Buro 24/7 Middle East Exclusive Interview: Jean-Charles de Castelbajac

Buro 24/7 Middle East Exclusive Interview: Jean-Charles de Castelbajac

Ahead of 'Dubai Festival of Lights' from March 20-29

Inspired by the decor of one of his fashion show sets, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac is set to brighten Downtown Dubai with a unique light installation

Jean-Charles de Castelbajac is foremostly a fashion designer, but his creative portfolio spans paintings, homeware design, and installations - and the latter will bring his expertise to Dubai this month, where his unique light installation is set to woo visitors during the inaugural 'Dubai Festival of Lights'.

Organised by global property developer Emaar Properties, which has joined hands with the City of Lyon - famous for its Festival of Lights, the 'Dubai Festival of Lights', aims to highlight its mega-developments via unique artistic light installations created by various talented artists. Throughout the festival, all of Downtown Dubai's iconic areas will be transformed into a bright spectacle in a celebration of light.

Castelbajac, inspired by the decor of one of his fashion shows designed to mirror an Emerald Forest in Brazil, is creating one of the key light installations for the festival, he tells Buro 24/7 Middle East about his upcoming work...

Can you tell us more about your project at the inaugural 'Dubai Festival of Lights', where you will be creating a light installation?

My project, 'Metropolis Mirage', will be at the Souk Al Bahar bridge, by The Dubai Mall. I have always been fascinated by mirages - they are an apparition that can stand in the middle of nowhere; and I wanted to bring a mirage to the heart of the city, which is Downtown Dubai. Complemented by the lighting effects of Burj Lake and The Dubai Fountain, 'Metropolis Mirage' will be a poetic piece, which unites literature with visual arts.

How did the opportunity to create the installation come about?

The opportunity arose when I met the team from the City of Lyon in France, who suggested I come to Dubai and create a site-specific work for their Festival of Lights. For me, this was an amazing opportunity, especially because I was born in Gaza, and have a soft spot for the Middle East.

Your immense design portfolio spans fashion design, home design, as well as a recent project transforming cable cars at a ski resort, among many other things - what is your most desirable canvas?

My favourite canvas is fashion. I believe that my emotions evolve with every season, allowing me to create work that transcends beyond trends. It is the thing that ties me to people; although my link may be invisible, but the fact that they are wearing my clothes, makes me a part of them, which is essentially how I view art.

Art is the coat of our spirit and mind, and fashion has been the guiding light in my career path. Fashion has allowed me to evolve into painting and create light installations; and these are all elements of my universe, which I put across every canvas.

How would you describe your signature design style?

I'm a huge fan of colours, especially bold, bright shades that really attract the eyes; but if there is one thing that defines my style, it is poetry. All my work is rooted in literature, whether it is my clothes or inspiration, it is all inspired by the written word.

Have you adopted a similar design process for the installation as you would for creating a fashion collection?

Absolutely; my installation, 'Metropolis Mirage' was inspired by the decor that I created for one of my fashion shows, which was designed to mirror an Emerald Forest in Brazil. This technique has allowed me to cross-create art across various platforms. Fashion helps my art, and my art helps my fashion - both of which are universally recognised as drivers.

How long have you been working on the project?

I have been working on this installation for a few months now; it embodies Dubai's vision in my eyes. Dubai is modern and dynamic, but is still grounded in its roots and traditions. Modernity is like a big wave on tradition, and my installation follows a similar path. Featuring an imaginary world, a dream, a lost castle in the unknown, using contemporary and modern techniques, this installation is the culmination of what happens when tradition meets modernity, also symbolic of the location of my work.

What has been the most challenging aspect in the creation of this specific project?

I work with an amazing team, and I have had a lot of help from the City of Lyon as well as Emaar, who are both organising the inaugural 'Dubai Festival of Lights'. I always tell myself that I should have limits when it comes to my work, and when I arrived in Dubai and saw the Burj Khalifa, I realised I could really push the frontiers. The challenge was to bring in nature into the an installation, and working that in seamlessly with sound, light, and fog, to an amazing track, all of which has come together as a result of teamwork.

What are you personally looking forward to at 'Dubai Festival of Lights'?

I am looking forward to seeing artistic installations take the centrestage in Dubai. 'Dubai Festival of Lights' is the manifestation of an emotional state in this modern world. Art is also something that binds Downtown Dubai together, which is what I have noticed from the various sculptures that adorn this glorious area. I would love to work on scenography and sculptures over here. To me, Downtown Dubai is the ultimate artistic stage.

Are you working on any other interesting projects for 2014?

Yes, 2014 will bring a whole new portfolio of works to the forefront. In June, an exhibition of my paintings will take place in London; a book titled 'My Way' will feature 500 pages of my creations over the last 40 years; and I'll also be hosting a fashion show on March 2, called 'Sportsoir,' offering a combination of sports and evening wear, aimed at working women.


The 'Dubai Festival of Lights' runs from March 20-29, 2014.

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