Appearances are misleading: what might look like a simple ice-cream van on a first sight, could turn out to be a completely different thing. In Paris, when a retro dark green Renault Estafette suddenly pops up, you’ll be right in front of Oschon and Simon’s screen printing studio on wheels: Print Van Paris. The business idea behind is to let consumers get their hands dirty while printing their own customized t-shirts as well as posters and tote bags, getting to choose among a selection of limited edition designs by international illustrators. These French graphic design graduates started the project in the summer of 2014, and since then they’ve been constantly picking up different spots in Paris, where they park their mobile studio and let curious pedestrians get in touch with the screen printing technique, mostly at the weekends. Here, Oschon explains his passion about screen printing and the ins and outs of having a business on wheels. Interview by Lorenzo Molina

How did you come up with the concept of Print Van Paris?
I discovered the medium of screen printing, and really enjoyed the process of choosing your paper, carefully mixing the inks considering the layout, effect and feasibility of the print. After graduating I worked at Print Club London, a great screen printing studio. We did a lot of workshops where I saw how much people enjoyed discovering the process and then the happy faces when they lifted the screen to reveal their first print. Besides that I always loved ice cream vans and was fascinated with the happy bright colours and the simple but functional working space. Ice-cream vans are a memory many have from the childhood and it’s linked with a fun summer experience.

Essentially I wanted people not just to consume a product but to actively get involved in the curation and production of it which I believe gives the product a lot more meaning. In Paris I was fortunate enough to get support from L'imprimerie du Marais who loved the project and through that I met Simon and together we are the Print Van team.

Simon: Oschon came to the Imprimerie du Marais where I am working as a screen printer. Oschon's idea was so nice and simple that I wanted to be part of the project.

A young women getting her hands dirty at Print Van Paris (Photo: Youssouf Fofana)
A young women getting her hands dirty at Print Van Paris (Photo: Youssouf Fofana)

What advantages and disadvantages brings a business on wheels?
Essentially it is a very simplified workshop. But it works great, actually a lot easier than we anticipated. We limit ourselves to one colour prints and of course there are size and production restrictions. What we love about the Print Van is that it’s really a product of the streets. From printing to washing the screens on the pavement. The only slight disadvantage is that the van is an old grumpy lady who needs a lot of love. We have had a few pulse racing moments when the van just decided to stop running on busy boulevards.  Life of a Paris street printer...
It's small but cosy. It's some kind of a feeling of freedom. We can stop and in minutes we are ready to print wherever we want, with a little bit of electricity for our music and lighting.

How often are you open? How do you decide on the upcoming point of sale?
Both Simon and I work full time so the Print Van is a part time project. We try to focus on events during the weekend and evening events during the week. We are very flexible and plan our events with little time ahead.

Print Van Paris - t-shirts range
Print Van Paris - t-shirts range

You collaborate with various European artists in order to design new prints. How do you select them?
The overall message we want to bring to our customers is fun positive vibes and I feel like all our designs reflect that. As well as being great standalone illustrations. We are very fortunate with our starting line-up of great illustrations and we hope to continue in that way. Most artists we collaborated with are contacted by us, either through our extended network, artists we admire or people that we find by research. Besides we also propose designs we made ourselves which works well.

Which kind of consumers are you trying to reach?
The Print Van Paris is a platform for collaborations. We are open to anybody who is willing to get inky hands and have a go at screen printing. As we are based on the streets of Paris our customers vary a lot but they all are open and curious to new ideas which are great fun.

Print Van Paris runs an Instagram, Facebook and Twitter account. How do social networks help you to push forward your business?
The rise and importance of social media is incredible. We mostly focus on Instagram and Facebook with both very different audiences and interactions. On Facebook we are able to collect all different streams of the project on one page (events, upcoming events, projects we are involved in and highlighting new products). On Instgram we put more effort in the artistic side of the image. We treat Instagram as our visual diary and also seem to have more interaction with our followers through Instagram than on Facebook.

Clients can use artworks from international illustrators as a print
Clients can use artworks from international illustrators as a print

What are your plans for the future?
So far we have grown very gradually continually improving little by little. We would like to continue in that way but also open up the van to more B2B events with fun inspiring brands. We are also looking into pushing the concept of mobile printing and are looking to expand offering other techniques than screen printing.

What do you like about your city, Paris?
Paris is such a great city: the architecture, the attention to detail, the wide range of unique shops. After having lived in London for ten years, I am enjoying every second in Paris!

Stay tuned about the next location of Print Van Paris via its Facebook page!