Taking the plunge and launching your own studio may at first sound daunting, but there can be many benefits to opening up on your own. In the case of Ania Nowak and Lucie Gris, the founders behind multidisciplinary creative agency Ania et Lucie, it was a leap worth taking. Based between New York and Bordeaux, the studio was founded on the kinship of two minds. Ania is Polish and grew up in Canada, meanwhile Lucie was born and raised in the south of France. They’d met after both moving to New York for an internship at the agency Hugo & Marie – following Ania’s internship in Copenhagen at All the Way to Paris, and Lucie’s degree in Paris and work pursuits at TBWA.
“Our experience working at Hugo & Marie quickly brought us close together. As a small team in an intense and creative environment, there was also a healthy sense of competition,” Ania tells It’s Nice That. “But that quickly evolved into a collaborative partnership where we weren’t afraid to bounce ideas around, combine our skills in complementary ways and push each other’s work to be better. We always ended up on the same projects together and kind of became known as ‘Ania and Lucie’.”
A few years down the line and the duo decided it was finally time to start working together. Before transitioning into opening their own full-time studio, however, they first gained more experience at a digital-focused agency, building e-commerce websites for brands. “It wasn’t the most exciting work to us, but we learned many new things about dealing with clients and operating a business,” adds Lucie. It was through these learnings that both Ania and Lucie gained the necessary insight into all corners of the industry, in turn adding to their vision of how they’d like to run their own studio. As such, their ethos succumbs to a few key defining factors: “We learned to value time away from the computer and that life is more important than moving pixels,” says Ania. “What mattered most to us was to work with people we are inspired by, to not let our decisions be swayed by money, and not to take on projects that would dilute our love for design.”
Now, Ania and Lucie direct a holistic design vision towards a variety of “emotional, elevated and highly detailed” projects, says Lucie. Having hailed from a more digital-centred background previously, the duo have steered steadily towards working in the realms of branding, print packaging, art direction and environments. “We love infusing tactility into our work through drawing, painting and experimenting with different mediums,” she adds. Another pivotal moment is that – like many – they’ve both had to adapt to working from home over the course of lockdown. And not too long ago, Lucie moved to France – a plan that’s been long in the making and only quickened due to the circumstances. Consequently, they left their previous physical studio on Canal Street and moved to a new location just a stone’s throw away from Ania’s apartment in Brooklyn, with plans to open up a second space near to Lucie.
There really are many positives to launching things on your own terms, like the freedom to pick and choose the type of work you want to onboard, or the people you’d like to collaborate with. Both Ania and Lucie are in awe of this newfound sense of freedom that’s been elevated since setting up the studio; they’re their own bosses, meaning they can try out things, make mistakes and “see what sticks”. Ania adds: “We didn’t necessarily want to work with the most prestigious and biggest brands, but work with clients that would trust us and respond to our sensibility.”
One of the studio’s most recently completed projects is the rebrand for luxury bag and shoe boutique Mansur Gavriel, a brief that saw the duo brought on to initially just work on a few UX updates on the website. The result is a colourful, artistic and nature-rich identity, fuelled by a primary colour palette, expressive painterly touches and a “monogram that symbolises the strength of the founders’ relationship”, says Ania. All of which transfers across to the physical store and packaging.
In other news, Ania and Lucie have also designed the brand identity, product packaging and website for sustainable haircare brand Sándor – a project inspired by sustainability and “making sure the planetary footprint of Sándor is as low as possible”. This equated to product bottles crafted from recyclable, 100% post-industrial aluminium scrap, and the shipping boxes made from mushroom packaging and algae-based ink – suffused with signature earthy tones. Amid their small but mighty portfolio, these two projects symbolise the high level, ethical and forward-thinking work of the studio and what it promises to bring as it grows.
Ania et Lucie: Mansur Gavriel (Copyright © Ania et Lucie, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.