagging anymore since I provide pictures and objects that enter directly into people’s lives.

You directed your first music video for Mademoiselle Yulia’s “Gimme Gimme” at the end of last year, do you have any upcoming directorial projects?
Mademoiselle Yulia agreed to become a live Fafinette, Andrea Crews created custom-made clothes for the occasion, and we managed to get 60 Fafi fans as extras. It was really fun.

I’d love to direct another one. I receive a bunch of pitches, but I always ask myself would she/they make good Fafinettes?

Who would be your dream musician or music group (dead or alive) to work with?
Big names, funny girls, absurd projects.

What other collaborations do you have in the works?
I am thinking about The Carmine Vault II. I’ll start this summer.

The Fafinettes are so fashionable… what designers are they into this season?
They used to be fashionable, now they have a style of their own.