Heir to the Throne
In her very first visit to Chile, we invited the artistic director of the famous Studio Putman to discover Santiago, while we learned about her along the way.
Text: Daniela Vicuña | Photos: Sebastián Utreras
She’s a vision in black. Elegant. Impeccable. The same as yesterday. Except for the bright-orange Pashmina shawl that emerges from her Louis Vuitton bag for no apparent reason – it’s still quite warm in Santiago.
How much of your closet is black?
“A lot, almost all of it. When you begin wearing black, it’s hard to go back.”
Olivia Putman sits by the window. It’s her first time in Chile, and like a good artist, she observes everything with intense curiosity. Our first stop will be the Lágrimas de Luna exhibition on the legacy of Mapuche jewelry, an incredible project by Jacqueline Domeyko and her son Nicolás Tocigl. “Is it very far away?” she asks. I tell her that we’ll be there in less than five minutes, and Putman smiles enthusiastically.
Haute Couture Furniture
History of Art at the Sorbonne and then landscaping, both courses of study influenced the development of this design-loving French woman, and they impacted her professional life even more. Old buildings were her first obsession: she renovated them and transformed them into something completely different – like the Bretonneau Hospital which, thanks to her inventiveness, became a center for Parisian art.
And she continued, talented and unstoppable, until her work intersected that of her mother – the late Andrée Putman, one of the female icons of contemporary design and founder of the renowned Studio Putman – and her life as a freelance designer came to a (happy) end. It has been eight years now since Putman became artistic director of her mother’s interior design firm. “She’d been trying to recruit me for a while, but I always said that before I could accept, I had to do my own thing, explore my own path.”
In 2011, the studio won an international competition convened by LATAM Airlines Group for the interior design of their new VIP salons, in collaboration with Chilean architects Mathias Klotz and Lillian Allen. It was the first time Putman and her group worked in Latin America, and they looked forward to the challenge. “Our idea has always been to celebrate local culture, to convey an interpretation of Latin America. Which doesn’t mean that the grand sofa will come from Italy or the best perfume from France; what’s important is that the continent be represented. After all, you open the door differently when you’re entering an apartment in Miami or one in London, for example.”
Just before arriving at the Museo de Arte Precolombino, in downtown Santiago, a peaceful protest march by municipal workers holds us up for a few minutes. Putman doesn’t blink an eye and instead shows me a picture she just received on her cellphone – her young twins, almost two years old, in bed in pajamas. It’s impossible not to croon at them, not to smile with pride.
“Quite a lot, really. I return to Paris tomorrow, and in ten days, I leave for Hong Kong for another five, to finish an interior design project.”
Simple, accessible, friendly and open, this husky-voiced French woman, like her mother, claims to follow no fashion trend and uses the street as her inspiration. “Andrée was quite the humanist, she loved to listen to the people around her. I grew up with that attitude, and I really enjoy just hanging out with people, sitting on the subway and talking to people, for example. That also connects with culture and art.”
Where do you find luxury?
“In the details, in what’s comfortable. In fresh white sheets, a beautiful tablecloth. In living your life better, cleaner, calmer and not being boring because of it. It’s far from being about money.”
The day is almost over, but Putman’s energy level seems the same as it was at nine in the morning. We’re sitting in a restaurant in Lastarria district, and she has ordered Diet Coke and salmon tartar. No dessert, but espresso, yes. We walk over to the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral (GAM) to explore its spaces, its evolution and its history. “Amazing” was the word that Putman used most on this visit, and it’s the same word others use when they see her work. in