Beyond the Graphics with Artist Christopher Lee Sauvé

Interview with Sydney Sadick | February 17, 2016.  READ INTERVIEW

Graphic designer by trade, Christopher Lee Sauvé has made a name for himself in the worlds of art and fashion with cutting-edge work that takes inspiration from punk rock, graffiti art, pop culture, street fashion, and social activism. The Vancouver native shares down his story (from working with Marc Jacobs to launching his viral “Save Anna” T-shirts) and what he’s up to today.

Backstory, please!
I moved to New York right after college and started working at Adbusters magazine, where I worked on design anarchy and learned a lot about the art world. That led me to create posts for bands in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and afterward I ended up freelancing for Giovanni Bianco. He knew a bunch of people like Madonna and Steven Klein, so I got to see how cool fashion is and how I could do my thing within the industry. After that came a two-year gig as senior designer at Diane Von Furstenberg, where I helped work on Fashion Week and all that stuff. She introduced me to Alexander Wang, where I became art director, and then I started getting calls from a bunch of different brands, like Leanne Fremar from Theory, who’s incredible. She also worked for Under Armor, so I got to work with them. While all of this was happening, I was always doing my own artwork—the kind of things that are campaign-oriented, but intertwined the political stuff I learned at Adbusters with the fashion world.

How’d you do that?
Well, putting Anna Wintour on one of my T-shirts in 2008 as a part of my “Save Anna” campaign was a thing. [Ed note: This was when rumor had it she was retiring]. It was before the release of the September Issue—that’s when people really knew who she was. I saw a huge trend in fashion designers and personalities and wanted to create art around them. She was the first big one.

Has Anna ever commented on your art?
I haven’t heard anything, but she knows about what I do because of DVF. But I did run into her wearing while I was wearing the shirt! It was really bizarre. I lived in the West Village at the time and was smoking on the corner of the street in plaid pajamas, slippers, and and an old “Save Anna” T-shirt, and her car stopped and she looked over and I was like, Oh my god.

Tell us about your work with Marc Jacobs.
I first met Marc through Amy Odell. I was introduced to him again to do some work—I do the actual drawings, prints, and a bunch of illustrations on his shirts and stuff like that. We also just developed a new campaign for spring that’s coming out soon, which will be a lot of fun. I’ve also been helping him with the new collection for Fashion Week. His energy is so amazing and dedicated—I’ve worked for so many different fashion houses at this point. He’s got it.

Growing up, did you ever think you’d be in fashion?
No, I didn’t even know who Tom Ford was or what Barney’s was. I was one of those hippie skater kids from Vancouvet who came from Adbusters, which is super anti-fashion. Once you’re in that world for a while, it kind of makes you want to check fashion out. When I got the call from Diane Von Furstenberg, I honestly thought she was a romance novelist. I Googled her and I was like, she looks like Danielle Steel!

Do you keep in touch?
Every once in a while we’ll email. She used to give me bags that she signed for my mom, who loves her. It was cute. She’s such a nice, talented lady with a great vision.

What’s inspiring you lately?
I find it hard to sleep because on Instagram, there are so many artists popping up, especially street artists. It’s cool to see how talented people are.

You’ve designed a lot of other T-shirts with fashion designers and celebs. Can we expect more in the future?
I don’t know. Patricia Field, who I love, has carried my stuff for a long time, but she’s closing the [Bowery Street] store. I originally sold them at a store called Seven, which was awesome, but they closed too. I’m not sure if apparel is the right thing for me, but I love collaborating with brands who know fabric and fit—that’s their craft—where I can focus more on the look and the graphics. I might still do T-shirts, though on a very limited-edition level, like beautiful Japanese jersey T-shirts. We’ll see!

Any other projects?
I’m an art ambassador for Bulova right now, and I design artwork for their campaigns. I also just collaborated with Bandier on athletic wear—I painted on a large canvas and they used that as a print on clothing. I’m really interested in movement, animation, video, and of course, social media. I think that’s where things have changed for me. But I’m really focused on developing this new art project called LOCOLAPIN—it’s a crazy rabbit, and builds off of this idea of rabbits of our culture. I’ll be doing a night with Amy Sacco over at N0.8 for a LOCOLAPIN night, which should be fun. And I just signed on with an illustration agency for an art show on February 18.