If there is one word that defines Axelle de Buffévent, that word is “freedom”. The Style Director of Maison Martell has resolutely forged her own path, both personally and professionally. Today, in what she describes as her dream job, she is able to unite her passion for art in all its forms with a senior management role at the world’s leading brand of prestige cognac.
Perhaps her taste for freedom, and certainly her love of art, were formed at an early age. Growing up in Paris, she recalls being dropped off by her mother at the Louvre and left to roam through its vast galleries. Even as a small child, she says, she never asked to go out to play – all she ever wanted was to create, and some of her happiest memories are of afternoons spent painting freely in an artist’s studio in Montparnasse. When it came to her future, however, she had to defy her family’s expectations that she would pursue a more conventional career, but she was determined to go her own way.
After training as an interior designer, Axelle de Buffévent started out in that quintessentially French speciality known as “Arts de la Table”, working with artisans – glassblowers, crystal cutters, ceramists – who were applying ancestral skills to the creation of contemporary tableware. After a spell in the cosmetics industry, she rediscovered the heritage and craftsmanship she finds so inspiring when, nine years ago, she stepped through the door of Maison Martell, the oldest of France’s great cognac houses, founded in 1715.
As Martell Style Director, Axelle de Buffévent has reached out to artists and designers, inviting them to interpret the House’s history and savoir-faire in ways that take it out of its comfort zone. “The danger for a brand like ours is to be crushed by the weight of tradition,” she says. “The audacity of Martell is to not let this happen, because we are always looking forward. At Martell, we are lucky to have 300 years of stories to tell – an almost unimaginable richness. What is key is to tell them in a way that is culturally relevant and, in our image-driven, digital age, nobody does that better than artists.” Recent creative collaborations – with French ornamentalist Pierre-Marie and Chinese fashion designer Angel Chen, among others – have actually helped to shape the future expression of Martell, introducing a narrative dimension never before seen in the world of cognac.
It seems that Axelle de Buffévent has finally found a role where her spirit of freedom is not only tolerated, but actively encouraged. “I hate being put in a box, I refuse compromise and preconceived ideas, I am forever asking questions. For me, audacity is the art of cultivating doubt,” she says. “What is wonderful with Maison Martell is that I can arrive in the morning with the craziest ideas, and know I will be listened to. It feels like I am making a contribution to something so much bigger.”
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