Behind the scenes: L’Incroyable magazine

by Miranda Thompson in May 2015
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Bright, lurid and brimming with slices of social history, L’Incroyable is a French magazine that brings a fresh approach to teen publishing. More Kierkegaard than Kevin the Teenager, each issue the magazine immerses itself in the adolescence of its cover star, beginning with chanteuse Juliette Gréco, who speaks about how she got her teenage kicks before she erupted into the public consciousness in 1945.

I caught up with editor Clotilde Viannay to find out more about L’Incroyable’s first coming.


You’ve built a name for yourself as a visual artist. Why did you decide to create a magazine?
The idea actually came from my work as an artist. For an exhibition at the French museum Palais de Tokyo in Paris in 2012, I created a fake edition of the New York Times dated from 14th October 1984 and commissioned articles retracing an alternate history of the comic book The Watchmen. It was amazing! I loved the whole experience and wanted to do it again.

When the idea for L’Incroyable came to me, I was working with the director Gaëlle Boucand on a documentary about youth and their political commitments. We’d been asked to pitch proposals to a TV company, but weren’t chosen. When that happened, I thought it would be more original to address the theme in a magazine for adults – it’s something that’s never been done, and it allowed me to explore the issue of adolescence in lots of ways. And I just love magazines!


Why did you decide to pick the adolescence of a star as a theme? Why is it important?
First of all, I think it’s often under-documented in biographies. Adolescence is a pivotal moment in an artist’s career; it’s a time of trial and error, of investigation and encounters that will shape their life.

L’Incroyable traces back to this handful of years when people start to assert themselves. It’s a turning point where the first dreams of the future take shape; everything is still possible, and at once so terrifying. Teenagers are full of complex physical and existential questions. They experience their first love, their first drugs and alcohol, parties, sex – these strong memories that we keep all our lives. And I think teenagers are always involved in the creation of a cultural vanguard, whether in a social sense or in terms of clothing. It’s something they’re not even aware of – it just happens naturally.

Why did you choose the name L’Incroyable (The Incredible)?
I wanted to reference the comic books I love. Just like The Incredible Hulk, my guest is the superhero of their outcome, so that’s why we have ‘The Incredible Juliette Gréco’!


Speaking of which… why did you choose Juliette Gréco for your first issue?
Each issue will feature an icon of a generation and a long interview in which they recount their youth, stopping when they become well-known. Juliette Gréco was the icon of the existentialist movement and the ‘it girl’ of the 1940s in France. Her adolescence took place in 1945 when Paris had been liberated, and when a generation of artists, writers, philosophers, poets and film makers were revolutionising French culture: young, good-looking intellectuals and penniless artists who listened to jazz and danced to bebop, were into philosophy, poetry and literature, drank a lot, smoked cigarettes, and were constantly in love.

So this was the period that first recognised what adolescence was? Is this also why you chose to focus on this era in this issue? 
Yes, exactly! Juliette Gréco’s adolescence couldn’t be more different from the lives of today’s teenagers. She talks about the Second World War and being imprisoned by the Gestapo when she was 16. When she was released at 17, she lived in Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris where she met Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Today, she is 88 years old. She is amazing – I’m a big fan of hers.


How did you decide on the visual tone of the magazine?
My friend and graphic designer Raphaël Garnier came up with the graphics. The colours we chose are references to hyper-realistic illustrations from the 1940s. I didn’t want L’Incroyable to have a nostalgic tone, because it’s not just about the biography of a star. To be young is to be a rebel, someone who challenges stereotypes, and we wanted to keep this energy present. It’s why we have a picture of Juliette from today on the cover – if we’d picked a younger picture, it might look like she’s died.

What have you got planned for future issues?
I can’t tell you anything about our next guest, except that we’re going to take a huge leap forward in time…

Who’s your dream cover star?
Obama! (laughs) We’d talk about his adolescence in Hawaii and Indonesia.

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