It all began back in 1992 when two men met at ESDI School of Industrial Design, nowadays known as Créapole. Guillaume Carré and Franck Basset were both 22 years old, but they had very different profiles.
Guillaume was very practical and was self-taught; he liked making things, experimenting; studying wasn’t really for him. Franck, who had started out studying science previously, was more conventional: he could handle the concepts, and he learned the powers of persuasion. One was top of the class, the other bottom; but they gelled. In 1994, they jointly won a competition for reinventing the egg box. They decided to continue their studies but take on outside work, too. It would be more fun.
The turning point came thanks to Well, the lingerie company, who asked the young twosome to redesign the hangers for their bras and knickers. They realised they needed to set up a structure. Big stories often start with small anecdotes. Carré Basset was launched and the school was furious with these absentee students. They had to choose between study and work. It was a no brainer! When Guillaume and Franck were hauled in to face the director in 1995, it took them barely ten seconds to decide. No more diplomas, just customers! In January 1996, they signed a lease for the agency’s first premises, a 30-square metre space in Boulogne, just outside Paris. Carré Basset was six people strong and worked primarily in the medical sector with a number of communications agencies, including Devarieux Villaret.
Things changed again in 1998, when Carré Basset won a tender for re-creating the brand identity of Van Cleef and Arpels. Very quickly, the luxury universe began knocking at the tiny agency’s door. The strength of Carré Basset? Understanding the codes of luxury, speaking its language, without being part of it. The founders of Carré Basset – who in the meantime have moved the agency to a disused locksmith’s workshop in the Rue de Richelieu in Paris – see themselves as creative artisans: “We pay particular attention to detail, to the hidden side of things. We also believe in innovation in an environment where there is not much.”
Franck and Guillaume have divided up the roles. Franck is the agency’s creative director, and Guillaume the managing director. “Franck deals with the creative problems, I deal with the financial ones!” laughs Guillaume.
Now with 26 employees, the agency came to another turning point in 2017, wanting to develop the expertise of its solutions and the independence of teams. So the past year has seen the creation of three specialised departments: Digital, Retail and Branding & Packaging, designed as totally autonomous units within which consultants and creatives work hand-in-hand.
But the agency’s mindset hasn’t changed at all: insolence, talent (individual and collective), a caring atmosphere, constructive criticism, candour.
What is their motto? “Make the solutions obvious.”
Their aim for the future? “Thirty or so people per business unit and international development.”
And who is their favourite designer? The answer comes back quick as a flash: “Victor Hugo, when he said, ‘Form is substance when it rises to the surface.’ It’s absolutely true. Our agency is a catalyst for brands. We enable them to find their point of resonance.”