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INTERVIEW WITH ERIC CHAVEAU AND ARTISTIKREZO

ERIC CHAVEAU: "WE INNOVATE WITH A DESIRE TO MAKE OUR PRODUCTS ACCESSIBLE"

Interview with Eric Chaveau, Chairman of Pébéo, on the occasion of the 5th edition of the Mixed Media competition held by the brand and dedicated this year to urban art. The 36 finalists of the international competition will have their works exhibited on Fluctuart, a floating urban art centre at Pont des Invalides, from 29 May to 13 June. At this centre Eric Chaveau will present the history of Pébéo, its values and its evolution.

Can you introduce the Pébéo brand to us?

We are now a company that is more than a century old. Initially, we were pigment manufacturers, hence the name “Pébéo”, since PbO corresponds to the molecular formula of lead oxide. Then, in the late 1940s–early 1950s, we forked into what is known as fine colours, in other words, everything related to educational artistic activity. Thus, we are currently manufacturers of colours, with a presence in 110 countries worldwide, and we export over 80% of our productions.

What is your role at Pébéo?

Pébéo is a family business, and I am the third generation. Today I chair the group, and I am preparing the fourth generation with my son.
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ERIC CHAVEAU

Pébéo is a French brand with international presence; is it important for you to claim French know-how and to spread it?

This know-how is not exclusive; it has been acknowledged by France as our company holds the EPV (Enterprise du Patrimoine Vivant or Living Heritage Company) label. It is a way of acknowledging our know-how and this label is often associated with the fact of bearing a French image that is in the arts, culture, fashion, etc. With “Pébéo”, we have also had the opportunity of a name that does rather well internationally. Indeed, anecdotally, when we set up in China around twenty years ago, we worked with semiologists on the name of the brand. Thus, it was not entirely by chance, but the characters we use and which are pronounced almost like Pébéo phonetically mean “the heavenly azure of Europe”.

What are the values borne by Pébéo?

Our values obviously comprise the know-how we have just mentioned, quality, but there above all innovation. I think that is what sets us apart from our peers, is that we are the industry’s innovative company. This value runs very strong in the company, with a somewhat contemporary stance. Pébéo is 100 years old and we have been working in the field for a little over fifty years, but some of our peers have been there for 200 years. They are, thus, rather about tradition, whereas we are about modernity and innovation. Another of Pébéo’s core values is the democratisation of activities. If we innovate, it is also with a will to make our products accessible to the highest number of people. The concept of commitment is also a strong value within the company, featuring the commitment of its teams, as well as the international side, and what is now linked to sustainable development. Specifically, we are trying to innovate as regards green products, taking into account our carbon footprint for packaging. There is a true cooperation by the company at that level.

Can you tell us about to the Mixed Media competition? What was the drive behind the creation of this competition?

The competition was created 5 years ago in England. The name “Mixed Media” comes from Pébéo having a very wide-ranging catalogue of products, which is a result of the traditional fine arts products, and also applies to “speciality colour” products, particularly used in creative leisure. Today, artists like to mix and innovate; we want them to be able to create works with mediums other than oil painting or acrylic, thanks to all the products offered by Pébéo. The idea was therefore to promote the depth of our catalogue through consumer recognition and a prize that gradually increases. Last year the first prize went to an American, the second to a Japanese and the third to a Russian, which is somewhat representative of the contest’s international factor.
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Why did you choose urban art for the 5th edition?

Again, this choice of urban art is about modernity and the emergence of street art in recent years. This choice is certainly linked our partnership with Fluctuart, because since the competition took place in London in previous years, the idea this time was to have a theme for this edition in Paris which is in line with Fluctuart’s positioning. Urban art at present also corresponds to something for artists and young artists, it speaks to them.

Last year you brought in artists such as Said Dokins and ILK, is it important for you to associate artists with the brand, as ambassadors?

Absolutely! It is an approach that is being increasingly established. I feel it is always good when a brand’s message is carried by recognised ambassadors. As well as last year’s competition, there were walls painted by said Dokins and ILK in collaboration with franck Pelligrino in Shoreditch. Through the wealth of products we offer, we are searching for a number of ambassadors to associate themselves with the brand and carry the products.

You are a partner of Fluctuart, do you often partner with arts institutions or cultural sites? Why?

Yes, we always have. This is a way for the company to be anchored where it operates. I was a founding member of Mécènes du sud (the Southern Patrons' Association) and was its chairman for the first five years. The purpose of the association was to drive contemporary creation in the Marseilles region and for southern artists living abroad. I previously mentioned the importance of making our products accessible to the highest number of people, and when we assist institutions, it is always with this goal in mind. For instance, this is what we do with the Arts et Développement association, which proposes artistic activities in underprivileged cities. We also have a strong partnership with La Source, the association founded by Gérard Garouste working for the reintegration of disadvantaged people through artistic practices (theatre, painting, etc.). We also partner Fondation Culturespaces, teaching art through courses for young children. Whenever we assist an institution or association, it is with the goal of driving activities and making them accessible, as I said, to as many people as possible.

How do you make the brand known around the world?

I believe that, today, we have a tool that makes the task very straightforward: digitally, and particularly our website which is translated into nine languages. Social media, in particular, is a tool that makes it easier to get the word out compared to the old catalogues and magazines that had to be printed, which was both expensive and not very environmentally friendly. There are also the aforementioned ambassadors, as well as the content, which is crucial. Lastly, the international competition also serves to raise awareness of this image. The idea is for it to increasingly gain relevance each year, to become an established meeting point.

How do you create a bond with Pébéo users? How do you identify them and their expectations?

We have ambassadors but we also have demonstrators who are present in stores. Right now it is a little more complicated due to COVID, but there are usually demonstrations with consumers in attendance. As regards identifying needs, we have our consumer service which boasts a real wealth of information, which enables us to post many things on our website and social networks. We have both a demand strategy – when we provide acrylics, oil paints, we cover a market need –, and a supply strategy, which is linked to innovation. This is more to do with trends, the laboratory, through technical innovations that enable us to develop a particular product. Thus, our strategy is to balance the two, feeding an upward spiral.

What are the upcoming plans for the brand? Do you have any particular ambitions going forward?

COVID and the various lockdowns gave a real boost to our activities. Not only for Pébéo, but for the whole industry, which is a good thing. All indoor activities, music, painting, cooking, crafts, have mushroomed. It has created a real dynamic globally, with consumers who have discovered or rediscovered these activities, with more time to devote to them. Here we come back to Pébéo's values, it may be a way of escaping it all, there is a lot of talk about art therapy. In slightly anxious times, when you paint or make music, you empty your head. The important thing for the brand today is through innovation, supporting our networks, consumers, to be by their side at this time and to do so internationally as well. With this in mind we have strengthened the sales and international teams, and we also have a new website that will be released in the coming weeks. The world on the move, and the challenge for business is to adapt to changing trends, especially as regards the increasingly important digital communication. The immediate challenge is to adapt the tools of the industry to meet demand. The second, longer-term challenge is to ensure that this emphasis on artistic and craft activities, particularly in visual art for us, can continue. The idea is, thus, to make the most of this good period for the industry and support the company's development.

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