Last week, I, along with a handful of other European bloggers, was invited to go to Paris to meet the legendary Jean-Charles de Castelbajac in his headquarters (behind the JCDC shop) to talk about the collaboration with Kipling, have lunch and a little nose around his incredible archive of 40 years.
Jean-Charles, or JCDC as we’ll call him (it’s easier), welcomed us into his showroom and spoke to us briefly about the collaboration with Kipling, before we each had a chance to talk to him privately. Myself and fellow Belgian Tiany of Belmodo.tv grabbed him for a lengthy chat about dressing the Pope: “I didn’t change my style because it was the Pope. I dressed him a rainbow, which is also the gay symbol. But the pope didn’t mind, he said, Jean-Charles, there is no copyright on the rainbow! It was the first time in my career my deeply religious family approved of what I did.” About dressing pop stars like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga: “I don’t call them, they call me.” He prefers dressing underground artists like M.I.A. and Crystal Castles “You know them? They’re awesome.”
He might be in his Sixties, but JCDC is possibly one of the youngest designers I’ve ever met. His designs, obviously, but also his attitude towards blogging and social media is quite unique and refreshing. “When I worked with Andy (Warhol), we always wanted to bring art and fashion to the general public. Now with the internet for the first time we can really do that. Yesterday I got a tweet from someone in Mexico who got my Mickey Mouse shoes, that’s amazing.” He personally responds to his twitter and facebook accounts and thinks bloggers are the future of journalism, because they can bring a personal point of view back to the consumers (hurrah! he gets it!).
About the collaboration with Kipling, he is obviously very excited. I was told he was given carte blanche to design whatever he wanted – and couldn’t be stopped. In fact, the first bag was sketched on the spot at the first meeting – it wasn’t changed at all. The brand perfectly fits in with his colourful ethos, and he’s thrilled to be able to bring his designs to a much larger audience, at affordable prices. Seeing the bags presented on his own collection makes it all click – this is a completely natural collaboration. He had fun playing with the iconic monkey, designing a space traveler version (“it stands for Utopia, when I grew up, everything was possible, we traveled to the moon, the world had no limits”) to dissecting it to a skeleton (“sadly, your generation lives in Distopia, where not much is left to dream for. So I turned the monkey into a skeleton.”).
JCDC is possibly the most genuine designer I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and I could have probably chatted with him for the rest of the afternoon, but he had to dash off to go and attend the wedding of Mark Ronson and Josephine de la Baume (as you do…). We were left to explore the incredible archive in the basement, which holds 40 years of JCDC’s work. It’s a real maze packed with the entire history of one of the most unlikely successful designers of our time. To say it was a career highlight would be an understatement.
Once we’d dragged ourselves away from the colourful madness of the archive, we got to have our nails done by the über-talented Sophie Harris-Greenslade of The Illustrated Nail, who had created some incredible Kipling x JCDC designs for the occasion – all the girls went crazy over them, even Mr. de Castelbajac was gobsmacked to see some of his intricate designs turned into nails. Keep your eye out for Sophie, she’ll be everywhere soon!
It was an absolutely amazing day, an honour to have met the man and so many talented bloggers. Thanks Team Kipling, Team JCDC, Sophie and Surgery PR for making it happen!