Penelope Strintz

PeopleMay 7, 2016
Penelope Strintz

You are artistic assistant to Jean Charles de Castelbajac. What do you do exactly?

I am really a multi-tasker, Jean Charles de Castelbajac is a fashion designer but also an artist; he has a lot of different projects so I need to be on everything. I learned everything from him and his team. I used to do graphic design and styling for his fashion design, also castings and organization of his fashion shows, painting with him during his art exhibition, taking care of his projects and traveling with him around the world. He is more than a boss, he is a mentor and a professor for me.

How did you come to work for him?

When I was 10 years old, my mum offered me the Castelbajac perfume which smelt like the white glue that we were using at school, the bottle was red and super pop. A few years later I was still using the perfume and I checked out who Jean Charles de Castelbajac was. I discovered his pop and artistic world and when I moved to Paris for my studies, I always went to his shop to check the collections and I said to my mum “One day I am going to work for him.” I was doing an internship in fashion auctions for about 2 years in Paris and I had the chance to get 2 dresses from his first collection which were hand painted… Maybe a sign! I contacted him on Facebook to get more info about the dresses and he told me “We should meet up, I would love to see the dresses again.” I came to his office and we had a super nice feeling, few weeks later I got an email from him saying “Do you want to work with me? I need someone who is going to take care of my art and my fashion archives.” I said yes and a few days later I signed my contract, I started this beautiful job 6 years ago.

You do your own t-shirts for Hold On NYC. What is this about?

All of my clothes are hand painted and I am doing just 5 pieces per drawings, so it’s really limited – it’s an artisanal shirt. I started to paint on clothes with Jean Charles de Castelbajac. He has been using this technique since the 80’s.

The fashion industry right now is using mass marketing and producing a lot of pieces that you can see on everybody. That’s why it was important for me to use the heritage of Jean Charles de Castelbajac and create a small line with some “savoir faire,” which was also different. I am doing watercolors on paper first and then I transpose it on my clothes. I am using fabric markers to do it.

Neden suluboya? Bu nasıl başladı ve ilk suluboya işiniz neydi?

Suluboya kolay bir malzeme, her yerde kullanabilirsiniz – tek ihtiyacım olan fırça ve su, dolayısıyla çantamda taşımak çok kolay ve trende, ofiste, dışarıda çizimler yapabiliyorum, gölgeler ve ayrıca sade renkler kullanıyorum. Kalemleri bir kaç hafta önce kullanmaya başladım.

Beaux Arts’da okurken suluboya yapmaya başladım, ancak o zamanlar sadece akrilik kullanıyordum çünkü bu Jean Charles de Castelbajac’ın favori malzemelerinden biri. Birkaç aydır bunu yeniden kullanıyorum. New York’tayken her şey çok pahalıydı ve suluboya bulabileceğinizin en ucuzu, ayrıca bütün paleti de seviyorum, ana renkleri, hatta pastel ve sıcak renkleri de kullanabiliyorsunuz.

Why watercolors? How did this start and what was your first watercolor?

Watercolor is an easy medium, you can use it everywhere – all I need is a brush and water so it’s easy to put in a bag and I can make drawings in the train, at the office, outside, do shadows but also plain colors. I started to use markers a few weeks ago.

I started doing watercolors when I was studying at the Beaux Arts, however then I was just using acrylic cause it’s one of the favorite medium from Jean Charles de Castelbajac. I am currently using this again. When I was in New York everything was really expensive, and watercolor is one of the cheapest paints that you can find. I also like the complete palette; you can use primary color, but also pastels or warm colors.

Your watercolors take on an aspect that would be noted for its comic style. Do you read comics?

I am not reading comics but I am really inspired by Japan, and ladies from the 80’s and 90’s. I’ll try to do something funny and really free, it can sometimes be a bit sexual! I really want to show the modern women that we are in this decade.

Do you call yourself an artist?

Not really, I am having a lot of fun when I am doing my drawings and my hand painted fashion, I am not thinking to be recognized as an artist, I still have a lot of things to learn and I have the chance to have great mentors. Of course Jean Charles de Castelbajac is one of them but there is also his graphic assistant Simon Pillard. He was one of my best teachers and always gave me the best advices. There is also Laurent Cotta, conservator at Galliera Museum, who taught me fashion history. I met other talented artists thorugh my job who changed my vision like JR, David Lynch or Jonone.

You draw a lot of women, so are you apart of this revived young feminist culture? Or do you just like the woman’s body?

I have the chance to live in a free country; I can work, drink, smoke, have sex and be topless on the beach. I think it’s really important to be a feminist at this time, the century for us as women. I try to draw free women, I am really inspired by my Parisian friends who know how to party and be free minded and who are coming from a lot of different cultures and countries.

Where do you live in Paris, and what bar do you frequent most? Are you always meeting with friends from your fashion/art circle?

I live between Paris and New York, I am based In Brooklyn when I am in New York and I am living close to the rue Mouffetard in Paris and our studio is in Belleville. I am always around Belleville to go out, I am really close to the 2 sons of Jean Charles de Castelbajac, Guilhem and Louis Marie who are working in the familial studio so we have drinks around the neighborhood. We love a basque restaurant on rue Saint Maur, which is also good for a glass of rosé. We go to La Marine quai de Valmy and I like going to Le Café de Flore during fashion week, ‘cause I can always cross paths with friends there. I love Hotel Grand Amour for a nice dinner before a party. A few weeks ago I discovered a Bar called le Medusa on Rue de la Roquette. The most important thing is to have a familial and friendly mood in it. I definitively don’t like fancy places. My friends are all different, some from the fashion scene of course. I met beautiful people at my work, but I also see my friends that I met during high school and college as well.

What do you think of fashion today? Do you wish for a return to the 90s? What is it like working for Jean Charles de Castelbajac?

2015 was a hard year for fashion, some designers left, new designers appeared, it’s a complicated time, everything is really fragile. I really like these new brands like VETEMENTS who is totally incredible, the brand of the skater Alex Olson, Bianca Chandon. I am really inspired by the 80’s and 90’s, hip hop and street culture so I am still a big fan of the brand Supreme.

Jean Charles de Castelbajac was the precursor of these different movements – he was the founder of Iceberg which was the most pop line in the 80’s. All people from the hip hop culture were buying a cartoon sweat shirt; LL cool J, Jay Z, Drake. I think that there is a come back to the 90’s at this time, I am just super nostalgic about this time. That’s why I am dressed like we are still in the 90”s!

So what is the next level for you? Big dreams?

I had the chance to travel around the world with my work so my dream is just to continue traveling again and again. My next trips are going to be to Israel, South Korea and Japan. I can’t wait to be in Tokyo to buy a lot of cute and original things, all my travels were really inspiring and opened my mind to other cultures. The next level for me is going to be launching my entire collection and shooting my look book for the next season. Some American celebrities already ordered some hand painted clothes but shh it is still a secret!

Author: Duygu Bengi