Mathilde Cabanas is one cool French girl. She lives in Nantes (where fellow fun-loving illustrator Jean Jullien also hails) and is the founder of her own stationery line and lifestyle brand that includes children’s partyware, clothing, badges, tape, and her much-loved mini cards. Mathilde’s designs effortlessly combine colourful characters with playful quips, resulting in an irresistibly adorable style that is appealing to the under 5’s and over 35’s alike.
Her charming illustrations have won the hearts of many other independents, leading to an array of collaborations and cherished friendships, including eco-savvy shoesmiths Veja and a chic tee with Balzac Paris embroidered with ‘bisou’, Mathilde’s mantra and oft-seen seal; a little kiss for every occasion.
Mathilde is always looking for new ways to spread the Bisou love. Her latest project is a collection of 90’s inspired sportswear in her signature red, pink and white. Organic and ethically sourced, it’s a cheeky, relaxed uniform for the pleasure-seeking mademoiselle, and evidence of Mathilde’s ethos; don’t take life too seriously, have fun and be playful wherever you can.
We took a peek into Mathilde’s world (and pencil case), and chatted about old movies and the hidden gems of Nantes.
Hello Mathilde! Your drawings have such a youthful, colourful naivety about them. Tell us about your journey. Your roots are in illustration?
My father is a watercolourist so my artistic roots might come from there, right? I've always loved drawing, making things, DIY. I've never really had a ‘real’ job. I wanted to do my own thing, be independent and do what I love (yes, I'm the idealist kind!) One day, I showed Bonton - the children’s concept store where I used to work as a salesperson - my birthday invitations. They started selling them and it worked really well. That's how I started ‘Mathilde Cabanas’ as a stationery line. The cool thing about cards and stationery is that you can pretty much do anything with it. It's very easy to work with paper; I can do as many designs as I want to!
I like mixing a little text with a drawing. Depending on the word or the drawing, it can totally change the meaning! For me, the more simple, the better.
What inspired the little ‘bisou’?
I looooooved the word "bisou". It's very short, cute, soft and, who doesn't like bisous, you know? I just thought it would be the best message to write on a mini card. You can offer it for basically any occasion, whenever you want to send or receive a little bit of love!
You’ve collaborated with eco-savvy shoesmiths Veja, jewellery designers L’Atelier Plume, and melt in the mouth biscuit bakers Maison Germain. What would you like your illustrations to adorn next?
To be honest, I have a few dream collabs in mind, and each time I do one with the Bisou, it takes on a different meaning. On the Veja sneakers, it was "l’amour court les rues" (in French it means, more or less, "love is in the streets"), on the umbrellas (that are coming very soon) it's more about "a little love in the grey sky"... What I'd love to see is the Bisou in the city, a bit like the Bisou hunt we did in the streets of Paris last winter. On a bus, the subway, a department store or maybe one day a plane. We dream BIG with the Bisou !
Tell us about the concept behind the cheeky Club Bisou?
Hehe, "cheeky" is indeed the right word to describe it. Basically, there are so many people who told us that they loved the Bisou that we thought that we should totally do a "Club Bisou", like the fan clubs in the 90's.
For this mini collection (2 sweatshirts, 2 tees, 2 patches, a pin and socks), we messed around with the Bisou and worked with cool, all organic, fabrics like super soft terry cloth, stone washed cotton and shapes inspired by vintage sportswear. We imagined a club of girls just chilling during gym class and who are definitely more into having fun than getting good grades ;) So basically, wearing Club Bisou makes you high school's coolest girl !
We’d love to visit Jean Jullien’s playful Le Nid in Nantes! What are some other hidden gems of the city?
Oh yes, it's so nice there. L’île de Nantes where you can see that insane giant mechanical elephant and all of Jules Verne universe is also very cool. And also the Jardin des Plantes (botanical garden) with sculptures by Claude Ponti. The best is to come when the Voyage à Nantes takes place. Every summer, there's pieces of art everywhere in the city that turn it into a big playground. It's very playful and inspiring !
What are your favourite tools for creating? Can we take sneak peek into your pencil case?
I mostly work with pencil. I then redraw with a black Staedtler felt pen and scan it. I put in the colors with Photoshop. I come up with ideas by looking at old movies, going to exhibitions, and whenever I see something I like, I just take a picture! I have soooo many blurry or out-of-frame pictures on my phone, it's ridiculous, but this way I always remember what inspires me!
Do you have a favourite piece of design or art? Tell us about it!
I adore Inès Longevial's work. It's colourful, poetic and delicate.
What are your goals for the last few months of the year?
We're going to develop new mini-collections like "Club Bisou" every season. We don't like the idea of being a single type of product brand. I love seeing my illustrations on different objects and materials. Our goal for the years to come is to become the fun lifestyle brand you think of when you're looking for a cute gift from 0 to 100 years old you know. It's all about the fun spirit! And we'd like to be more present abroad. But really, what matters the most is to add a little fun (and a little love) to people's everyday lives. ❤️