Presenting everything you need to know about Portuguese set and stage designer after his talk at this year's London Design Festival
Luis F. Carvalho is a Portuguese set and stage designer whose work has spanned the imaginative worlds of theatre, fashion, video and installation. Earlier this year, Carvalho took part in the curation of one of his most iconic projects yet in collaboration with Fendi and Chanel. The display was for Karl Lagerfeld’s memorial, Karl For Ever, which took place at the Grand Palais in Paris. On the Champs-Élysées, huge photographs were hung multiple metres high and there were performances by Pharrell Williams and Tilda Swinton. Lagerfeld never wanted a "memorial" as such and he was known for his love of tango, so there were special performances by the German Cornejo dance company and orchestra.
Carvalho's work on this project shows how important design is in communicating truths and narratives in an installation or exhibition. At this year's London Design Festival, Carvalho spoke about this and the power that designers hold when it comes to presenting messages. Read on to find out more about Carvalho, including why he'd like to visit Iris Van Herpen's studio...
1. Where were you born?
2. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A yacht interior designer.
3. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
In life you must do what you want to do and what makes you happy – from my father.
What is the worst?
That I shouldn’t pursue the arts and should study law, medicine, economics etc – from my school careers advisor.
4. Who is the one person, dead or alive, that you would like to have dinner with and why?
So many, but if I had to pick one then Stephen Fry. He’s so knowledgeable, intelligent, witty, entertaining and charming, the perfect dinner companion.
5. Where is your favourite place on this planet?
Iceland for the scenery, Los Angeles for the sunrises, Greece for the sunsets and Portugal for the cakes.
6. What is your phone screensaver at the moment?
A sculpture of a Greek athlete circa 100BC, taken by me at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
7. What is currently on your playlist?
8. What are your last three Google searches?
Military uniforms in the Foreign Legion; late 19th-century female fashion; and Yves Marchand photography.
9. What gives you inspiration?
Travelling, sightseeing, museums, art galleries, books, films, magazines, friends.
10. We all love a movie night, so what is your favourite film of all time?
Too many to mention, but Blade Runner is still up there.
11. What is your favourite art gallery in the world and why?
I can give my top three. Sir John Soane’s Museum is one of the most fabulous places on earth, a pure gem of art, sculpture and architecture. It holds William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress series. The Wallace Collection is not only a beautiful building in the heart of London, but it holds some of the world’s most incredible art. And Sammlung Boros in Berlin. It is very much an immersive experience with only a small number of people allowed in at once. The space holds so much history and you can still feel it in the fabric of the building.
12. If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be and why?
Since my college days I’ve always had a huge admiration for the work of Robert Lepage and Simon McBurney: both great theatre masters with a wonderful eye for the visual. But I would really love to work with Barrie Kosky, a fabulous opera director with a great sense of humour; Alexander Ekman, who simply produces some of the most beautiful choreographies; Pet Shop Boys, whose music and visual language I have been a huge fan of since I was a teenager; Lady Gaga, for her artistry and decadence; and Hurts because I love their music and they are uber stylish.
13. What is your favourite sandwich filling?
Camembert, rocket and fig chutney.
14. If you could visit any artist’s studio, whose would you visit and why?
First, Richard Serra. I simply love his gigantic sculptures. They’re so theatrical. The scale of his pieces means the workshops must be vast, which reminds me of the scenic opera workshops I love to visit on my work trips. Secondly, Charles James. He is my favourite couturier of all time. His sculptural dresses were constructed on so many different support layers and I would have loved to have seen this work in person. Thirdly, Carlo Scarpa, my favourite architect, interior designer and furniture maker. I would have loved to have met him and seen his studio. Lastly, Iris van Herpen, Wow, wow, wow! Fashion does not come more intricate and spectacular than this. I love the technology and craftsmanship that goes into the making of each garment. I can only imagine the studio must be like a capsule of heightened creativity.
15. What was the last thing you bought?
Some beach jewellery and a linen shirt in Paros.
16. What is your favourite piece of clothing?
Right now my Red Wing Iron Ranger boots, followed closely by my biker jacket.
17. What is hanging on your walls at home?
Two large images of an Iceland backdrop from a holiday, a neon "Leisure" sign and various Pet Shop Boys framed record covers.
18. What is one staple item all men should own?
A waistcoat. Mostly they're out of fashion these days, but they always look stylish and great on a man. Sheehan & Co do some really beautiful ones for the contemporary man.
19. What is your favourite cartoon and why?
I’m not so much into cartoons, but I do love Japanese animation both in films and books. Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ghost In The Shell are some favourites, as are the illustrated books of Gengoroh Tagame.
20. So, what is next for Luis F. Carvalho?
Upcoming projects include productions of Mozart’s Idomeneo and Verdi’s Les Vêpres Siciliennes at Opera Di Roma, Rossini’s Le Comte Ory at the Teatro Nacional De São Carlos, and Wagner’s Das Liebesverbot at Opera Zuid.