Exploring the designer’s career as he launches his OnePlus collab.
Jean-Charles de Castelbajac has built a career on championing the unconventional. With iconic fashion creations like the Teddy Bear Coat, Castelbajac has found fans in the likes of Lady Gaga, Jay-Z and Kanye. He even was hand-picked by the Pope (yes, for reals) to dress 5,000 priests, 500 bishops and the Pope himself for a trip to Paris back in the 90s.
Now bending his creative brainwaves toward a more artistic direction, his latest work is a collaboration with phone brand OnePlus. Aptly named Callection, the collaboration includes a limited edition design of the company’s flagship phone, the OnePlus 5 JCC+, as well as a phone holster, tees and other apparel.
Carl Pei, co-founder and OnePlus’s Head of Global, tells us that Castelbajac was the perfect choice for the collab as he is the “king of unconventional, a concept that fits really well with our Never Settle philosophy to keep challenging the status quo.” On what makes the collaboration so exciting, he says: “the idea that the phone is a creative machine. Today we no longer need to fight with guns or tanks, but rather with our brainpower and creativity. And the phone is the arena.”
With the phone is set to launch asap, we sat down with the designer-turned-artist to talk collaborations and his endless list of upcoming projects.
What initially attracted you to collaborating with OnePlus?
Well, you know, I’m always very, very attracted to new technology, and new ways of communication. And when I got in contact with OnePlus, I liked the idea of creating and collaborating on a tool that would not just be a phone, but a creative machine. I realised that me, as a designer, I use more my phone as a creative machine as a telephone, I doodle with my phone, I take pictures with my phone, I keep memories in my phone, I do special effects with my phone, so, this was the idea.
And why do you think OnePlus chose you?
I’m always looking ahead and never looking back, and maybe it’s because I have had such a particularly life of collaboration with artists and performers. And I always like the idea of collaboration, like taking danger, you know, put myself in danger and creating something fresh and new. I am not [a] conventional designer, I’m not just doing fashion, I’m an artist, maybe, I love music… Voila!
How did you infuse your own design aesthetic into the collaboration?
You know, mainly it was how to live with the telephone. I have looked into the technology, I have looked into the aesthetic, but I have also looked at how to behave with those mobiles. And also, I always find a big problem is the way to carry your mobile. You have it in the pocket, it’s heavy, you have it in the pocket near your heart, it’s supposed to be a radiant. So, I think about the concept, about how to carry with a holster, you know? And I designed a special outfit that you can carry under your jacket and you can use your phone as a very peaceful communication weapon.
Let’s talk about your relationship with fashion. Who would you say has been the most exciting, iconic person that you have worked with?
The main adventure has been with my friend Malcom McLaren, you know? Because also with Malcom, I have [worked with] the New York Dolls, the Sex Pistols and also the hip-hop thing. But mainly the most big pleasure I had was to work with all the hip-hop and rap artists in my life. Because I work with LL Cool J, I work with Kanye, I work with Jay Z, and they were all fans of my cartoons and iconic sweaters, you know? And I have been very happy to have been working on fifth dimensional, like the street, the street dimension. I was very happy I did things for Beyoncé and things like that. But honestly, you know, all this has been very, very exciting – and very unusual, because I was not a big fan of hip-hop at the origin. I was a big fan of electro and Kraftwerk and things like that.
Looking back on your design archive, what would you say has been your favourite work?
Oh, maybe I will say the one I tried to find, you know, when I dressed the Pope John Paul II. Suddenly I understand how much colour is the weapon of the future. Today, you know, colour is such a strong, strong, weapon of unity, but 30 years ago when I was doing the strong colour, they were looked at as vulgar or something like that. But now it has invaded all the luxury, in everything, and they are in every place of the society. So colour, colour as a statement of hope.
Your designs are obviously quite fun and they reference a lot of key art influences, as well as being quite unconventional. As we’re half way through fashion month, what are your thoughts on what you’ve seen so far, and do you think that fashion has become a bit too serious?
No, you know, we have a good warrior in fashion, like, Balenciaga, like J.W. Anderson, we still have a good fighter, a good warrior of creativity, but the system has become so fast, that certainly it’s more difficult for style than it was. It’s just about consuming fashion, and I don’t believe in fashion, I believe in style. I believe in style because when I do like a Snoopy sweater in ’82 [it] is still cool today, you know? And it’s about that, you want some anti-fashion today, and you want to build something on that, which is like more about like sharp style.
Finally, post-OnePlus, what other projects have you got coming up?
Well, I’m publishing with the national library press a big book about the secret of heraldic. It’s not about floral, or about cashmere design, or about trendy design, it’s about, you know, like a new-age medieval. I work on that with a big specialist of colour in France. [I] just finished also 20 drawings, 10 drawings for Cartier, and I’m doing a car with Citroen very soon. A great, great, car. Very Back to the Future, very, very complimentary to the style aesthetic that I am developing. And then I am now two years the director of Le Coq Sportif, and we have developed a stunning, iconic sweatshirt with three hoods!