Celebrities such as Madonna, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry have been photographed wearing Jean-Charles de Castelbajac’s often-irreverent designs, which include dresses emblazoned with Barack Obama’s visage and coats made of sewn-together blankets, teddy bears and plush Kermit the Frog toys. “My style is composed of a huge energy of curiosity,” he explains.
Currently the artistic director of the United Colors of Benetton men’s and women’s collection, de Castelbajac, who is affectionately known as JC/DC, also lends his creative vision to a wide array of products from skateboards to automobiles, home furnishings and fine art – all distinguished by the primary colors he so adores. “We are in a world where everything is possible,” he states, noting the line between fashion, art and home design has evaporated. “I surf on the wave of all the generations.”
De Castelbajac conjures many of his creations at home, which he shares with his wife, Pauline de Drouas, and their nearly three-year-old daughter. For the past few years, they have resided in a spacious, light-filled apartment in a 19th-century building in Paris’ 17th arrondissement – his 23rd home in the city. “Each apartment was like the scene of a new theater,” he confesses. “A sentimental shelter.”
The self-described nomad was instantly drawn to the third-floor unit’s high ceilings and windows that face every direction, admitting natural daylight that changes throughout the day. Equally important, “There are no ghosts,” he notes. “In Paris, the vibration of the past is powerful, but this place is free and totally inspiring, a good place for creativity.”
Rendered in white walls, the space is a gallery-like backdrop for his own creations alongside art and design by luminaries such as Diane Arbus, David Shrigley and August Sander. “It’s an emotional crossroads,” he explains. “To create, I need to be surrounded by the vibration of the emulation of the experience that I had before.”
Indeed, since he exploded into the cultural zeitgeist in the 1970s, the iconic French nobleman, fashion designer and artist has collaborated with a veritable Who’s Who of renowned artists, including provocateurs like Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Robert Mapplethorpe. “I love to work with people who have a different vision from mine, because it’s a way of bringing danger and excitement into creativity,” he describes.
De Castelbajac designed not only the multicolored, striped area rug but also the bold-hued pillows on the mismatched sofas – just a few of his many creations throughout. “Most of the apartment is a manifesto,” he admits. “A mirror.”
While he has always maintained a presence in Paris, he’s pondering a change of scenery for his next home, envisioning a more spacious abode and separate artist factory in the suburbs, a sort of retreat for his family and friends to gather at and play. “The secret to never getting old is to have fun,” he states. “That’s why my life is vibrant.”
Photography by Mark C. O’Flaherty.
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