Style on the street isn’t always found outside the fashion shows. Julien Boudet (@bleumode) finds inspiration on the streets and in the urban landscapes of Hong Kong. Kim Bui Kollar speaks with the photographer to understand more about his process.
How did you come up with the moniker Bleu Mode? What’s your relationship with the colour blue?
Bleu Mode was initially the name for what started more as a sort of street-style blog, about six years ago, and I really wanted a cool name for it – I didn’t want it to be “Julien Boudet Photography” or anything like that.
I tried to find a name that would fit my vision; it had to be strong and meaningful to me. After a couple days and some brainstorming with myself, I thought of Bleu Mode and I immediately knew it was the one.
“Bleu” comes from the Mediterranean Sea, to be specific, which was a big part of my youth, growing up five minutes’ walking distance from the beach in southern France. The sea has always been a big source of inspiration – staring at it it would amaze me and make me dream for hours. It was also a place to relax and think properly about life in general, and all those things that keep you calm. As for “Mode,” it means fashion in French – pretty self-explanatory.
I understand you are French by origin, but where is home for you?
I was born and raised in a port town in southern France, Sète, and this is where I left my anchor. This is and will remain the only home for me; this is where all my family comes from and where they still live, and I am proud of my roots. To everyone who assumes I’m from Paris because I’m French, there’s your answer.
Besides that, New York is my second home, before Paris. It’s where everything started, where I moved 10 years ago and where I was born again, in a way. And although I don’t spend much time there anymore, I am still based there, and I really love the city and its energy. It’s definitely a special place and I’ve never felt that energy anywhere else in the world – that same energy that helped me find my path and motivated me to push my boundaries to become who I am today. It wouldn’t have been that way if I had moved to Paris instead and I knew that back then already.
How would you describe what you do for a living?
When I’m too lazy to get into detail in a small-talk situation, I just say that I am a photographer. In reality, it’s much more than just taking photos. I guess I do a lot of different things related to fashion and style in general, such as consulting, styling, creative direction, marketing... Obviously my title is still “photographer”, but it encompasses a lot of different things. And this is why I love what I do – I get to do so much, including travelling a lot, which is the best part.
I see Hong Kong pop up on your feed often enough. How many times have you been here? Do you like to shoot here? What is the city’s draw for you?
I’ve been to Hong Kong three times and I find it very inspiring. Being passionate about architecture, it’s obvious that I am attracted to it – I love all these tall buildings and especially the colours, which makes Hong Kong a very unique place in terms of visuals. Bright or pastel colours are everywhere – it’s what I really like about Hong Kong. In a way, it reminds me of New York City a lot, with a good energy – I guess we could say it’s the Asian version of it.
There seems to be this theme of motion and movement in your photography. Your living subjects always appear to be in motion. Only the inanimate objects are still. How would you describe this juxtaposition in your own words? What are we looking at?
Good point – it’s interesting that you’ve noticed that. Indeed, there is a big difference between those subjects that I love capturing and that’s why I like to highlight that difference by displaying them next to each other. For instance, if it’s a person, then that person should be in motion, just because this is how I started shooting – through street style. So it’s definitely my aesthetic, and I like to put that next to a still image to stress that contradiction in between those two. Both images sitting next to each other then create a new image existing on its own.
You shoot cars often. Do you like cars in terms of their design? Or do you like to drive cars? Where does this interest come from?
First of all, I love driving, and to be completely honest, I was into cars before I was into fashion designers. A beautiful car is almost like a piece of art. Some designs are truly incredible, such as the Peugeot DS from the ’70s, the Lamborghini Countach from the late ’80s, the Volkswagen Golf 3 VR6 in the ’90s, and the list goes on. I guess this interest comes from my father, who was passionate about motorcycles, cars and
also photography. Just like architecture, fashion or cars, it’s all about design, so it does make sense that I am attracted to all these fields. As a photographer, I love visuals in general – to see and capture those perfectly designed things through my eye.
What do you look for when you’re shooting street style outside the shows?
It’s pretty simple – I only look for outstanding outfits and details. Nothing else. Sometimes I also look for interesting faces, too, but it’s less usual. I am more about style or fashion.
What do you think of when the word “momentum” comes to mind?
I immediately think of momentum in terms of business, career and success. I think of the force that keeps you going everyday – that energy inside that makes you move forward in your life. Someone with momentum will continue moving forward, and it’s one of the most important things in life to me.
Who are some of your favourite designers?
There are a lot, but to name a few, I would say Dries Van Noten, Raf Simons, Yohji Yamamoto and Sean McDowell – the person who designed my favourite sneakers, the Nike Air Max Plus. I know you expected only fashion designers, but he is also a designer, so that works.
Are you a fashion guy or a style guy?
I’ve always been a style guy, and even though I’ve learned a lot about fashion since I moved to New York City and evolved more as a fashion guy, I am still a style guy and will always be. “Fashions fade, style is eternal,” as Yves Saint Laurent said.
Who are your photography legends, dead or alive?
That’s not an easy one, but I would say Duane Michals, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Man Ray...
What is the best advice that anyone ever gave you?
I’m going to be boring for this one – to be honest, I don’t remember any particular advice from anyone, but I guess I can give this basic advice: be yourself, be curious, work hard and be nice to people.
Name three people you would love to shoot.
I’m going to pick people in different fields that define me: Michael Jordan, Pierre Soulages, Kaia Gerber and one extra, [French rapper] Booba.
If you weren’t a photographer, what would you be doing?
Only God knows.
Photography / Julien Boudet
Styling / Kim Bui Kollar
Location / Hong Kong