In love with Paris and with his head in the clouds, he is a creator that transforms sweater sleeves into parrots or sexy heels into innocent deer. Jean-Charles de Castelbajac naturally goes from a fashion show catwalk to an exhibition of contemporary art. A true Parisian who, when not imagining new collections, entertains himself drawing with chalk on the walls of Haussmann buildings to avoid damaging what he holds so dear. An interview with a dreamer, one of his muses being Paris.
What makes you a Parisian?
The fact that I come from the countryside, that I "went up to Paris" and I fell madly in love. We are all Parisians at heart, from the moment we dreamed of this city, the walls of Paris call for the gentleness of my palms, and with my left hand I draw evanescent faces in chalk. Paris inspires me: here I create; I invent the world of tomorrow, carried by the lights of my city. My inspiration always thrives on Paris, on its stories, on chance encounters between ghosts and the future, on my night strolls, on its so particular light.
What are your favorite places in Paris?
The markets, its living gardens in the heart of the capital, such as the ones on Rue Poncelet or Square Jacques Demy. Artist studios, such as Bourdelle’s, Brancusi’s, Gustave Moreau’s and Jean-Jacques Henner’s, or also the Camondo’s particular hotel, the center of a family’s touching story. Rue Saint Honoré, from Rue du Roule to the square of the Palais Royal, where History’s characters meet personal shoppers. I really love Place Dauphine, which surrealists have called “le sexe de Paris” (“the Vagina of Paris”).
A Parisian canteen?
“A Mi-Chemin”, where its cuisine tells a little of my story through the fusion of southern Mediterranean and French cuisines, and “Le LouLou”, in my opinion the most beautiful terrace in the world, whose logo I had the chance to design; not forgetting my favorite brasserie, the legendary Lipp, where I have been going since May of 1968 when I took refuge there.
Why do you tag in chalk? What does it mean for you to mark the walls of Paris?
I use chalk because it is ephemeral, even if sometimes it resists longer than other graffiti, it is a habit, like touching or caressing the skin of Paris, where I tattoo my emotions. It is a unique way to express my vision very softly, always with gentleness.
Jean Charles de Castelbajac and his pop-up store can be found at Lafayette Galleries; his work can also be appreciated in Benetton, where he has collaborated with Vilebrequin. He has just designed the uniforms for Paris airports, which can be seen starting in June at Roissy and Orly.