Carole Le Bris Perez & Enoc Perez
What’s it like to be part of a modern-day New York “art couple?” It’s hard enough to make a marriage work among regular folks — what happens when it’s a union between two creative types in different but related fields? To find out the answer to this burning question, I interviewed boutique owner/ jewelry designer Carole Le Bris Perez and her husband, renowned multidisciplinary artist Enoc Perez. This name rang a fashion bell for me. (More on that later).
Carole & Enoc Perez in Studio
After a visit to Enoc’s studio to view his work, it became clear that this couple works symbiotically – constructively influencing each other in a highly productive way. Traditionally the woman is the muse, but while Carole and Enoc may share influences, including modernist architecture and pop culture, and while she is the subject of several of his portraits, they are each other’s muse.
This reminds me of the recent Amazon Prime series based on the novel “Daisy Jones and The Six.” In an early episode, Daisy (Riley Keough) is told by a musician boyfriend that she could be his muse. “I’m not the muse! I’m the somebody!” she declares as she storms out of the restaurant. Carole and Enoc are both the “somebody.”
Carole Le Bris Perez Press Kit
I have known Carole for several years through her Parisian concept boutique OUI!, which she recently closed after a successful five-year run. She will continue to showcase her whimsical artist-inspired Warhol flower rings, Frida Kahlo sugar skulls, Jean-Michel Basquiat crowns, Niki de Saint Phalle whimsical rings, and bracelets, plus so many other uniquely appealing items, including good luck talismans of French and Roman coins, tigers for strength, tarot cards – from her handmade fine gold and gemstone line as well as her gold dipped brass more affordable collection to be featured on Instagram.
Carole Le Bris Perez Earrings
Carole’s designs have appeared in Elle, W, Harper’s Bazaar, The New York Times, and Vogue and are sold on Moda Operandi. Her jewelry has been worn on the red carpet by Emma Stone, Mandy Moore, Jaime King, Allison Janney, and others.
There’s a whole legion of sad Upper East Side women who will miss this tiny, cluttered, eclectic store which became a hangout — “like a confessional,” as husband Enoc terms it. Walking in and seeing Carole and her adorable dog Charlie was always fun to make any day more enjoyable.
I have bought countless espadrilles and other shoes and slippers, sweaters, jackets, hats, belts, bracelets, necklaces, and a panoply of clip earrings – as a non-piercer, I find I can never have too many– thanks to Carole’s selective and persuasive powers.
Her personal style – a cross between fellow French women Coco Chanel and Isabel Marant with some boho/music festival/St. Tropez vibes thrown into the mix. “She puts all kinds of crazy things together, something more expensive with Steve Madden boots, and somehow it works,” remarks Enoc.
I am always looking for an opportunity to employ my rusty French (often via text message so that my spectacularly bad accent is not apparent), particularly with someone whose joie de vivre and cool French woman style emanates from her being.
Carole Le Bris Perez Jewelry
She is a walking advertisement for her jewelry – multiple chains and gold pendants, which she never takes off, and an entire arm party of bracelets and rings, are part and parcel of her image.
Carole first came to New York to escape her fate as “the daughter of” a well-known mother in the political realm. She was expected to follow in her mother’s footsteps, but the fearless woman she is chose a different path. Influenced by the chests of costume jewelry owned by her grandma, Carole began making her own bijoux out of whatever materials she could come by, including white metals and brass. Everyone clamored for her designs when she showed them at a Rue Watt street fair while studying advertising and sociology.
“I moved to New York with a boyfriend and started to make my way here,” she said. She dumped the boyfriend shortly after and eventually a former husband once she met Enoc in 2001. While trying on some Repetto shoes, she met Calypso owner Christiane Celle (now the owner of Clic), who told her to stop by her store. This chance encounter propelled her “fun” jewelry onto her retail shop and into the higher-end metal of gold.
“I had two downtown stores, the latest one in Nolita on Elizabeth Street with a beautiful green floor still there!” She closed “La Petite Princesse” once the couple’s older son was born but continued selling jewelry at galas—“women were buying the rings right off my fingers,” she remarked — or commissioning jewelry from her.
While Enoc works strictly in his massive Long Island City studio, Carole has a small studio in her apartment, but she’s just as likely to work on the dining room table or in bed. “There’s wax everywhere,” laughs Enoc. I had the special treat of recently touring his studio – seeing how he works was fascinating.
First, he will find an image he likes – often of an old iconic building or resort from his native Puerto Rico. (One such image of the Normandie Hotel is important to the couple. It was built by a Puerto Rican architect as a love letter to his French starlet wife and therefore holds a similar meaning).
