For the Love of Books: Prosper + Martine Assouline

5 years ago by

I am always inspired by couples who can both live and work together. Prosper and Martine Assouline do just that, and with such grace. Driven by their love of books and not being able to find the beautiful and affordable ones they desired, they set out to create their own. They launched their eponymous publishing company together in the mid-90s and have seen it grow into a very successful and super respectable publishing house. I have a lot of their books myself!

Today I am with them in their lovely New York apartment as we chat about how they got their start, what inspires them and what they hope their books bring to their readers.

Take a listen.

pardon my french prosper and martine assouline garance dore photo

pardon my french prosper and martine assouline garance dore photo

On meeting Prosper for the first time…
MARTINE: He was the guy that everybody wanted to know in Paris because he was so creative, full of enthusiasm and so talented. And was funny also. In the morning and all day, he was an Art Director at a magazine, Cosmopolitan, I think, and then at night, he was at Palace, the club, all night, so I don’t know when he was actually sleeping. He was everywhere!

On how they decided to start publishing books…
MARTINE: Prosper would come home from work frustrated because sometimes it is not exactly what he wanted it to be. We had just had Alexandre, he was one year old so I said, why don’t we do something together, at home? We love books, we don’t find the books we would love to find. Let’s try to do something that we can do together, so it will be our oxygen.

On what the publishing landscape was like when they started…
MARTINE: There were very good publishers but I will say the books were very classic, not very surprising and not a lot offered on fashion. We started with fashion because we knew about it and we wanted to open that area up. And we knew fashion students couldn’t afford the books that were on fashion because at the time there were about 700 French Francs. So we thought we had to find a way to do something more contemporary and affordable, but serious while still light in spirit.

On what culture is to them…
PROSPER: It comes with the mix of all the smells, the tastes, the spices, which you find every day traveling. We travel a lot. Whenever we travel, we discover a lot and are very curious. And that is our culture.

On how they feel about the future of books…
PROSPER: We try to survive. We are very confident for our books. And we opened our own stores to protect us.
MARTINE: And really, I think this virtual world needs tangible things. And tangible things go with books which are beautiful objects and at the same time, it’s content that brings you emotion, knowledge, intellect. It’s very important and also to know how to catch people through images and to inspire them. Our direction is to bring inspiration and to move people.

pardon my french prosper and martine assouline garance dore photo

pardon my french prosper and martine assouline garance dore photo

For the Love of Books: Prosper + Martine Assouline

On what’s next for Assouline stores…
PROSPER: We have no master plan. Our idea has always been the same, which is a library feeling. We love a library. All of our stores are like a library, could be a small store or a big store like Maison Assouline in London. It’s huge and two floors, but it is like a library. And in a library, you don’t just have books. You have furniture and all of the lifestyle of a library – paintings and sculptures. This is what we like and this is our life.

On what success is to them…
MARTINE: We never forget to put time on the calendar for travel. To balance a busy life with the good things and to enjoy them. I think that maybe our success is there, that we don’t forget to live life. To renew yourself and to have the link with new people who inspire you.
PROSPER: You have to be curious, always. To understand and to look out and be open.

On realizing they had been to Garance’s family restaurant in Corsica…
PROSPER: It is true! In Girolata! We’ve known it for 20 or 25 years!
MARTINE: It was a dream place. I am so sad it doesn’t exist anymore!

On their advice for becoming more cultured…
PROSPER: Look at everything! Listen and look at everything. Be curious.

pardon my french prosper and martine assouline garance dore photo

pardon my french prosper and martine assouline garance dore photo

For the Love of Books: Prosper + Martine Assouline

Other things we discussed…
Book that changed Prosper’s life: An Artful Life: The Biography of D.H. Kahnweiler
Book that changed Garance’s life: Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
Martine’s favorite fashion designer and a very great friend: Azzedine Alaia
Prosper’s favorite drink: Pisco Sour
The Italian Dream comes out this month and you can find the full 2016 and 2017 Assouline catalogue here.


Add yours
  • Ça m’éclate de lire une interview d’eux! J’ai fait un stage mémorable dans leur maison d’édition parisienne en… 2000! Même si le rythme était – très – intense, j’en garde un excellent souvenir!

  • They are right–there always will be a desire for real books made of paper, especially art books like theirs.
    Their story is wonderful. I would love to spy on their apartment, too.

  • Sunny Side November, 24 2016, 10:21 / Reply

    Oh quelle belle surprise ! J’adore leurs éditions et l’ambiance de leur boutique à St Germain. On y trouve aussi du papier à lettre fait à Venise. Leurs livres me font rêver, quel beau métier !

  • Beautiful apartment, inahabited by beautiful people, who live out a beautiful life-story.

  • I must admit that books ???? win my love every time – especially at bedtime.

    And, if there’s a hard-copy magazine version available of an online blog/article, despite the much increased cost of paper and added space of it over an online read on my mobile, I will choose the book and magazine every single time.

  • Garance, tu ne respectes pas la règle “no white pants after Labour Day” et j’adore!

  • mademoiselle mauve November, 24 2016, 3:02 / Reply

    oh ! fabuleux ! j’ai plein de livres Assouline aussi… ravie d’en savoir plus !

  • Quelle est la marque du top de Garance svp ?

  • Jaredetmoi November, 25 2016, 2:51 / Reply

    Je les suis depuis le début et bien bien avant d’ailleurs.
    Ça a l’air évident mais c’est eux qui l’ont fait.
    Des Livres-Objets : un concept poussé jusqu’au bout dans des écrins à la fois XIXe, cosy et trés moderne. De vrais voyages.
    Une Direction artistique reconnaissable (un code très prospérien), des thèmes trés précis et de très nombreux sujets mode pour certains franchement logotypés sans complexe.
    Bravo pour cette réussite.

  • Merci pour cette interview, ca fait plaisir de voir qui se cache derrière des noms !

  • tiens, un point en commun: le Loup des Steppes, de Hesse!!! génial bouquin…

  • Hé hé Le Loup des Steppes, un de mes livres de jeunesse ;-)

  • Leur livre sur Paris est magnifique, surtout pour une expat comme moi !

  • The big takeaway for me (among many many other inspiring things in their interview) is to always plan and make space for travels and simply life in your calendar :)

  • I’m hoping that once I can move into a bigger apartment, I’ll have an opportunity to collect books. I can’t wait!

  • What a truly lovely couple! :) They remain an inspiration in a changing world.

  • Coucou Team Garance!

    Premierement MERCI MERCI pour les podcast qui sont merveilleux surtout pour s’entretenir y s ‘instruire dans les embouteillage de la ville de Mexico. Gracias!

    J’ai juste un petite question: a un moment donner Martine et Prosper on parler de leur premier libre, un restaraurant qui apartient a une famille depuis des centenaire… Vous pourriez me rappeler le nom pour aller le vister? La description m’a parue idilique et mais je n ai pas retenue le nom.

    Merci Encore
    Gros bisoux

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