Text by Robin Pailler. Photos by Robin Pailler & Maxime Verret.
Last week saw Levi’s Skateboarding release the 501® Original at The Community venue in Paris.
To celebrate introducing the 501® into the collection, Levi’s® Skateboarding hosted a photo exhibition/semi street party with a video premiere featuring French ambassadors Valentin Bauer, Edouard Depaz and Quentin Boillon, putting the 501® to the test on the streets of Paris.
If you’ve yet to see the clip, directed by Joaquim Bayle, then you’ve clearly been asleep these past few days.
We caught up with Val, Edouard & Quentin to discuss favourite skate videos, the French scene exploding and the future of HDV.
So with you all growing up in different cities (Edouard in Bordeaux, Val in Lille and Quentin in Lyon), where did you guys meet for the first time?
Edouard: I first met Val maybe 7 years ago when he came to this party at my place. He was already one of my favourite French skateboarders at that point….
Val: (interrupting) You really wanna tell this story?
Edouard: Yeah for sure! So anyway, at this point I was kinda looking up to him and then he came to my place and kinda broke some stuff. Like, stole one of my caps and then I didn’t really see him again. And then about 3 years later was when we first started skating together, with Öctagon and all of that. With Quentin, I guess it was like 2 years ago when he came to Paris for an Antiz trip. Then we’ve hung out and skated a few times since. We call him ‘body varial’.
Do all 3 of you reside in Paris now?
Edouard: I recently moved here and Val’s planning to soon.
Val: Yeah my girlfriend lives here already so I’m gonna move soon.
Quentin: I’m still based in Lyon actually. I was travelling most of August. Had a trip in London staying at my friend’s place and then when Levi’s called I was in Paris for two weeks filming. I’m not planning on moving here though. I like coming to Paris on trips and I’d be down to stay 6 months and film because the scene is so good here but I dunno, I like my city.
Val: Yeah the scene in Lyon is really strong too.
Edouard: It’s almost like a good mix of Bordeaux and Paris. Like it’s a big city, 2nd biggest city in France but I feel like it has like some traits and habits of the South.
With Joaquim Bayle filming the Levi’s clip. There’s obviously that Öctagon connection (Val & Edouard). How did the Öctagon family come about?
Val: Well we were filming with Joaquim a bunch and our friend Clément Vanpeperstraete, who’s like the CEO dude put together this brand. We had all this footage and decided to put together an Öctagon clip. It all happened pretty naturally to be honest.
Edouard: Yeah we were kinda gathering all this footage and at some point were like “hey we should make like a full length clip”. And then along with the third guy, Nicolas Decatoire, who like, nobody knows it seems, we call him ‘the architect’ because he’s the one who does all the post production, all those automated voices you hear in the clips. Pretty much all the graphic design.
Val: He’s like the main art director.
Edouard: Yeah it’s just funny no one knows him but he’s the one along with Joaquim who’s had the biggest influence on the brand’s image.
Val: He doesn’t even really skate. He’s just one of our friends.
Edouard: Yeah it’s crazy. We recently went on a trip and he came along, just like pushing around. Didn’t even ollie. He’s like really into skateboarding without really skating.
Val: Those kind of people can be really awkward but he’s not. He’s just like a really funny guy and it was cool to have a non skater on a trip who was still one of our friends.
Edouard: Yeah that was funny. It was really good actually!
And now with Phil (Zwijsen) on the team. How did that come about?
Val: Quite naturally actually. He’s been friends with Bram (De Cleen) for quite a long time now as well as Yeelen (Moens) who are already on the team. He’s been friends with Joseph (Bias) for a long, long time too.
Edouard: You’ve been filming with him for Jacky too.
Val: Yeah I mean that too. But I remember from the first full length Octagon clip in Bright, he was like “you guys should of won Best Video of the Year”. He’s been into it from the beginning so it just made sense. He was already friends with everybody and backing the brand image. He was even making jokes about it y’know, like “can I enter the system?” and stuff like that.
Edouard: I’m like, “You’re Phil Zwijsen, of course you can!”.
Val: He’d be sending us selfies when he shaved his head and stuff, like “Now I’m part of the system!”. It just happened naturally. That’s the thing it’s like a friends brand.
