This Photo Book Captures the Beauty of Sisterhood

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Marie and Lucie by Ewa Kluczenko and Patrick Bienert
Photography by Patrick Bienert, Styling by Ewa Kluczenko

Capturing sisters Marie and Lucie Cornil in clothes once stocked in their grandmother’s boutique, this photo book is an intergenerational portrait of family love and fashion

The story behind Marie and Lucie is as sweet as the portraits found beneath its cover. The collaborative project of stylist Ewa Kluczenko and photographer Patrick Bienert, it captures sisters Marie and Lucie Cornil wearing clothes once stocked in their grandmother’s Aix-en-Provence boutique, Geneviève G. Housing a curation of cult brands like Alaïa, Ann Demeulemeester, Issey Miyake and Comme des Garçons, it was run alongside their mother Christine until the shop shuttered its doors in 1999. Some pieces were scattered across the family, while the rest were packed into boxes in the attic of their parent’s home in rural Roussillon, France, only dusted off and opened two decades later for the making of this book. “This attic is really a magic place,” Kluczenko tells AnOther.

The stylist first learned of the sisters’ archive by chance, though it’s not the first time she has explored the subject of family and the sentimental histories of clothes. She met Marie at a dinner in Marseille just after the stylist had finished a project in her home country of Poland, which captured her own sister in pieces from their mother’s fastidiously collected wardrobe. The pair instantly connected over their parallel stories and, with Marie’s blessing, Kluczenko reached out to Bienert about creating a special project about the Cornils. “I was really fascinated by them and the history of the store, which existed for so many years,” says Kluczenko. “I really wanted to make a documentation of it.”

Marie and Lucie opened the doors to their enchanting family home in the French countryside for the book. Built by their grandfather on a hill surrounded by fields, it’s not only the location of the forgotten archive, but also the site of many happy summers, Christmases and gatherings through the generations. Staying overnight on two separate trips in the spring and autumn of last year, the photographer and stylist recall being plunged into the convivial heart of the Cornils’ family life. “Everyone was cooking together and it was like a really good atmosphere,” says Bienart, whose previous books Happy Springs and East End of Europe have more closely resembled documentary work, observing youth and overlooked communities in places like Ukraine. “Their mother was there as well and they had such a beautiful family togetherness. It was great to see how they treat each other. We had an incredible time and I think that also made the pictures very intimate.”

This intimacy is a specific kind – one that’s hard to describe and harder yet to capture on camera, though Bienart does so with sensitivity and skill. Looking at the portraits of Marie and Lucie going for walks, chatting around the dining room table and curling up in big armchairs, a particular sense of ease that you can only really slip into around family – or better still, your sister – is felt in every frame. “I’m into honest pictures and natural things happening,” the photographer says. “They were also really open and there was a lot of trust. In the end, it’s a picture of this closeness which you can only have if you know someone or if they let you in their space. I think that was great about it.”

Styling-wise, it was also important to Kluczenko to keep things authentic. “I didn’t want to make it too fashiony but this is also their identity,” she says of the organic looks, which mix archival pieces from Geneviève G already in the sisters’ wardrobes with treasures discovered in the attic. “When you meet them, they are always wearing a piece of Jean Paul Gaultier or Alaïa or a beautiful Comme des Garçons dress. It’s really something which is part of their lives. I really wanted to keep it as a sort of heritage [feel] that you can pass from one generation to another while connecting them as well.”

A product of collaboration in every sense, the resulting images were thoughtfully edited by Florine Bonaventure into a limited run of 500 books. Though the project was sparked by a desire to document Geneviève’s forgotten archive (she’s now in her nineties and, happily, has seen the book), for Kluczenko and Bienert, the finished product is really about family love and the special relationship shared between sisters. “The bonds between people, what links them and the transmission from one generation to another is something really important to me,” the stylist says. “I think sisterhood in general is really beautiful and interesting,” Bienert adds. “The older I get, the more I experience that family is the most important thing in life. Really, there's nothing above it.”

Marie and Lucie by Ewa Kluczenko and Patrick Bienert is self-published, and is out now.