Irma Boom: A Tribute to Coco Chanel

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Interviewed by Christian Lund at her home and studio in Amsterdam, Irma Boom discusses and shows the book ‘No. 5 Culture Chanel’ (2013), which was created to accompany Chanel’s 2013 exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.

“I’ll only do the job if it’s Chanel.” Such was the feted book designer Irma Boom’s response to the enigmatic people, who contacted her about a secret project. She here shares the story of her engrossing white book that pays tribute to Chanel No. 5.

Though Boom has infused her pages with scent in the past, she didn’t want to do so for this book commissioned by the Parisian fashion house. She simply felt it would be too blatant and instead chose a more subtle approach: The 300-page book has no ink – instead the text and images narrating the story of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel are embossed onto the paper. Moreover, the book is made entirely in white (encased in a black box), and in some lighting the embossings consequently appear somewhat invisible.

Making an invisible book for an almost invisible perfume made perfect sense to Boom: “It’s also a tribute to Coco Chanel. To envision this book, the person Chanel and to make a book which represents her but also the illusion of Chanel No. 5.”

“It’s all calculation.” Boom’s books are always based on mathematics, so when she found out that Coco Chanel had the same approach, and furthermore believed in numerology (which is also why the legendary perfume bears the number 5), everything seemed to come together.

Irma Boom (b. 1960) is a Dutch graphic designer, who specializes in book making and is widely acclaimed for the iconoclastic beauty of these. Boom introduced the idea of a ‘fat book’ (overtly thick book) and has made more than 300 books, 100 of which are in the permanent collection of MoMA in New York. The 2,136 page commemorative ‘SHV Think Book’ (1996) – which was anti-chronological and also devoid of page numbers or an index – became her international breakthrough. Boom’s design for the book ‘Weaving as Metaphor’ by American artist Sheila Hicks (2006) received the ‘The Most Beautiful Book in the World’ award at the Leipzig Book Fair. Boom’s many clients include the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Chanel, Ferrari and Camper. Her work has received numerous awards, and she is the youngest person to have been honoured with a Gutenberg Prize in 2001. Since 1992 she has been a critic at Yale University in the US.

Camera: Maurits Veldhuijzen van Zanten
Edited by: Sonja Strange
Produced by: Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015

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