May 21, 1958 – July 9, 2015
BY SCOTT P. SANTODONATO
In July, with the passing of legendary fashion designer, Christian Audigier, the world lost an incredible talent and human being. Audigier started working in fashion at the age of fourteen. He designed a line of denim that was inspired by his love for rock music, working and designing for such top brands as GUESS, Diesel, Bisou Bisou and more. He became the man behind Von Dutch and Ed Hardy, which brought him to the forefront with rock stars and celebrities, growing his empire worth $250 million or more. Christian was heralded “The King of Fashion,” by Michael Jackson the pop icon, himself. I interviewed and photographed Christian back in 2008, and in his honor, we are running excerpts from the interview. Rest in Peace, Christian. We will always think of you fondly and we will miss you.
SANTODONATO: Music, passion, fashion—tell me with those words, what drives you—gets you where you are?
CHRISTIAN: I believe it is just a dream that drives me to want these crazy things. I like music, I like fashion. Very young, I wanted to be a rock star, you know—watching Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley—but I cannot sing, so I decided to go into fashion, where I am more comfortable. So now I am in fashion, and maybe tomorrow I am in rock ‘n roll.
SANTODONATO: Let’s go back to the beginning, growing up in France… Tell me what stands out in your memory from your childhood that maybe brought you to where you are now.
CHRISTIAN: I believe music led to fashion. I was a fan of rock ‘n roll. Again, watching all those people, I was attracted to that. So fashion and music was together. Rock stars wear different clothes than usual people. So I was fourteen years old when I started to design—I was the youngest designer in the world, I believe, at this time. And my mom used to give me a paper to leave the country and come to America. So my first trip to America was at the age of sixteen. I didn’t speak English at that time. I was just amazed, because I was a fan of American art, of movies, of pop culture and rock culture. This is how I started, you know.
SANTODONATO: Did you go to New York first?
CHRISTIAN: I go to New York first, and two days later to Los Angeles, and I fell in love with Los Angeles, and say to myself that one day I’m gonna come back over here, and maybe have a nice time and live over here, why not? So that took me a lot of time. I just came ten years ago. I started to design as a freelance designer, and pretty soon I met a guy with the rights to Von Dutch during a movie. He said we must do a line of clothes with this name, because it sounds like Levi’s or something very strong. So I did Von Dutch. Von Dutch was the first phenomenon. I left his company three years later. I was the head designer of this company. When I left I decided to go my way. So seeing all those people wearing tattoos in California…I said, “Let’s do a brand based on tattoos,” so I Googled some names of tattoo artists. The first one that came up was Don Ed Hardy. I didn’t even choose the artist, and I meet this guy who is the Godfather of tattoos. So this guy comes to see me with boxes of archives with a lot of tattoo flashes, you know, the ones you have in the parlors. He said, “I can do something amazing with it.” And this is what I do. Four years later, that is the phenomenon and this is a worldwide company. I have 145 licenses, so I have a lot of product.
SANTODONATO: What do you want to accomplish in the next couple of years?
CHRISTIAN: I would like to be the biggest brand in the world, you know? And today, we are not too far away to do that. But one of my dreams is to open a school of design, where I can learn for myself, to doing fashion in a different way—because I didn’t learn fashion, that is something again, coming from rock ‘n roll to good fashion. So I believe a lot of people are very talented, and I would like to be a part of making them successful.
SANTODONATO: That’s awesome. Thank you.