l'idiot utile (“the useful idiot”) is a magazine dedicated to the thankless work of creatives
Hubert Crabières dives into the process of making an independent magazine that’s daring and creative while managing to prioritise the needs of its contributors.
- Roz Jones
- 3 November 2022
French photographer Hubert Crabières needs no introduction. One would think that his storied career might earn the creator, whose work has appeared in Vogue, Edicola magazine and elsewhere, his fair share of the global fashion industry’s $1.55 trillion revenue – or at least be paid for the shoots that he does. But no, after being burned again, Hubert came to the realisation that “the symbolic power of the fashion market made me accept work in economically unfair conditions”. Just a year after that realisation, a discussion with Alexis Etienne led to the creation of l'idiot utile – the useful idiot.
The journal – a treatise against the “economic prosperity of the fashion market” which Hubert says “does not seem to benefit everyone” – was intended as “a space in which we could affirm this bridge we are trying to create between our personal practices and salaried or commissioned work”, according to the artist. Fashion photographers and creatives across the spectrum will recognise the experience of having to prove to clients that their work is worth paying for. Hubert, being all too familiar with this feeling and aware of how present it is, wanted a medium that could “create a connection with personalities we admired and wanted to meet, with whom we wanted to collaborate”. He put together a small team of creatives whose output and ethos he admired; designer Josiane Martinho who would become the fashion director, much fawned over Korean designer Hezin O to handle the graphic design, Raphaël Julier and Leyre Ortega on production and Alexis Etienne who would lead the editorial direction as well Jan de Meester, an art printer in Belgium who put the magazine together.
The team embarked on a mission to realise this project but, for Hubert and Alexis, it was the first time they had taken on a project of this size. “The realisation of l'idiot utile followed the timing of our economic reality,” he tells It’s Nice That. But even from within the limitations of time and the challenges of scale, the magazine interrogated the ironies bubbling away in the industry. For one, they immediately paid for all the written contributions and covered the production costs for everything else – a gesture showing that magazines can equitably work with contributors if they really wanted to, even if “it forces us to question the temporality of the publication”, as Hubert mentions. Meanwhile, Hezin O was given copious amounts of space to flesh out her research-driven practice within Hubert’s maximalist vision. This was a creative choice that led to subtle but impactful idiosyncrasies, like the fabric collection series being printed on very thin paper to give the impression of a fabric pile. “I decided to focus my graphic approach on the relationship between production methods and content,” Hezin O tells It’s Nice That.
Proving that inspiration really can come from anywhere, Hubert picks out the TikTok trend-inspired shoot, made with designer Diane Gaignoux and the artist Hugo Baud, as a stand-out piece. “The idea was that these flying drawings would become masks frozen in the photograph,” he says. It’s a demonstration that, amid the weighty subject matter, the publication still holds space for Hubert's signature organised chaos and experiments with patterns, textures and layers – not forgetting humour. And, despite the myriad problems that come with producing an independent magazine, Hubert and team created a journal that affirms the work of the undervalued, unrecognised and certainly underpaid creative class keeping the fashion industry afloat – and that’s no laughing matter.
l'idiot utile v: Adeline André (Copyright © Hubert Crabières for the photos © Hezin O for the type, 2022)
About the Author
Roz (he/him) joined It’s Nice That for three months as an editorial assistant in October 2022 after graduating from Magazine Journalism and Publishing at London College of Communication. He’s particularly interested in publications, archives and multi-media design.