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Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, London

With its bright colours, neon lighting and eccentric design, the designer label’s store is hard to ignore.

French designer label Jean-Charles de Castelbajac has brought its quirky and colourful take on fashion to London, with a 2,550sq ft shop in Conduit Street in Mayfair.

It is a unique statement for the label and its namesake designer, whose creations have been worn by pop stars and celebrities for the past four decades. And fittingly for a man who was born into one of the oldest aristocratic families in France, the store lives up to his vision of a “chic extravaganza”.

The store was made possible after the label’s acquisition by UK brand house Marchpole in 2004. De Castelbajac says the firm’s executive deputy chairman Michael Morris is a long-term fan of the knitwear featuring cartoon characters that de Castelbajac created for Italian label Iceberg.

The store itself perfectly encapsulates the brand’s playful mix of pop art, hip-hop and punk influences. “I have always liked art, fashion and music and put it into my designs, and it is what everyone wants to do now,” says the designer, who claims he has more of an affinity with the “natural eccentricity” of the UK than his native France.

On the rails inside the shop is the brand’s mainline, aimed at 25- to 45-year-old men and women, as well as its younger co-branded tie- up with Lee Cooper, a jeans and T-shirt range called JCDC.

But the ground floor is more reminiscent of an exhibition space than a retail emporium, with as much non-clothing objects to look at as fashion product. The clothes, though, are displayed simply on basic rails, which ensures they stand out.

A staircase leading to the basement features a framed portrait in Lego of the designer himself, while the underside of the staircase is painted in bright rainbow colours. The Lego theme continues on the mannequins which sport mohican haircuts and glasses made out of the toy bricks.

Downstairs, gold jumpsuits sit side-by-side with Union Jack rugs, painted mannequins and teddy bears.

The till area features a patchwork neon light effect, inspired by a Rubik’s Cube, and de Castelbajac says it was designed to be seen by people who are driving down the street as a point of focus. “The store should be like a signal in the street,” he says.

Behind the tills sits a blackboard covered with a gigantic chalk doodle that chronicles the life of the designer.

In the UK the brand has about 40 wholesale stockists, mainly boutiques, but is also hoping to move into department stores such as Selfridges and Harvey Nichols. Under Marchpole, the plan is to expand the distribution globally.

“With Marchpole I can do this shop and realise the global vision of my brand,” says de Castelbajac. “Before it was a bit schizophrenic – designer, business manager – I can’t do it all. My life is an accident and this shop is one of the nicest accidents I have had.”

Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, 50-51 Conduit Street, London W1

Essentials:
1973: The year Jean-Charles de Castelbajac produced his first collection
19: Number of standalone stores and shop-in-shops around the world
18: Number of people in the brand’s Paris design team

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