I wanted to ask you guys about the way the French skate scene has exploded in the past few years, particularly here in Paris.
Edouard: I think with skateboarding there’s just those moments where everybody’s hyped on one place. Whether it’s Barcelona or Copenhagen and right now it feels like it’s Paris. I guess République has played a part in that.
Val: Yeah for sure. République brought a lot of attention to Paris but at the same time, it’s really true that in France, there’s also a lot of really good skaters and really good ongoing projects happening.
Edouard: But I feel like France has always had a good scene.
Val: Yeah for sure but I think, maybe now, because of all the attention, it’s brought like this positive competition where if someone’s doing something good, other’s are like…..
Edouard: We can do something good too.
Val: Exactly. And then everyone puts a lot of effort in because of how high the standards are. So naturally you want to put a lot of effort in and so everybody’s going hard at the same time.
Edouard: How do you say “Tirez vers le haut” ?
Like elevating one another? Pulling one another up I guess.
Edouard: Exactly! Like every video elevates the level and thus every crew is raising their game.
Growing up in France who did you guys look up to as kids?
Val: Lucas Puig for a long time.
Edouard: Yeah definitely Lucas but I guess for me, being from Bordeaux, it was Leo Valls.
Quentin: I guess being from Lyon I was more JB Gillet but I mean within the whole French scene, like Lucas and all those Cliché guys for sure.
What skate video stuck with you when you were young?
Val: For me it was Bon Appetit. But I think for any young skater, it’s always that first VHS or DVD you bought. It always remains special in your eyes. So Bon Appetit was definitely mine. It was the first proper skate video I bought.
Quentin: For me it’s kinda the same. The first VHS I had was Bon Appetit from Cliché but maybe the one, once I really got into skateboarding later on was Emerica’s Stay Gold. That was my youth. Like Fully Flared as well.
Val: Yeah Fully Flared was a really big thing.
Edouard: Yeah it was. Actually one of the first videos I saw was C1irca’s It’s Time.
Val: Oh yeah I remember that one. It came with Sugar.
Oh yeah with Sierra Fellers & Windsor James!
Edouard: Exactly! It was kinda good at the time. The one that really brainwashed me though was Alien Workshop’s Mindfield. That one got me crazy!
Jake Johnson man. That Jake Johnson part.
Edouard: Yeah man he’s that fucking guy!
What have you guys got planned for the rest of this year?
Edouard: Well I’ve just started studying again. Finishing up my degree in graphic design.
Val: I’ve got several trips coming up. I’m actually going to Bilbao next week for the next Jacky video. Then I’m going to Chicago for Phil’s next Thrasher part. Hopefully get some guest tricks there. I’m also working on a Spitfire introducing part which has been going on for some time actually so gotta get a few last tricks for that. Hopefully release it before the end of the year.
Edouard: Quentin’s gonna change sex at HDV all year.
Val: Because he always does those body varials and we were joking all week about this.
Quentin: Well I’ve been on the road for a month and a half now so I’m gonna head back to Lyon and get back on the routine. Skate HDV a lot. I’m gonna be working for a few months at the local skate shop there ABS. So yeah I’m gonna go back and get my daily life back.
How’s HDV holding up. What’s the latest there?
Quentin: Well with all the signatures and petitions we’ve managed to save the place but the local council still wanna rebuild and renew the flatground. I guess it’s gonna be shit though.
Quentin: Yeah I like it how it is. Even if it’s rough or whatever the material is sick and they’re not gonna replace it with anything as good.
Val: Yeah I feel what he’s saying though because when it’s a spot you’ve been skating all those years…..
Quentin: Yeah it’s like a historical spot and they’re gonna change it so it’s kind of weird for the locals. It’s not gonna be the same.
Val: Skateboarders don’t really like change.
Quentin: Even if it’s fucked, we like it how it is. Originally they wanted to destroy the whole plaza and rebuild it, replace it with grass or whatever, like no skating. But obviously everybody wants to keep it for skating because it’s such a big part of Lyon’s history. So although we’ve saved it they still wanna make some changes and maybe they’ll make something good but I think they’ll renew parts that skaters won’t like. We’ll see.