By: Jeffrey Felner

During an exclusive sit down with me for VULKAN, Hervé Godard, founder of BLAKE Magazine, spoke of his position and sentiments concerning le monde de la mode or the world of fashion. First and foremost, a little introduction and then we present, Monsieur Godard, in his own words.

How can one accurately speak of the man who put fashion, models, and style into action and made it a tangible reality? Hervé Godard is one you might call a virtuoso of fashion or maybe even a fashion schizophrenic given the many tasks, talents, and abilities that he seems to effortlessly juggle.

He is the man behind Blake magazine, the same eponymous blog with its thousands of readers, and lastly, the Blake Men agency. Godard knows no boundaries and yet, speaking from experience, he also makes time to be a good friend, on top of being a purveyor of fashion and beauty for men. The magazine and blog is all about beauty and exposes readers to diversity of men, a variety of products, and haute couture with the help of their stunning editorial photographers, and dedicated editorial partners and contributors. Taking it one step further, one of the most talented and in demand international illustrators, Marc- Antoine Coulon, aids in the reinforcement of Blake’s commitment to being the most fashionable and au courant of publications, whether online or in print.

Jeffrey Felner (JF): Can you give us a brief history of yourself?

Hervé Godard (HG): I’ve loved jewelry since my early childhood. My family gave me the passion for jewelry as part of my heritage. I studied Arts and graduated Cum Laude. Once I finished my studies, I opened my own jewelry shop in Paris, but after an armed robbery, I decided to take another direction. I started working with the part of my family that deals with antiques and believe it or not, it was in this position that I got my first contact with a photographer who desperately needed a styling assistant. I decided to give it a try, and worked for three months with a professional stylist, until she got cold feet for a fashion shoot in Paris for a German magazine, just a few hours prior to the job. Feeling a bit embarrassed for the photographer, I took all the clothes I could find in the press offices and took off to the studio. I did the job, dressed 12 models with all I had brought, and the result was great. The editor-in-chief, who was also the owner of that German magazine, loved my job, and asked me to become his French correspondent. After this difficult situation, which turned into something successful, word started to spread and that’s how things got rolling. So then, this magazine asked me to take on interviews of fashion personalities, and one thing leading to another, and I landed a job at a big French magazine as editor-in-chief for fashion and jewelry. It is at that time that I decided to create my own magazine. I left my job to pursue this adventure. And it’s been almost 9 years since Blake Magazine was born!

JF: Tell me about Blake: why you started it, who is your target audience, and what it represents to you and to your readers?

HG: The idea of the magazine came to life because I could not find one that I liked. There was always something bothering me in one area or another. Therefore, I realized a model of an “ideal” magazine by mixing everything I liked…Blake was born! It’s necessary to put back things in context. It’s hard to believe, but 9 years ago, it was really the beginning of blogs and there was no online male magazine. I was the first one, and it’s what allows me, even today, to have certain fame because of the longevity of the magazine. Blake has its own style, produces its own fashion editorials, realizes its own interviews, and recently, created its own model agency: the Blake Men.

I never targeted a specific audience in particular. I always wanted to speak to every man, without categorizing him. I try to build the magazine as a conversation with friends around a coffee. I have a very strong bond with my magazine. It’s not just business. I can honestly say that it’s my second child! I also have a strong connection with the readers of the magazine. Some have followed this adventure from the very beginning and they are a part of my history. I shall always be grateful to them for having supported me for all this time.

JF: Hervé, can you speak about the challenges in keeping print alive in the digital era and how you see the future?

 HG: I am part of the old generation, that of the grips of notes on a paper sheet or on a pad with a pencil. I am a lover of books and magazines, I have been collecting them since my teenage years, but I learned to appreciate the advantages of the Internet and I was the first one in France to launch a totally online and free magazine, at the time. A heresy for a lover of books such as I, but I had understood that it was an incredible technological breakthrough and a way to make me known on the international stage in a single click!  To dematerialize a work or a magazine is an incredible advance. We do not hesitate to download a novel, our preferred magazines on our mobiles or tablets before going on a journey, and it’s much less heavy in the suitcase. But it’s necessary to continue the paper, to never forget it. It is necessary to envisage it differently.

I reflected for several months about Blake’s paper version. I wanted something that was more than a simple magazine, and would use the new technological breakthroughs but where you could still feel the paper and smell the ink; an object that we shall have the pleasure to keep, and to reopen from time to time…a good book.

JF: If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would they be and why?

HG: Ah! This is a difficult question! I am so curious about so many different subjects… so a dinner with 5 people…then I shall invite Laurent de Medicis, for his protection of the Arts; Bill King (I am certain that nobody anymore remembers who Bill King was, the man who brought the movement, the music on sets, and use of ventilators to move clothes!), for his talent as a photographer; Elizabeth Taylor, because she was a great actress and as Jean Cocteau said “she was the last “Monstre Sacré”; Gabrielle Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent, because they revolutionized the world of fashion.

Oh wait a minute! I realize that I only invited fantastic ghosts. So, if it had to be necessarily living human beings, I think that I would love having dinner with Anna Wintour, because she’s…Anna Wintour; Leonardo DiCaprio, for his involvement in humanitarian and environmental causes; Patrick Demarchelier & Bruce Weber, because I admire their work; and Hillary Clinton…because she’s…Hillary Clinton.

JF: Can you offer your perspective on the world of models and fashion as we see it today?

HG: I think, as far as models are concerned, there are two different worlds or two different ways to appreciate them: in Paris and in the rest of the world. In Paris, agencies for male models have decided that people want to see over-thin, famished teenagers, most of the time looking like they haven’t reached puberty yet, but who are already doing drugs. In the rest of the world, usually, clients demand that the male models look healthy, dynamic, and full of life. Therefore, you’ll easily understand that I much prefer working in Paris, like I would work in the rest of the world, with models who look like they enjoy doing what they do. As for fashion itself, I think for the last two or three seasons, it has become annoying and repetitive, because designers are more interested in creating buzz than creating clothes. I think that these people forgot that clothes are made to be worn.

JF: In a perfect world, who would be your dream collaboration or what would be your dream project and with whom?

HG: That’s easy! I dream of styling and art directing the Vanity Fair Academy Awards cover and spread! I would like to develop my structure, Blake Media Corp, by launching an international magazine; particularly realizing the American version, developing the activity of my models, and media in videos, movies, and production.

Photography courtesy of Hervé Godard

Edited by: Rebecca Besnos

photo by: Robert Presutti

Jeffrey Felner, a native New Yorker, has had a long and continuing career within the world of fashion. His experience spans every facet of fashion, design, and style, focusing on the top tier. The 21st century has allowed Mr. Felner to expand his fashion knowledge by reviewing books for the “New York Journal of Books,” as well as contributing to several online magazines, all the while running his own blog. One of his main interests is interviewing the famous, the almost famous, and legends of these industries.