NEW YORK — “You will have to excuse me; I am a little bit dusty.”
That was how Lulu de Kwiatkowski opened an interview Monday, even though she looked anything but. In a fur vest, white blouse, multiple necklaces and jeans, the Los Angelean looked serene as can be despite a jam-packed week. In addition to packing up her longtime New York pad, she has to take care of three sons (all of whom are under the age of 3), a fabric and wallpaper business and Wednesday’s opening night party at Clic Gallery for an exhibition of her collages. While her design company, Lulu DK Fabrics, is New York-based and she is decorating a summer getaway in Southampton, de Kwiatkowski has settled in nicely to her West Coast life.
“I was a bit of an East Coast snob when I first moved out there but I have taken to it like a bee to honey,” she says. “I have to say in L.A., it is pretty fantastic to walk outside of my house and be on grass in the yard and go swimming.”
Wednesday’s gallery show will be a first for de Kwiatkowski, whose collages were initially published by Ammo Books in 2008. After a childhood spent in Manhattan and the Bahamas, she attended school in Switzerland before earning a fine arts degree at what would become Parsons the New School for Design. After graduation, she shipped off to Paris to study trompe l’oeil painting for five years. While abroad, she kept journals of her travels and adventures, some of which have worked their way into her kaleidoscopic collages. Entirely hand-painted, each creation hints at the different layers of her life — remnants of the past provide the base, with traces of the present resting on top and images of future pursuits painted on the top. Clips of handwritten love letters and cut-out childhood photographs of her five siblings are interspersed with vibrant drawings.
Here, de Kwiatkowski talks about her work, falling in love and needing a vacation.
WWD: Why did you want to do the book?
Lulu de Kwiatkowski: The concept was that it would be the trail of inspiration. It’s really a visual autobiography through collage. It is the highlights of my life —death, falling in love, family, travel — all those things that are most important.
WWD: How did you get started?
L.d.K.: I went to Southeast Asia. I felt like Southeast Asia was an old bottle of red wine to savor and drink. I thought I’d find my inspiration there — I didn’t. But I found it the day I got back through my jet lag. I was sitting on the floor of my New York apartment at 2 a.m. because I had gone to sleep at 5 p.m. I was sitting there in this beautiful peacefulness because it was rare to feel that I had the whole day in front of me. Usually we wake at 7 or 8 and rush off to work. I started reading old journals with love letters mixed in. My husband and I have been together for 21 years but at that time we were broken up and were at the most opposite parts of the world. All this creativity just came out. The work was very detailed and there was lots of imagery.
WWD: How long did it take?
L.d.K.: It looks like it took a long time but it only took three months. But I didn’t leave my kitchen floor for 14 hours a day, which seemed to get people a little concerned.
WWD: How did you decide what to draw from in your past?
L.d.K.: I pulled a lot from the journals I kept when I lived in Paris. I fell in love there. I am still with the same person I was with when I was 21. You know how they say you’re finding yourself at 21? I found everything then in Paris — I found my career, my husband, peace and creativity. School in Switzerland was not the best time of my life, but that was school.
WWD: Do you have a few favorite collages?
L.d.K.: There is one called “Bubble Bath: And Dreamy Things We See as Children.” The whole book is very much about children and there are images of family. My mother and my grandmother were models. “Unpasteurized Milk” has pin-up women with enormous boobs that seems to be one everyone loves.
WWD: How is it different than designing textiles?
L.d.K.: The beauty of doing collages is you are not feeling that you have to sell something. When you have a company, you have to hone yourself in a bit. With these collages, you could go crazy and let it all out.
WWD: How long did it take to make each collage:
L.d.K.: Some took a day or two. Others took four or five days.…My father had passed away and I felt as though he was sitting there with me painting and drawing. It was never a question in my mind. There were even moments when I thought, I don’t even paint that well.
WWD: Your father was a big breeder of thoroughbred horses. Do you ride?
L.d.K.: I used to, but I got thrown a few times. After that, I thought maybe not. My sister Arianna has a horse that might be in the Kentucky Derby. If he makes it, everyone [in my family] will go. My parents are gone so it’s nice that she has carried that on.
WWD: Do you have a few designers or artists who inspire you?
L.d.K.: I always say Mother Nature is my biggest inspiration. But I so inspired mostly by family members. Two of my brothers are artists and one of my sisters has a gallery. My mother was the coolest woman in the world. I also like a ton of people like Albert Hadley. I love the ones that hold onto the old and doesn’t mind a little bit of the rough and tear here and there, or the daisy from the past.
WWD: Do you have any new projects that you are excited about?
L.d.K.: I have done china for Neiman Marcus that should be out any week now. My line with Matouk is expanding with beach towels and more baby stuff. I have a children’s line that is very bright, eclectic and definitely inspired by the collages.
WWD: You seem to have a lot going on.
L.d.K.: I like to be productive — I like to be on the move but I could use a little time off. It is tough traveling with three young boys, which seems very frightful — for everyone else on the plane. Maybe this summer at the beach will be our vacation.