Q&A: Hugo and Marie


Hugo & Marie from The High Low on Vimeo.
Interview by Felicity Loughrey. Film by Taj Lewis. Music by Farrah.

New Yorkers Mario Hugo and Jennifer Sims of Hugo & Marie turn illustration art into a fashionable business.

In their chic Flatiron district office, Mario Hugo and Jennifer Marie Sims of Hugo & Marie run a creative consultancy and artists’ management firm. Their coterie of illustrative artists are known for their hand-crafted work that has mass appeal for brands like Nike, J.Crew, Keds, Dolce & Gabbana, Burton and L’Oreal, among others. We sat down with Mario and Jennifer and got all up in their business.

How did you meet?
We met years ago at a house-warming party…
Jennifer: In Brooklyn. That was a little over six years ago. We knew that we wanted to work together. We had very similar creative ideas. Ideas about what we wanted to do professionally.
When was the moment you started this business?
We bought the URL [www.hugoandmarie.com] some years back. We didn’t know quite what we were going to do with it. I had been working as an illustrator and art director and Jen had been working in fashion. I had been very interested in representation and working closely with some friends of ours: art designers and directors. We were ambivalent about outside representation. We wanted to create an environment that was really comfortable for us.
We started sharing ideas about the kind of businesses we could create. And maintaining a sense of integrity about what we do. Also a little bit of control about what sort of clients we work with and what industries we get to work in.
Why do you represent illustrators rather than photographers or stylists?
Mario has an illustration and art direction background. I have a fashion background that involves a lot of drawing and illustration. Illustration is interesting because the way we work, it bridges the world of fine art and…
Mario: That’s a particular quality of the illustrators that we have on our roster. There’s a real sense of craft and dedication in what they do. Illustration and design are often relegated to this status of being work that is supposed to represent or sell someone else’s product, right? These are people who are really creating things for themselves.
When fashion companies come to you, what are they looking for?
We like to have our work run the creative gamut. We really like working on very tactile, tangible elements of the brand. Print [designs] for clothing is really one of our favorite things to do. Studio NewWork, who work with us, do a huge amount of lookbooks, season to season. They do some wonderful logos.
Invites, printed materials…
And everything through websites and online experiences.
Jennifer: One of the things we talk about is collaborations: big brands wanting to work with smaller brands; big companies wanting to work with independent artists. Nike does collaborations with a lot of smaller artists; bringing their work onto a different platform. Fashion is always hungry for new, fresh and exciting [ideas].
[In fashion] everything is done to the nines. The presentation always has to be fantastic, from that logo, to the collection, everything has to be really experience driven.

This site is called The High Low. Where do you see this theme of high-low happening in fashion today?
That sensibility is informed by the internet. There’s this democracy on the internet – everyone has their say and everyone is a part of something. So it’s not just about having these really high-end fashion brands anymore. It’s about being able to communicate and participate in a brand.
[For us] being able to come up with solutions for a brand like Target, versus a brand like Dolce and Gabbana. They’re very diverse experiences but they’re really valuable and it’s great to talk to different people through different visual communications.
You have a twitter account and a Facebook account – what role does social media play in your business?
We joined Twitter some time last year and we do Facebook. Of course, the internet has a really big presence with our company because it’s our most consistent form of marketing; trying to reach a broader base of people with what we do.
Mario: It’s wonderful to have a community to speak to. It’s almost like a global office at times.
Jennifer: We also blog to Behance and other creative specific social-networking platforms. You’re able to hear feedback on different artists’ works and new projects. That’s been really interesting to be involved in communities like that.

Jules Julien for Diesel Japan

Jules Julien for Diesel Japan

Where do you see the style and fashion industries going?
The sense of craft and luxury is coming back. At the end of the day, the market and the demand for really beautiful, well-made clothes and products will always exist.
Mario: From our perspective I’d say, there’s a lot of interest in holistically tackling a brand. Someone like Cushnie et Ochs, we work with them on the level where we’re embroidering gloves [with 40,000 Swarovski beads], we’re tweaking the logo, then revamping the website and creating digital installations for them. A holistic vision for those brands.
What has been the big surprise for you in the two years that you’ve run this business?
There have been so many surprises. Just in terms of the people that we’re able to work with and the clients that contact us. Just being able to connect with people and form a common bond. That’s been really amazing.

Mario Hugo and Jennifer Sims in their office