ANTONY VILLAIN

The self-taught

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Drawing is well and truly a gift and Antony Villain is the living proof of it. The director of design of Alpine is, to tell the truth, passionate about drawing and about automobile. But he has never studied the automotive design. While very young, he began to make models and to send his drawings until the day when he met Michel Jardin, who was a director of the advanced design of Renault. It’s thanks to this man that he was able to join Renault, when he obtained his diploma of the graduate school of Arts and crafts. Since then, Antony Villain showed his ability and climbed up the ladder, to take the lead today of Alpine and to offer a second youth to the brand. Meeting with a talented and passionate young man.

How did your passion for the automobile start?

My first passion is unquestionably drawing, but I was also a fan of all mobile machines, whether they are automobiles, planes, boats or motorcycles. My father was a real enthusiast and I remember perfectly when we went to "the Golden age", on the circuit of Monthléry for the automobile or to the meeting of La Ferté-Alais for planes. Thus it is not surprising to become a designer in such an environment!

You are also a true passionate of car-racing. What discipline do you prefer?

My first passion is unquestionably drawing, but I was also a fan of all mobile
machines, whether they are automobiles, planes, boats or motorcycles. My
father was a real enthusiast and I remember perfectly when we went to "the
Golden age", on the circuit of Monthléry for the automobile or to the meeting of
La Ferté-Alais for planes. Thus it is not surprising to become a designer in such
an environment!

You are also a true passionate of car-racing. What discipline do you prefer?

To tell the truth, car-racing is a more recent passion. I like in particular sports
cars of the Fifties, up to the Seventies. It was an incredible time and all these
machines were really magnificent. That I like above all in the sport automobile
is the human adventure. There are so many incredible stories, exploits and
legends around the pilots and the mechanics, it’s absolutely fascinating! As a
result, the discipline which I prefer, quite naturally, is endurance. 24 Hours of
Le Mans remain a mythical race, in the course of which the amateurs can go
alongside pros, the mechanics are as important as the pilots, everything can
happen in the last minutes (as in 2016!). It is all these elements which make the
charm of this race and one must admit that this is rather rare in sport today!

You would have preferred to be a pilot,, rather than a designer?

Certainly not! Besides, I do not hide to you that I am very lousy pilot! I really
wish to progress and drive more, but clearly, my original passion is drawing.

Moreover, how did you choose to study the automobile design?

I did not exactly study the automobile design. I draw cars since I was 12 years
old and I have never stopped since. When I was 14, I made models in plaster, in
the garage of the house. I drew all the time. I sent my drawings almost
everywhere, to have notices (there was no Internet at that time!) and I was lucky

enough to get the opportunity to meet Michel Jardin, who was a director of the
advanced design of Renault at that time. He "coached" me, when I was 16 or 17
years old. I studied in parallel to become an engineer of Arts and crafts and
when I started looking for a job, Michel told me "You got one". Thus I learnt
hands-on, at Renault. It was my kid's dream which became reality, thanks to
Michel.

Directly from school, you joined Renault. Tell us about your debuts.

I thus began directly at Renault, without previous training. I learned on the job.
Around me, there was some of the best designers of that time, as Benoît Jacob,
Stéphane Janin. It was very stimulating and I learned a lot through their contact.
I started first drawing race cars single-seaters at the Prospective and Concept-
Car Studio. This passage helped me a lot to perfect my training. I had the
opportunity to work on very different projects and I must say that to participate
in the exploratory studies was a real peace of luck for me. It is really the dream
of very young designer. I had thus drawn single-seaters for Renault Sport
(FR2000, FRV6, World Series Renault), but also concepts-cars. I drew the
outside of the Bebop SUV concept 2003 and two years later, I worked on the
ZOE concept.

After all these years within the Group, what projects were the most
interesting to develop for you?

I admit that I have never had time to get bored during these 18 years with
Renault. The most interesting projects and also those of whom I am most proud
are the most recent. It also corresponds to those realized under the Van den
Acker’s era:
Clio: it was the revival of Renault, a project of a major importance for the
company. A great project and I am very satisfied to see that sales are always a
hit, so much since 2012! I always find it very beautiful, it does not go out of
fashion.
Captur: a top team, a very nice project to be made and a car for which nobody
waited in the box, a big commercial success also in the end.
Alpine Vision GranTurismo: a pure pleasure, the spontaneous, rewarding project
and the beautiful meeting with the team of Polyphony.
And of course A110 2017 (and its showcars, Vision and celebration). For us, it
is much more than a project, it is a tremendous adventure!

What was your feeling when you have been named Director of design of
Alpine?

A lot of enjoyment … but also of pressure, to be sincere! The expectation was
very strong. A lot of motivation was also needed, because it was not only
necessary to draw the car, but also to develop all the universe of the brand, from
the racing field to the digital display, via showrooms and by-products. That's
what I love in this job.

What does this brand mean to you?

A myth, a piece of French heritage, the men and the women who knew how to
exceed all the expectations, a unique prize list in the whole world. Just by
passion! To launch the project, I took all my team for a visit to Jean-Charles
Rédélé, the son of Jean Rédélé, creator of the brand. One can see there all of
most beautiful models of all times. It’s a really magic and historic place. We
drew, photographed, touched, inhaled the smell of all these cars, to get soaked
with the soul of this unique brand. It was a strong, founding and unforgettable
moment!

What is your biggest challenge with Alpine?

Convince, persevere, create permanently the conditions to move on to the
next stage. It is the constraint in this kind of adventures. Nobody needs a
small coupé with 2 seats and a back engine! As I always say: if it was that
easy, all brands in the world would have their small sports coupé in the
street! That’s where we stand, today!

What are your future projects within the brand?

There are many ideas, but today, the basic condition is, naturally, the success of
this A110, new generation!

What place does take car-racing in the history of Alpine? What can you tell
us on this matter?

The sport was always in the DNA of the brand. It is one of the rare brands in the
world which was created by and for competition. That's why we decided to
embark since 2013, into endurance. It is before anything else the winning spirit
which motivated us, as well as the human adventure in itself. We did not have a
dedicated car yet, but we nourish permanently ourselves on this experience. It is

our ability to surpass ourselves which drives us and since 2013. We have been
twice European champions LMP2 in ELMS, we won the 24 hours of Le Mans in
LMP2 in 2016 and we are world champions LMP2 in WEC. What more than
that?

Shall we see you at the steering wheel during a car race?

Not for the moment! But I will strive to progress at the wheel of our A110.

Beside the automobile, do you have time for other passions in life?

I have many and I am a very curious person. So I discover new passions every
day.
I have a big passion for photography, especially photos of cars. I thus mix my
passions and my work! I have a blog since a decade which I feed regularly and
on Facebook, I get a lot of satisfaction from it.
I also have a passion since I was very young for skateboard and surfing. I try to
practice regularly, even if for surfing, it’s a bit more complicated!
And a passion for journeys, the discovery of others, cultures, the beauty of our
planet …

Gerry McGovern Gentlemen Drivers Magazine

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