French Illustrator Tiffany Cooper Takes a Jab at the Coronavirus
Since the world slipped into pandemic-induced gloom, 36-year-old Parisienne Tiffany Cooper has been putting her own idiosyncratic spin on reality, teaching us how to laugh even when it’s hard. Her tongue-in-cheek illustrations on Instagram feature cartoon vegetables that talk, feisty felines charming enough to steal your heart and even a loquacious little green virus who strums the guitar on the streets of France—one who Cooper aptly describes as being “super annoying and refusing to go away.”
Cooper’s rise to fame as an artist was rather fortuitous. In 2012, when she left her glamorous job in fashion to travel, she started an illustrated blog, the Best of Possible Worlds (Le Meilleur des Mondes Possibles) to poke fun at the industry that prides itself on glamour. Notable figures were reimagined as cats, like “Kitty Wintour,” “Cat Moss,” “Cata Delevingne” among others. From an insider turned outsider, Cooper never thought that her pastime would turn into something more. But her blog gained recognition from a publisher and opportunities came knocking: big brands such as Kiehl’s wanted to work with her, and soon she was teaming up with legendary fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld in 2015 for a capsule collection. Subsequently, Cooper was invited to do solo exhibitions across the globe, including Colette in Paris and Lotte in Seoul. To top it off, last year, she joined three other illustrators to design a feline-themed t-shirt collection for Uniqlo.
Best known for making light of everything, from the serious to the banal in an offhand manner, as well as turning Karl Lagerfeld into a cartoonish version of himself, we speak to the satirical artist about her creative process, experience working with Lagerfeld, and upcoming graphic novel.
High Net Worth: What is your first artistic memory?
Tiffany Cooper: My first artistic memories are from the children’s books my parents would read to me, my brother and sisters when we were very young. These were books like Dabble Duck and Green Eggs and Ham from Dr Seuss. We also watched a lot of Sesame Street, so I remember growing up with Cookie Monster, Elmo and Big Bird. They inspired me a lot creatively.
You are known for your distinct brand of droll that is never too on-the-nose. Is this an extension of your personality or are you a different person in real life?
My cartoon character doesn’t physically look like me. I have long hair, bangs and I don’t always wear a striped shirt! However, its personality is the same as mine in real life! I love sarcastic humour.
There is also a playful aesthetic to your work. Do you think that the idea of play is central to art and creative development?
I believe that, in order to be a creative person, you have to keep a youthful, childish spirit. Playing is a central part of creation, be it dabbling with fabrics, materials, drawings or ideas.
What is your artistic process like? And how do you come up with motifs?
I gain inspiration from everyday life. All the cats I started drawing a few years ago were inspired by Choupette (Karl Lagerfeld’s cat) as well as the cats that were everywhere on social media at the time. When I had a baby, I made a cartoon version of my son, to speak about my experiences as a mother.
Some say art is a great way of honouring both conscious and subconscious memories that you can’t really pinpoint. Do you have certain memories that have inspired your work?
I think it was the memories of the books I read as a child. These were comics books like “Garfield”, “Peanuts” and “The Far Side Gallery”, which really inspired my work as an illustrator.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently working on my sixth graphic novel that will be released in October 2021 in France. This book will talk about gender equality in the domestic space. I am also working on different products for kids, and on a very exciting animated series project.
You created Karlywood, an amazing exhibition of posters, produced a short animated film and illustrations for the Karl Daily. Tell us more about that.
In 2014, I wrote a letter to Karl, telling him that I would love to work with him. A week later, his publicist called me back and asked if I could create a capsule collection for his eponymous brand, as well as an animated clip and an exhibition that would tour worldwide. That’s when I came up with the idea of incorporating Karl into famous movie posters for the show. It was a lot of fun to make “Karl Bill,” “Karllander,” “Karl Bond,” and the rest. I never lacked inspiration when it came to working with Karl. Ideas were always flowing in my head.
Your capsule collection with Karl Lagerfeld was a hit. What was it like to work with him?
I feel really grateful that I had the opportunity to work with Karl in 2015. He was always very nice to me. I once sent him a series of the Karlywood posters as a gift, and he sent me back a huge bouquet of flowers. He was very generous and thoughtful. For instance, even though we worked together in 2015, he came to see me at my Colette show opening two years later. I thought he had totally forgotten about me, but there he was, shaking my hand and buying one of my art pieces.
In 2012, you left the fashion industry and started the Best of Possible Worlds, an illustrated blog. What prompted that decision?
I created my blog to stay busy while I was looking for a job. But, then I thought: ‘Why not publish a book about the blog?’ I sent it to publishers and one of them said, “Yes!” After that, Colette ordered the book, and then another agent approached me and I finally became a real illustrator. All that time, I was looking for a job without even realising that I was working my way up to becoming an illustrator! It happened so quickly and so naturally that I thought it was meant to be.
Was there a message that you wanted to convey through your blog?
The message that I wanted to convey was about how to laugh at challenges. I was suddenly unemployed, had to move back to my parents’ place and was struggling to find a job. I also wanted to make fun of the fashion world. I knew that world very well at the time, and thought it lacked much humour. I think that’s what my community and Colette liked about my illustrations. I was humorously mocking a very serious and glamorous industry. At the time, that was quite unheard of.
What’s the most stereotypical “French” thing about you?
I love red wine and hanging out on terraces with my friends.
What is your greatest accomplishment?
On a personal level, it would be being a creative and financially independent woman. On a professional level, it was working with Karl Lagerfeld and my upcoming book about feminism.