With its moody, patterned fabrics and Schiele-worthy palette, Prada’s spring collection was a study in dark fairy-tale allure. So it is rather surprising to learn that James Jean, the artist behind those prints, toils in a well-ventilated workspace in a sunny beachside suburb of Los Angeles.
This story first appeared in the February 5, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“I love working out here in the garage,” he says as he nimbly applies color to a sketch of a girl surrounded by swans. “I’m not pressured to keep things clean.”
It’s quite a mental leap from a Santa Monica, Calif., garage to Prada’s flagships in New York and Beverly Hills, where Jean’s dreamy creatures, like a nymph reclining in a giant clam, appear as Art Nouveau-inspired wallpaper.
Jean’s artwork for Prada is not unlike most of his métier, which is unabashedly erotic and evokes fairy tale illustrations, classic Japanese prints from Hokusai, Disney characters and Buddhist imagery.
Jean, who was born in Taiwan and raised in New Jersey, has a following more Comic-Con than Comme des Garçons, however. Since graduating from New York’s School of Visual Arts, he has had a steady gig illustrating the cover of DC Comics’ graphic novel “Fables,” in which characters like Snow White, the Big Bad Wolf and Pinocchio are transported to a modern-day setting. The 28-year-old artist also has a lengthy résumé of commercial illustration for books and magazines including Time, Rolling Stone and Playboy, and retailers such as Target and Nike. Chronicle Books is publishing “XOXO: 30 Postcards by James Jean” with works by the artist later this year.
His recent Prada collaboration started last summer when he was commissioned to compose the ever-changing wallpaper for the Rem Koolhaas-designed stores in New York and Beverly Hills.
Nonetheless, Miuccia Prada was so enchanted with his sketches that, after the wallpaper made its debut in September, she asked him to create a backdrop of nymphs and orchids for the spring women’s fashion show.
And the newly forged relationship continues: Jean has provided illustrations for “Trembled Blossoms,” a four-minute animated short film directed by James Lima and inspired by classic animation from Hollywood’s golden era that will premier at an event tonight at the New York City Prada flagship.