When watching a cheeky ad for “Jacquemousse” or a short video for Versace in which a group of real-life cheerleaders perform stunts in uniforms by the Italian label, you’re not likely to stop and wonder who created such clever concepts. Your focus is on the storytelling. And for Kevin Tekinel and Charles Levai, that’s exactly the point. In the nearly three years since the close friends and creative directors launched their Paris-based agency Maybe, the duo has been quietly shaping the luxury branding landscape with memorable campaigns for some of the most esteemed fashion houses including The Row, Proenza Schouler, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Coperni, Miu Miu, Gucci, and many more.
With such a wide range of clientele their approach to projects is never one-size-fits-all. “It's always a huge collaboration,” Tekinel says. “I think what's really important is accepting that we're never doing it for ourselves necessarily. We're doing it for the common goal to help a brand or to help a magazine or whatever.”
Levai and Tekinel have been working closely together since serving as creative directors at L’Uomo Vogue, but they arrived at the profession via different paths. Tekinel, who studied film in college, was inspired to turn his talents to fashion after working as a production assistant on the set of The Devil Wears Prada. He would later go on to become the Chief Creative Officer of Giovanni Bianco’s Studio 65 in New York. Meanwhile, Levai spent years working with Thomas Lenthal, the founding art director of System magazine.
During their years of experience they would develop a multidisciplinary approach to branding that would prove to be highly advantageous upon Maybe’s 2019 debut. “It was COVID and a lot of brands reached out to us because we were able to create some content for them without actually shooting stuff,” Tekinel says of their first year. “We were just using archival things or creating 3D and animated content, so it was interesting to find new ways to produce images without shooting.”
As for how they arrived at Maybe for the agency’s name, “It’s a word we use a lot when preparing a shoot or coming up with ideas,” Levai says. “And then we questioned why we were using it. It could be perceived as something that's indifferent, but we were seeing it as a word for possibility. We like the idea that everything is possible at first and it's never a no. It’s the start of a conversation.”
In the past, Tekinel has described the work of creative direction as being somewhat like that of what’s depicted in Mad Men—albeit Maybe is a much, much smaller operation than Sterling Cooper. Still, with some of the most famous luxury clients in the world, Tekinel and Levai represent a new generation of creative executives who are driving this decade’s branding aesthetics. Here, just in time for Paris couture week beginning July 4th, they share their guide to seeking inspiration in the City of Light.
If you get sick of the french bistro vibe, try the new seafood restaurant Le Collier de la Reine (57 Rue Charlot) in the Marais, which has a 90s New York feeling.
Parcelles (13 rue Chapon) has amazing food and wine on a calm street in the Marais.
Le Cherche Midi (22 rue du Cherche Midi) is a Parisian institution between Saint-Germain-des-Pres and Le Bon Marche with great Italian food.
For a nice break during hot June days, we rely on Mary Gelateria for artisanal ice cream.
Vantre (19 rue de la Fontaine au Roi) is next to our office and our go-to place for a quick and delicious lunch.
If you are looking for the new La Perle or the new Saint-Gervais, try Chez Francis (35 Rue Saint -Sauveur) for casual drinks.
Sauvages (58 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau) is a fun little club open until late.
Le Colonia (18 rue de Beaujolais) is a hidden bar that requires a code to enter.
Galleries and Museums
We love visiting the Fitzpatrick Gallery (123 Rue de Turenne) for the Louis Eisner show; the Sans Titre (2016) (33 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin) for the 96-year-old Italian artist Ezio Gribaudo’s show; Apartment-Atelier Le Corbusier (24 Rue Nungesser et Coli) where Le Corbusier used to live (it was renovated and reopened a couple of years ago); Institut Giacometti (5 Rue Victor Schoelcher) where they’ve recreated the Swiss sculptor’s studio and it’s really impressive; and our favorite museum in Paris, Musée Bourdelle (18 Rue Antoine Bourdelle), that feels frozen in time.
Studio W (21 Rue du Pont aux Choux) has a well-curated selection of 70s and 80s vintage designer looks for women.
Husbands (57 Rue de Richelieu) offers a great experience if you are looking for a custom-made suit.
Antirouille (2 Rue Gérando) has a great selection of vintage clothing from the 1900s to 1980s.
Chateau Voltaire (55 Rue Saint-Roch) is great for drinks at the bar as well as dinner.
Puces de Saint-Ouen is a great escape on a sunny day, with lunch next door at Bonne Aventure (59 Rue des Rosiers).