by Laila Gohar
Illustrator Jean-Philippe Delhomme has spent the last 25 years documenting representations of pop culture with his pencil. Having created illustrations for an array of high-caliber clients including Louis Vuitton, Maison Kitsuné and Sotheby’s, he began compiling his quirky drawings in a blog titled The Unknown Hipster in 2009. The witty diary-like entries are told through the eyes (or in this case aviators) of a fictional character, Unknown, who Delhomme describes as an anti-commercial, slightly sloppy, extremely laid back, provocatively naive and unorganized intellectual.
“When I walk around the streets in Bushwick where my studio is, I see so many potential subjects it is endlessly inspiring. Bushwick is a free ground. It’s not too obvious, there is still some subtlety and wideness, but also chaos—it’s not finished, not perfect,” says Delhomme. The Unknown Hipster’s online musings have now been compiled into “The Unknown Hipster Diaries,” a limited-edition book from August Editions.
“He is not interested in starting a taco joint or a rooftop free-range pig farm. He’s a reincarnation of a ’70s hippie that is alive today.”
“Unknown Hipster is not a real hipster,” explains Delhomme. “He is not interested in starting a taco joint or a rooftop free-range pig farm. He’s a reincarnation of a ’70s hippie that is alive today.” The character’s wit and poetics, coupled with an air of nonchalant panache and a hint of shyness, give him the feel of a modern-day Ginsberg meets Gainsbourg on the dance floor at a Purple Magazine party.
Through the adventures of Unknown, readers are given an insider’s peek into the lives of the beau monde—a private soiree at Tom Sachs’, an up-close look at Anna Dello Russo singing her heart out at a fête hosted by Barneys for Carine Roitfeld, or an afternoon style tip session with Karl Lagerfeld.
In “The Unknown Hipster Diaries”, Delhomme toys with the idea of authenticity and the death of subculture. “We feel more confident when our life looks like a spectacle,” he says. “People are obsessed with staging their life in a way so it looks like a scene from a movie, or something. With hipsters, the big thing is so-called authenticity but in reality it’s all been done before. Hipsters are just better businessmen than hippies but I don’t think either are subcultures. Subculture is dead. In this age, subcultures become documented immediately and therefore are mainstream instantly.”
Delhomme’s fascination with documenting social trends roots back to his childhood. “I wanted to be a French intellectual when I was eight years old. When I was 10 I wanted to be a hippie, after that I wanted to be Syd Barrett. Later I wanted to look like guys from the New Wave. Then I did not feel like I belonged to a type and in fact, less and less. I was always tormented by that so I use it for inspiration and to poke some fun,” says Delhomme.
While it may be hard to keep up with Unknown Hipster as he spans the globe from the Venice biennale to after-parties in Milan, and maybe a pit stop in LA before heading off to Tokyo, Delhomme himself splits his time between his homes in his native Paris and New York’s Bushwick neighborhood. “In Paris it’s interesting to work with memory. Here in New York it is all about the present. There’s no nostalgia like there is in Europe. New York frees up the mind. Just look outside the window.”
The Unknown Hipster Diaries is available for $45 on Amazon. Those in Paris can catch the author for a book signing at Colette on 15 December 2012.
Images courtesy of Unknown Hipster Diaries