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French Pastries and French Design in San Francisco

By Scotty Bara

Paris-based illustrator and muralist Nairone works in a bold, black and white, street art–inspired style. He was recently called to San Francisco to fulfill a French bakery’s dream of illustrations and murals in his distinctive style. The images define both the bakery’s identity and its interior.

See more of Nairone’s past work—for example, for Puma and Nutella—on his Behance page, or find him on Instagram.

Born in northern France in 1991, Nairone (also known as Dorian Defives) discovered his passion for drawing through skateboard culture, and he has developed a distinctive, extremely detailed style. “I’m very attracted to and inspired by the Pop Art movement, typefaces, and world culture,” Nairone says. He also takes inspiration from events in his own life. “The amount of detail in my drawings reflects the intensity of the impact a particular moment or situation had in my life,” he adds. “I try to represent feelings and moods.”

But the artist prefers to let his artwork speak for itself. And that work, both on a small scale and on a large one, definitely does. Nairone’s Roy Lichtenstein–esque style and attention to detail are in demand by major clients including Puma, Adidas, Nutella, and the soccer team Paris Saint Germain.

A SWEET COMMISSION

Les Gourmands is a new French bakery and café at the corner of Fifth Street and Folsom Street in San Francisco’s fast-changing Soma district. It’s owned and operated by fifth-generation baker Sylvain Chaillout and his parents, Catherine and Serge. The bakery’s creations are handcrafted using family recipes and local, organic ingredients. And the bakery’s look was created by Nairone—including mural art on the bakery’s interior and the branding of coffee mugs, bags, and apparel.

Chaillout met with Nairone in 2014 to discuss the bakery’s brand identity—originally, Nairone was hired to design the logo. This commission eventually turned into a partnership, with Nairone taking charge of art direction for the bakery. “The Chaillout family really let me express myself throughout their store. I designed this bakery as if it were my own,” Nairone says.

The owner of Les Gourmands commissioned Nairone to create not only murals on the bakery interior but also packaging designs and a logo.  

For his part, Chaillout says that he knew Nairone’s distinct style of work would attract business and build community.

CROISSANTS AND COMMUNITY

The bakery owner wanted something that would catch customers’ eyes as they walked by his shop. “Les Gourmands’ vision of the bakery is expressed in the best possible way by Nairone’s drawings,” says Chaillout. “They represent movement, balance, and decisive simplicity.”

Chaillout wants to create a community at his bakery, and he knew that Nairone could establish an identity that would set his bakery apart from others. “Building a community from scratch means a lot of one-on-one customer interactions,” says Chaillout. “In-person conversations, with their unique twists and turns, bring a certain spontanaeity…. We want to harness this spontaneity to focus on getting to know our local community and its members even better.”

Mural details.  

A WORK IN PROGRESS

Nairone says his style evolved as he worked on the murals of the building’s interior. “For the design of the place, I wanted something light and not overloaded by details—something very smooth,” he says.

When he’s working, Nairone often starts on paper. He takes plenty of notes, as well as photos of elements that attract his eye. Then he moves on to Adobe Photoshop CC and translates what he’s created in Photoshop to a building structure, wall, or canvas.

For this project, Nairone began his illustrations in Adobe Photoshop Sketch, before adding finishing touches in Photoshop. He then projected his digital creation onto walls and hand-traced every line with a black Krink marker. The 10-by-10-foot, extremely detailed mural was drawn over the course of five days.

Nairone sketched his mural in Photoshop Sketch; then he projected his digital creation onto the walls and traced every line with a black Krink marker.

Nairone requires artistic mobility, so he always carries his iPad, black pens, and notebooks with him. “With the iPad and the Sketch app, I can actually do whatever I want, whenever I want—in the street, on a plane, or at a coffee shop,” Nairone says. He is constantly on the move and traveling to other countries to work with clients, so he appreciates the apps that allow him to fulfill his vision. “I finish my pieces working with a mix of Sketch and Photoshop until I find the exact representation of what I was thinking of in the beginning. It helps me to think and work faster,” he adds.

Click on the image to watch a time-lapse video of Nairone creating a mural inside Les Gourmands.

WHAT’S NEXT

The mural for Les Gourmands is one several projects Nairone has worked on recently, and he’ll be both working on personal projects and collaborating with artists and brands in the coming year. An exhibition of personal work is planned for mid-2018.

And Chaillout hinted that he might be working with Nairone on future projects. “Artistic collaborations are a part of who we are. In fact, we might already have some ideas in the oven,” he says.