For the last quarter of a century, the bespoke New York-based publishing house of Assouline has served as what’s appropriately been called a “librarian of luxury”. Although starting out with compact, hand-size volumes devoted to famous names in fashion and luxury goods that sold for a mere handful of dollars, the company quickly moved on to specialise in huge, lavishly photographed, printed and bound tomes that could cost upwards of four or, in the case of limited editions, even five figures.
Still a family business today, the company was founded in Paris basement by a couple with extensive experience in the luxury ecosystem: Prosper Assouline headworker in an advertising agency, while his wife Martine had served as head of communications for the house of Rochas. So it was perhaps inevitable that when they began their own publishing venture they didn’t stray too far from terra cognita, with a catalogue of beautiful books devoted to the grand maisons of French fashion and luxury, names such as Cartier, Chanel and Dior — one that’s expanded in magnitude along with the physical dimensions of the publications themselves.
In addition to fashion and luxury — subjects with which the company has served as several brands’ semi-official biographer — Assouline explores other subjects likely to be of interest to a readership that is by definition affluent and globally aware. Art, design, architecture, automobiles and high society naturally figure prominently, but at the other end of the scale the publishing house is perfectly happy to engage with elements of culture that are less obviously elevated. So far it’s produced five monumental collaborations with Coca-Cola, while a 2008 enquiry from the toymaker Mattel resulted in a pair of equally enormous publication, one devoted to the Barbie Doll and the other to Hot Wheels.