Andy Warhol’s Studio Painting by Enoc Perez
Then he enlarges the projected image onto his canvas, sometimes garnered from his vast on-site library or from his collection of vintage Caribbean architecture postcards. Using paper as a transfer with oil sticks, he traces the image with a number two pencil, picking up the blotted color from the paper. There are no brushstrokes, yet it produces a rich textural effect after he layers multiple colors onto the paper or canvas.
Loulou de la Falaise Portrait by Enoc Perez
After leaving San Juan, Enoc studied painting as a young artist at Pratt, earning a BFA and an MFA at Hunter College. He is influenced by many of the same pop culture influences as Carole, including Andy Warhol, Rauschenberger, Jeff Koons, and Richard Prince, to name a few. I was amazed that he’s also a sculptor with unusual materials (he collects vintage swizzle sticks from disparate locales, including the 1964 World’s Fair, where he plaster casts and bronzes) and a chair maker!
Pointing to a piece depicting the Dorado Beach Hotel in PR, he remarks that it’s a “tax haven for billionaires… I do these paintings to recapture my own memories. They are promises – sometimes unfulfilled, but they seduce others. At the same time, they are real. I’m trying to claim a time I didn’t live in, and it’s a nostalgic or romantic sense of wonder. A lot of good things happened there.”
Bacardi Ad Go Bananas by Enoc Perez
Since quitting drinking 15 years ago, Enoc has become enthralled with painting the 1973 Bacardi ads. I suggest that the Bacardi bottles are his answer to Warhol’s Campbell’s soup can. “Whether its landscapes, still life, or portraits, there’s a line between kitsch and good taste,” he remarks. “It’s romantic and tacky simultaneously, but I love it. Jeff Koons uses children’s toys and a new vacuum cleaner, so why not?”
J. Mendel Spring 2015 Vogue dress inspired by Enoc’s artwork – Photo courtesy of CNPMONTROSE
As for the promised fashion connection – I knew I had heard Perez’s name in connection with a fashion line but had forgotten that it was Gilles Mendel’s 2015 spring collection. Mendel used Enoc’s abstract architecture paintings as a print on his dress fabric to striking effect. A Fendi Baguette and Manolo Blahnik shoes also got his artistic treatment and became part of a highly coveted limited edition.
A few months ago, Enoc’s paintings of police cars on fire during the pandemic BLM riots led to a collaboration with Supreme, who used one of his particularly incendiary photos as sweatshirt imagery.
Enoc Perez & Supreme New York Collaboration
I remember one day last fall, walking down the street near Carole’s store and seeing a guy wearing one of these sweatshirts – wearable art coming full circle. When I asked Enoc why he painted this series, he said that this is what you see everywhere on TV. Interesting that as well as elevating the past with nostalgia, his art can also reflect the chaos and turmoil of the current moment.
Gilles Mendel and Enoc Perez – Photo by Biel Parklee
Enoc work is exhibited at the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington, DC, the Whitney Museum of American Art, NYC, and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. He has been featured in solo and group exhibitions featuring themes such as crying celebrity women (at NSU Fort Lauderdale) or abstract renderings of famous interiors at Gavlak in Palm Beach.
J. Mendel Bag using Enoc artwork – Photo courtesy of Brand
Closer to home their home in midtown Manhattan, Enoc and Carole have a residence in that “little artist colony” known as East Hampton, which they bought years ago. They knew it was fate after spotting one of Enoc’s books of paintings in the bathroom!
As far as sharing artistic influences, the couple is unafraid to voice their opinions on the other’s work. “When I first met Enoc, he was painting very monochromatically. I encouraged him to use more color,” Carole said.
“I told Carole to think bigger in scale and materials by using gold. What you put in your work is what you see in yourself – your respect for yourself can be seen in your work. At the same time, you’re always judged against your own work and trying to top yourself. The question is always, how do you top yourself?”
Unlike other artists who have a motif, such as Picasso’s blue period, never to return to it, Enoc puts things away and comes back. Sometimes he feels the time is not quite right for a particular theme or study, so he stores it away and “thinks about it.”
For her next act, Carole will try to top herself by using Instagram to promote her jewelry and share some thoughts on fashion, styling, and aging. “Why should you become invisible just because you’re over 50?” says the mother of two who loves attending Harry Styles concerts with her sons. Somehow I would not be surprised if she takes another foray into retail after a breather. Stay tuned at @ouiboutiqueny, @carolelebrisperez, or on her website carolelebrisperez.com.
And try and top these summer plans! The couple and their boys will spend the month of June in Paris, Toulouse, and St.Tropez while Enoc is the artist-in-residence at Comite Des Galeries d’Art. Doriano Navarra’s fantastic gallery and property in Le Muy, France, features several houses designed by noted architect Jean Prouve so everyone gets their own space, or they can take a refreshing dip in the dramatic cliffside swimming pool.
The gallery and environs were built by Doriano’s father, Enrico, a big promoter of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Naturally, the Perez’s feel quite at home here.
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