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In the late 1990s, Greg Hervieux and Jay Smith met to talk about streetwear. Hervieux had a street style clothing label, TRIIAD, and Smith was a journalist at WAD magazine tasked to interview him. The pair inevitably became friends and in 2005 established BLACKRAINBOW Agency.
Originally a cultural website with interviews, videos, digital galleries, and more, it has grown into a full-fledged consulting agency, landing Chanel as its first client. BLACKRAINBOW Agency has been behind collaborations, exhibitions, events, and more for Colette and Coca- Cola, Be@rbrick and Snarkitecture, and recently JR and the Palais de Tokyo.
Whitewall spoke with Hervieux about the evolutionary magic of BLACKRAINBOW Agency, and how its collaborations are based on storytelling.
WHITEWALL: How did BLACKRAINBOW Agency evolve from an online publication to a consulting agency?
GREG HERVIEUX: It was hard to make money with a magazine online, so I thought to talk with Citadium—one of the biggest department stores in Europe doing streetwear and sportswear—and said we could consult for them. We started introducing new brands from around the world that we were connected with. We did a sort of laboratory inside with sneakers, toys, and clothing. And we started making money.
We started realizing a lot of brands had problems, like their website or being in touch with retail stores. We thought of how to connect people—brands to artists, artists to stores, stores to media. We wanted to be the plug to everyone. That was the idea of the agency.
WW: How did Chanel become your first client just a year later?
GH: I had dinner with my friend who was working at Chanel, and they werelooking to do an event but didn’t know what exactly. I had just traveledto Tokyo and came back with the idea of doing a Be@rbrick. Three daysafter, I sent an e-mail saying I had something for them. I went to Chanelwith the Be@rbrick and said we should do one with them. We thoughtpeople would be crazy about it. My friend at Chanel wasn’t super excitedabout it, but said they’d talk to Karl Lagerfeld and see.
The best part is that Karl Lagerfeld was in Tokyo a few weeks before, and he bought one! When my friend asked him, he loved it, but he wanted to do it just for the studio. We did only five pieces, and we did all the windows in the world with the Be@rbrick. Then it was produced in mass and became an iconic product of the house.
WW: What one partnership epitomized the message of BLACKRAINBOW Agency?
GH: Colette and Coca-Cola. One reason: Colette was blue for 20 years. When Coca-Cola came to us, they wanted to do something for the EuroCup, and talk to the new generation, but had no idea what to do. I said, “I got it! I want to turn Colette . . . red.” The guy at Coca-Cola said, “No way. You can’t do that.” I didn’t know if I could, but I wanted to. He said if we could do it, we had the deal. So, we called Sarah [Andelman] at Colette, and she said, “That’s a crazy idea! Let’s do it.”
We did the logo and design, marketing and pictures, merchandising, infrastructure, the building—all in red. Sometimes it’s simple. Sometimes it’s just a color. But that day we touched everyone, from the grandkids playing with the new toys to the grandma taking a photo in the photobooth with her grandson.
WW: After 15 years of consulting and strategy, how has your business evolved most?
GH: Today, the knowledge of our company is being able to write the right stories for the brands. We have a very good analysis of the market, so we’re consulting more about the strategy. But what we love to do is write the story. It’s not just creating a collab; it’s how we’re going to write it and how we’re going to change the worlds of the stories.
WW: Can you tell us about BLACKRAINBOW Agency’s involvement in JR’s recent exhibition at Palais de Tokyo?
GH: The “Jusqu’ici tout va bien” exhibition by École Kourtrajmé at Palais de Tokyo was curated by Mathieu Kassovitz, JR, Ladj Ly, Hugo Vitrani, and BLACKRAINBOW Agency for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the iconic movie La Haine. BLACKRAINBOW Agency was in charge of organizing the artistic direction of the entrance and all the collabs for the exhibition. We took care of the setup of the pop-up store done with TRIIAD, Homecore, Aimé Leon Dore, and Carhartt. All proceeds went to École Kourtrajmé, and we worked with its students to create all videos and images to promote the collaborative limited-edition products.
We received more than 33,000 people in 10 days—a record show for Palais de Tokyo and no COVID-19 clusters.
WW: What’s next?
GH: We’re excited to work with Au Départ for specific creative pieces and develop a brand strategy—one we’ve patiently been building for over two years. We are also working on a more personal project, which is in direct line with COVID-19 and the youth.