Carlin has been fortunate enough to collaborate with Argile paint brand for a few years now. Virginie Mourouvin wanted to take the pulse of the world of interior decoration and painting, more particularly, with its Founder, Jean-Frédéric Nothomb. He reveals the history of the brand, his ambition and above all what the current period has finally enabled it to do!
Virginie Mourouvin – Forecasting Styliste and Colour Expert : Could you please introduce yourself and describe the brand Argile to us?
Jean-Frédéric Nothomb – Founder of Argile: So I am the founder of the paint brand Argile, I am Belgian. I worked for a long time for the Tollens brand and I travelled a lot in Asia. Enriched by this great experience in the field of painting, I wanted to create my own company. In 2005, Argile was born from the meeting between an industrialist (me) and a colourist Pierre Bonnefille. Together we imagined a high-end proposal of colours and harmonies from nature, anti-marketing and full of meaning. Perfectly suited to the world of interior decoration, and intended to be a formidable tool for designers and architects, Argile is inspired by nature: we first brought out a first “Terre” palette of 128 colours from the earths of the globe, then 56 other plant-inspired shades, hence its name “Vegetal”.
Our DNA? Nature doesn’t make mistakes in taste! Our mission? To bring the colours of nature into interior design!
V.M: Carlin takes a CSR approach in its notebooks and brand accompaniments. What is your commitment on this point? Can you tell us about the composition of your paints and their lesser impact on the environment?
J-F.N: Paint is a complex semi-finished material & becomes finished after application by a painter, therefore by the hand of man. What a professional is looking for, a durable product with a grip, a demanding level of quality and a fine, elegant and deep result. I can therefore boast more than 25 years of research and development in the field of paints. What I mean by this is that, long before green marketing, Argile is committed to an ecological and socially responsible approach. Always looking to combine colour, quality & the highest level of quality in the composition with a concern for ecology. Hence the development of vegetable oils (rapeseed, flax and sunflower) to replace acrylic resins. For 10 years, our products have been bio-sourced. 2020 has reached a milestone since we now have a 97% bio-sourced product range. Our hope is the total abandonment of acrylics to offer only bio-sourced products. Of course all our labels are eco-certified FR and UE.
V.M: We are coming and going through a difficult period. What is your post-confinement feedback?
J-F.N: As an entrepreneur, this was an exciting time because it forced us to step outside our comfort zone in our relationship with others. And I didn’t stop working! We had to find solutions in all areas; from delivery to production, from customer satisfaction to site issues. So, like most manufacturers, we had to adapt the canopy so that there would be no delivery stoppages. We were therefore able to serve the building sites from the first week of April 2020. There was no longer a physical welcome for the prescribers but the teams were available by telephone. In short, the level of activity gradually returned to normal. We therefore understood that digital, even if it doesn’t replace everything, is an indispensable tool for the future. Thanks to this, we have continued to be in touch with our customers, the prescription has never stopped. We have adapted and completely rethought our internal organisation.
In a more personal way, it has been a breath of fresh air, time that has been beneficial for me, a long time to go in depth on different subjects and projects.
And above all, a revelation with the teams! Everyone was in the collective and respect for the individual. There was really a lot of kindness. We were able to move forward on projects that were on stand-by with the living force, which usually never has time to break free. We learnt from each other and there was a quality of listening, a rich exchange between collaborators but also with customers, competitors, distributors, agencies. I realised that without all the international travel, the prospects could be enormous despite everything!
V.M: Let’s talk about competition; what is your position on the market?
J-F.N: In order to understand the market, we mainly operate in prescription, so on the market of professionals, designers, architects and interior decorators. On the one hand, there are Farrow & Ball, Little Green and Ressource. Like us, they have a positioning on bio-sourced products and a nice discourse on colour. The only difference is that they are mainly and directly aimed at the end consumer. Our answer is also that our colour palette is deliberately restricted. At Argile, if there is no lemon yellow, go and look for it elsewhere! On the other hand, the world’s major chemical groups, Tollens, Seigneurie, PPG and Sikkens. Since ecology is at the heart of the business, they are all fighting over bio-sourced! They are therefore as good in terms of technique and innovation as we are, but our approach to colour, our strategy and our DNA will always make the difference because we aim for the top end!
V.M: Have you felt a revival in the French trend for interior design? Have you noticed a real change in post-covid behaviour?
J-F.N: From the client’s point of view, the renovations were put on hold, but as the new generation of architects are digital, the exchanges have continued and the projects have not been stopped. The upturn is reinforcing this and is starting to pick up again at a good pace in France. Abroad, this is more difficult and still represents 50% of our activity. Consumers have an ever-increasing attraction for bio-sourced products; I think that this anxiety-provoking period has only accelerated this movement.
V.M: What are the news and new products at Argile?
V-F.N: We are going to bring out our third palette from the sky. Nota bene, Carlin discovered it in a preview because we had collaborated together in your Nuances notebook by highlighting one of the 64 colours that will come out in 2021. It was Richard Peduzzi, the creator of Scala blue for the famous theatre, who came up with these shades. In September 2020, we are launching repositionable samples in the form of stickers and then we are responding to a huge problem, already there before the confinement, a service concierge for the world of prescription, “Clay design workplace”. A phygital response: an alliance between our showroom and its digital counterpart. A project facilitator, a sort of tripadvisor for prescription! Finally, we are proud of projects such as the museography of the Louvre Lens museum: the dark undertones, the false blacks of Argile were chosen for the exhibition “Black Suns”. Go for it, it is extended until January 2021.
V.M: Well, thank you very much Jean-Frédéric!
J-F.N: It was a pleasure, Virginie !