Olivier Zahm: Le Provocateur

portrait by Basile Mookherjee

Olivier Zahm introduced the idea of sex as fashion to American audiences with his photography and his many independent projects -- from Purple Fashion, a magazine launched 19 years ago, to Purple Journal to Purple Diary (Purple.fr/diary). Zahm's rough, elegant style and love for magazines (he was inspired by porn mags) often leads to collaborations with his favorite photogs, including Juergen Teller.

Personal OGs:
Guy Debord, the American photographer Sandy Kim or the English one Jamie Hawkesworth, the electronic musician Koudlam, the artist Wes Lang, the fetish designer Zana Bayne, the Paris fashion designer Jacquemus, the model Lily McMenamy.

What is the biggest obstacle you've had to overcome in your career?
Sexual censorship and repression. It is also the lack of culture and education from brand managers and rich or powerful upper class people. Until the late '70s, the bourgeoisie had good taste.

What do you consider the biggest success of your career?

Remaining an independent publisher and letting the contributors of my magazine be as free as possible from constraints or obligations in a period when it is more and more difficult.

Are you a control freak?
I'm certainly a bit of a control freak. But when I give up control, I prefer to give total creative freedom to someone else I love or admire and who will have a different approach. The worst is to "semi" control... You should either be a control freak or you give the creative responsibility to another control freak.

Have you ever felt truly hurt or shaken by a criticism? 

I don't remember having been seriously hurt by a criticism. People don't say what they think in front of me. I'm really my worst critic, always thinking I could have done better.

What do you think made you the person you are?

It's simply because I grew up in the seventies, in a period where everything was possible, the dream of a different world. The dream of a better world.   

What were you like as a child and a teenager?
I grew up in and around Paris, and I was always waiting to buy my first motorcycle. I was very ambitious. I wanted to become an influential filmmaker or writer. Very idealistic intellectually. A bit arrogant and always, since a very very early age, obsessed by girls and women.


Subscribe to Get More