Pierre-André Ben Lassin – Creator of Fabulous Noble

I make a habit of acting on the assumption that everything is possible. There are people who have walked on the moon, so there’s always a solution to make an idea see life.

Passionate about architecture, design and graphic arts from a young age, Pierre-André Ben Lassin originated the concept of Fabulous Noble.

The young London-based Frenchman, is a bright and charming thirty-something, blessed with an iconoclastic, bold and visionary talent.

Pierre-André has always been immersed in the world of contemporary art. And from the infancy of the Internet he studied the incredible opportunities available to artists opened up by new technologies. Aged 20 he became one of the founder members of ORA-ITO, which was established as the very first virtual brand before becoming a recognised design brand in its own right.

Pierre-André is the principal architect of the media and commercial success of ORA-ITO, which is today making its mark in the history of design.

Ambitious and resourceful, he is constantly developing new ideas connecting the worlds of art and commerce to evolve brand styling.

On this basis, he founded in 2010, Whatever Projects, a multiform creation platform offering specialist web design, DNA branding, image consultancy and 360° feedback.

Where did the idea for Fabulous Noble come from?

I have always been a huge fan of contemporary illustration and was thinking about ways that I might be able to collaborate with some of my favourite illustrators. I have also always had interest in portraiture, historically and what it is like today. These two ideas, along with the name that I had wanted to use for something for some time, started coming together and I could see the beginnings of an interesting project.

I put together a quick presentation and showed it to some of the artists I admired and got a really positive response. That gave me the incentive to start putting things together.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I always get off to an early start, usually around 5am. I run a creative studio called Whatever Projects as well as the Fabulous Noble team so it’s important to have as much time as possible.

I do the usual responding to emails and admin work first so that I can get everything out to people for them to see when they get to their desk in the morning.

I set aside the afternoon for meetings, which take up a good chunk of the day. I then try to finish fairly early so that I can give myself some time to socialise and relax after work.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Like the thought process for Fabulous Noble I was describing before, I tend to have various fragments of ideas floating about at any one time. They move about in the subconscious for a while and resurface once they’ve come together to start forming something that makes sense.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

It’s exciting to see the way in which the illustration industry is evolving and expanding. It’s established its position alongside something like photography when it comes to editorial publishing or advertising, and is making strides in areas usually reserved for the fine arts. Many traditional galleries are now representing illustrators as well as being joined by specialist illustration galleries all the time.

Generally, illustrators and their work are increasing in value. For example, an illustration of Winnie the Pooh recently sold for over £300,000 at auction. And large corporations are taking note too. One of our artists, Martin Sati did some work as part of MacDonald’s international campaign for the FIFA World Cup last year.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I make a habit of acting on the assumption that everything is possible. There are people who have walked on the moon, so there’s always a solution to make an idea see life.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

When I was nineteen, I worked as a member of the team that opened the first Starbucks in Europe. It’s was exciting to see how this huge American brand was planning to invade London.

However, the excitement soon wore off and it became demanding and repetitive, and the long hours soon became a drain. But going through the two weeks of training, I did learn about what it takes to launch a big brand so there was something I could take away from it.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I never went to university because my parents were having some financial difficulties at the time. I realised that it was important to learn how to work with the cards that you’ve been dealt and not be weighed down thinking about what could have been. I decided that I would go by the adage, ‘without luggage, you run faster’. So I don’t usually spend any time thinking about what I would have done differently.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

It’s a classic notion but one that can sometimes be the hardest to stand by on a regular basis. I would just recommend that you have a lot of conviction in your ideas.

As an creative entrepreneur, I am constantly in the position where I am having to present concepts and plans to others. You can’t assume people are going to completely understand your idea from the beginning every time because it’s something that only you can envision. Of course, sometimes you may have to refocus or pivot a little, but as long as you are able to have confidence in your gut instincts, they will come around.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

As well as looking for illustrators at the top of their profession, we sought out well-known artists that already had an established online presence. It’s a great strategy for getting your name out there quickly. Both Fabulous Noble and our artists advertise each other, a partnership that benefits everyone.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

At the beginning of my career, I used to put a lot in faith in what was discussed in person and agreed with a handshake. I learnt early on that this can lead to misunderstandings and never helps in terms of business. I now put everything in writing and make sure it can be traced back to avoid these kind of problems.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

A fitness club that is open 24/7, where the energy you exert when you exercise by cycling or rowing etc. would be converted into electricity. At the end of each session you would be paid for every kilowatt you’d produced— a good incentive to keep fit!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I love eating out in good restaurants and think that if you’re going to spend money, it’s the experiences you can get out of it that are considerably more valuable.

Last week, I took my girlfriend to a Chinese restaurant in Soho called Yauatcha. The venue looks fantastic and they make the best dim sum. I highly recommend it if you’re in the area.

As we were leaving, I bumped into an old friend that I had lost touch with years ago. Since then, we’ve kept in contact and are even talking about collaborating on a new venture.

Sometimes it’s all about being in the right place at the right time, and going out seeking new experiences so that you are. It was £100 rather than $100 but it was money well spent!

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

The software I use on a daily basis and have become essential to my work are Skype and Wetransfer. They are both free and make it easy to communicate and exchange ideas with our artists all around the world. Wetransfer has become especially useful for sending and receiving large images to and from clients, artists, and printing services.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I don’t read many books these days because I have ADD. But I do go through over 20 magazines a month keeping up to date with a whole mix of things, from architecture and business, to art and design.

One book I would recommend is ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ by Hemingway. If you haven’t read it, it’s about one aging man’s 5-day struggle to bring home a giant Marlin after days of no fish out in the Gulf Stream. It’s fairly short reading but it tells a great story of perseverance in pursuit of your goals.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

At the end of the ‘90s, a small collective of creative friends— made up of an architect, a media specialist, a designer and myself— set up a multidisciplinary creative agency called Ora Ito.

In the project that gained us recognition, we did an editorial campaign in which we decided to ‘hijack’ the identities of iconic international brands such as Louis Vuitton, Apple, Nike, and Bic. The idea was to create advertisements for imagined products by these companies using 3D graphics.

Bear in mind that this was still in a time before CGI became really well known or widespread. Much to the surprise of the stores around the world, people started turning up asking for the products we’d created. We had people turning up in Louis Vuitton, Tokyo asking about our completely imaginary bag. It was case of fiction becoming reality and lead to us receiving a lot of consultancy contracts in advertising, product design, and interior design after that.

Ora Ito is still going strong today, and my friends and colleagues there continue to inspire me.


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