Parterre de Rois: the print magazine that’s full of surprises

Print magazine Parterre de Rois explores themes from happiness to absence through art and photography. With the fifth issue out this week, we spoke to the magazine’s co-founders Molly Molloy and Gianni Tozzi about curating the award-winning publication

Parterre de Rois is described as “an imaginary dinner party”- a visual conversation around a particular topic, recorded in the form of a biannual magazine. For each issue, founders and editors Molly Molloy and Gianni Tozzi invite a diverse group of creatives to respond to a single theme. There is no brief or direction – creatives are free to respond in whichever way they please – resulting in a richly varied selection of work. Issue one’s theme was ‘carnal’ – botanical illustrations of a Venus fly trap appeared alongside a photo series on American youth by Ben Pier – and issue five’s is ‘black’. 

Images by Michael Chelbin in issue five of Parterre de Rois
Images by Stephen Dwoskin in issue five of Parterre de Rois

Issue five is out this week and includes an original set of black drawings by Anish Kapoor, Chris Shaw’s spectacular photo series Horizon Icons, in which Joshua Trees appear like dancing figures in the Californian desert, and some striking portraits by Sasha Rudensky that play with bright light and dark shadow. There’s also an interview with Jan Harlan about his brother-in-law Stanley Kubrick’s life and work, plus images from photographers Marco Pietracupa, Geordie Wood, Ben Toms and Dennis Morris – best known for shooting the Sex Pistols and Bob Marley as well as documenting black culture in seventies London.

It’s an impressive list of contributors, including both well established and lesser-known names. By exploring a new theme each time – and working with a new set of artists – Molloy and Tozzi have created a print publication that continues to surprise and delight. The magazine’s issue on happiness won Cover of the Year at the Stack Independent Magazine Awards and received a D&AD Pencil. Here, Molloy, who is also head of womenswear at Marni, and Tozzi, ECD at FutureBrand Milan, explain the thinking behind the publication and how it has inspired them creatively.

Parterre de Rois founders Gianni Tozzi and Molly Molloy

CR: How did the idea for the magazine come about?

MM & GT: We always wanted to do something small and memorable…. We started without much thinking or editorial experience, we just decided one day that we have been really lucky in meeting great creators (famous and underdogs) in our careers in London and Italy and we imagined a dinner party where they could sit around the table and share a visual conversation, a dialogue on paper. Parterre de Rois means king of courts, it’s a phrase used in France and Italy when an event is attended by the best people. This is how it all started.

What did you set out to create with each issue?

We really wanted to offer a unique viewpoint, pulling in collaborators who we really believe in, whether known or unknown. Each issue evolves and changes as we go along; we never know where it’s going to take us. We definitely wanted to create a collectable magazine that can be kept forever.

The cover of Parterre de Rois’ fifth issue, featuring a collage by Queenie Palmer
Issue five of Parterre de Rois. Images by Sasha Rudensky

And what informs the choice of theme? You’ve had carnal, absent, rebellion, happiness and now black?

We wanted to present a show on paper – to share a very personal view on a theme, on a matter, on something that we care about. We keep hearing that we live in black times and there is a lot going on out there that supports this. In particular with the next issue, we wanted to respond to this feeling, offering a visual dialogue with artists from different disciplines and continents. There is lots of beauty in darkness.

Photography by Marco Pietracupa in issue five of Parterre de Rois

It’s predominantly a visual publication – was this the intention from the outset? And why?

As a creative director and designer respectively, we are both extremely visual people.  So much is said through image – it is very powerful, and we noticed that people seem to care less and less about what is written in the magazine. However, we love that the written material that we do commission is left to breathe and hopefully be appreciated.

Drawings by Anish Kapoor in issue five of Parterre de Rois

What do you look for, in terms of the mix of people you invite to contribute to each issue?

We don’t have a formula: some of the contributors are artists that we follow, others are new discoveries. We love how everybody responds so differently to the same theme, it is always a great thrill when we receive the work and we do our best to showcase it in the best possible way.

Imagery by Bodha & Gilda, featured in issue five of Parterre de Rois
Imagery by Bodha & Gilda, featured in issue five of Parterre de Rois

What are the main challenges (and benefits) of designing a visual mag where the content varies so much each time?

We start from scratch with each issue, new art direction, a new theme; everything starts from a blank page. This is the main challenge but hopefully it’s what makes each issue interesting and different in an environment populated by so many interesting publications.

Images by Geordie Wood in issue five of Parterre de Rois
Horizon Icons by Chris Shaw, featured in issue five of Parterre de Rois

Is each new issue completely different from the last?

We always have a cover with a collage dedicated to one of our icons that inspires the issue. And the dimensions of the magazine are the same. The rest is up for grabs.

You’ve founded the magazine in your spare time, while also holding down positions at FutureBrand and Marni. What do you enjoy about running a magazine on the side? How do you manage this alongside your other roles and how do you feel it has helped or inspired you creatively?

It has not been easy, but it has been really worth it. We have met some amazing people – our first issue carnal we went to interview [Italian painter and sculptor] Nicola Samori in his studio in an old church in Emilia Romagna. It was an amazing experience,a privilege that only happened because of the magazine. It’s also been really gratifying to give people a platform to explore their passions and to be as extreme as they want to be. We don’t set a rigid brief, and leave it open to each individual. These are the things that push us – to collaborate, to inspire and be inspired, and to also have a good party once a year!

Issue 5 of Parterre de Rois is out now and priced at 20 Euros. You can order copies online or see a list of stockists at parterrederois.com

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