LONDON — "It's like a UFO on Conduit Street," said Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, surveying the interior of his newly minted 2,550-square-foot store located just around the corner from storied Savile Row.
The two-story boutique certainly stands out from most of the buildings on the street, with the designer's name spelled out in red, blue and green plastic letters above the store's windows. The space boasts stark white walls and pale wood floors, all punctuated with the designer's witty touches. The cash desk, for example, is a block of flashing lights resembling a disco's dance floor, while the designer has scrawled cartoons depicting his life story over the surface of one wall and fashioned a chandelier from strips of fluorescent red and green lights. The store stands near Burberry, Church's and Vivienne Westwood.
The shop will carry de Castelbajac's entire offering, from his mainline ready-to-wear collection to his denim line with Lee Cooper, called JCDC, as well as quirky products such as wallpaper printed with receipts and china cups and plates bearing images of Oscar Wilde and Arthur Rimbaud. Prices range from about 11 pounds, or $21 at current exchange, for a china cup, to 1,700 pounds, or $3,480, for a sequined minidress.
"The place should be like me, I'm a very open person," said de Castelbajac. In keeping with the designer's aim to create a store that appeals to all, de Castelbajac even sells a collection of notepads on the cash desk, which customers can pick up for about 2 pounds, or $4. "I want many students to come in," he said. "Since the V&A [Victoria & Albert Museum, which hosted an exhibition of his designs in 2006], kids have rediscovered my work."
De Castelbajac reeled off a long list of edgy musicians he's currently dressing, including Santogold, M.I.A, Crystal Castles and Rufus Wainwright. The designer has even penned a song, called "The Ballad of Jane and Serge," which Wainwright will sing with de Castelbajac's wife, Mareva. The record will be released later this year. Many of his musical friends are set to attend a party tonight, to celebrate the store's opening."I'd wanted to open a store in London since I saw Westwood's store with the huge clock," said de Castelbajac, referring to Vivienne Westwood's World's End shop on the King's Road. "I want this store to be a signal, too." To wit, the cash desk will flash its multicolored lights throughout the day so it acts like a beacon, visible all along the street.
The London store is the designer's sixth stand-alone unit worldwide. Other locations include Paris; Seoul; Kobe, Japan, and Moscow. De Castelbajac, whose business is wholly owned by London-based Marchpole Holdings plc, with de Castelbajac as artistic director, also has a store opening planned for New York, though he said no date or location has been set.
While he declined to reveal sales predictions for the store, the erudite designer was upbeat on the boutique's prospects. "As Dickens said, we have great expectations," he said.
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