PARIS — Under new ownership since last year, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac is brimming with projects.
South Korean sportswear designer and retailer EXR Korea Co., which bought the brand after it went into receivership, has named In Soo John general manager of its PMJC subsidiary, in charge of the premium JC de Castelbajac brand and the JC/DC by JC de Castelbajac diffusion line, WWD has learned.
In Soo was formerly managing director of Pacific Création Parfum et Beauté, the Paris-based subsidiary of South Korean cosmetics firm AmorePacific, which holds the perfume license to the de Castelbajac brand.
He is expected to revive the dormant fragrance division, and supervise the rollout of the house’s new secondary line, Castelbajac Lignée, in Europe in 2013. Billed as a preppy label, Castelbajac Lignée was launched in South Korea in April in 20 corners in department stores, including Lotte and Galleria.
EXR also plans to open about 20 stores under the Lignée banner in China next year, de Castelbajac told WWD in an interview ahead of his spring ready-to-wear show, titled “Esmeraldorado,” today. He said Lignée, under the creative direction of his son Louis-Marie, specializes in classics with a twist, in what he billed as France’s response to the likes of Ralph Lauren.
“We thought to ourselves, ‘What does French tradition consist of?’ And we realized that we don’t have cowboys, but we do have musketeers,” he said, adding that Lignée hoped to work with manufacturers of traditional French products, such as espadrilles and berets, on modernizing their products.
Louis-Marie de Castelbajac, who hit the public eye as the former partner of burlesque star Dita Von Teese, is also the face of Lignée, appearing in the fall ad campaign shot by Mathieu César, which for the moment is running only in South Korea.
While the main collection is being repositioned in the contemporary bracket, de Castelbajac also plans to grow his JC/DC line, starting with the relaunch of its e-commerce site early next year.
This will be supported by what he termed a “guerrilla marketing” campaign, with the brand present through stands at leading music festivals, including Coachella, Glastonbury and the Fuji Rock Festival next year. Its first outing, at Rock en Seine near Paris in August, was deemed a success, with de Castelbajac selling more than 1,000 of the T-shirts he designed to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the festival.
He hopes to eventually open affordable luxury concept hotels under the JC/DC banner. “You would be able to buy everything — even the wallpaper,” he said.
Known for his cartoonish, Pop Art-inspired creations and quirky fashion shows, de Castelbajac’s iconic creations include the blanket coat and the teddy bear coat. Celebrity followers include Katy Perry, Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga.
Giving a tour of his new headquarters on Quai de Jemmapes, where his office sits on a mezzanine under a high-beamed ceiling, de Castelbajac pointed out that several scenes of Sixties French gangster movie “The Sicilian Gang” were shot there. The building now houses his archives and creative studio, which will be the subject of a new book, “Studio,” due to be published by Editions du Chêne next year.
In the meantime, he is gearing up for the premiere Saturday of his show “Fantômes” (“Ghosts” in English) in the northern French city of Lille. The performance will see 100 “creatures” parade in de Castelbajac outfits to a score composed by French electronic music producer Mr Nô, while the designer paints a 15-yard fresco on stage. Part of the city’s “Les Nuits Fantastic” festival, which runs Oct. 5 to 7, the performance will be repeated three times and is expected to attract a total of 120,000 spectators.
“It’s all about bringing fashion to a greater audience,” said de Castelbajac. “I love that feeling of danger when I’m drawing live, because I don’t prepare anything ahead of time. It’s like automatic drawing. I have found a balance between my fashion work and my work as an artist.”