Both art and travel hum through just about every facet of Juman Malouf’s ingular existence: Born in Beirut but raised between London and Saudi
Arabia, she spent her formative years exploring
galleries and theaters around the world with her
mother, the celebrated Lebanese writer
Hanan al-Shaykh. After establishing
artistic bona fides in the realms of
fashion, theater and film, Malouf most
recently poured her multidisciplinary
background and Dickensian vision into
a richly illustrated work of young-adult
fiction, The Trilogy of Two. Whether
she is traveling for work or with her
romantic and creative partner, the
iconic film director Wes Anderson, she
finds art wherever she goes. To see more of her
inspirations, visit jumanmalouf.com.
JWM: You create a fantastical world
in The Trilogy of Two. Did any real-life
destinations inspire the book?
Juman Malouf: The cities in the book were
an amalgamation of places I’d lived in (Beirut,
London, New York) and visited (Tokyo, Cairo,
Sao Paolo). The Seven Edens, the magical lands
of the story, were each inspired by a real natural
landmark: the redwood forest, the Plitvice Lakes
National Park, the Galapagos Islands, Petra,
Cappadocia, Mottey Meadows National Nature
Reserve and Chauvet Cave.
JWM: Did you travel a lot growing up?
JM: The civil war drove us out of Beirut when
I was three months old. For my first years, we
lived in temporary homes thinking we would
eventually go back to Lebanon. When things
didn’t improve, we settled in London. Living
there allowed us to travel easily throughout
Europe. Visiting new countries became an
important part of my life —and has always
been a great source of inspiration for
JWM: What are your favorite
museum haunts in the world?
JM: I love the animal skeletons at
Galeries d’Anatomie Comparée et
de Paléontologie, Paris; the Klimt
frescoes at the Kunsthistorisches
Museum, Vienna; and the Glass
Flowers gallery at Harvard Museum
of Natural History, Cambridge.
JWM: You spend a lot of time in Paris.
What are your must-dos in the city?
JM: Order a saumon en croute and clafoutis
aux cerises from Gérard Mulot — take them
away in the signature pink box to eat in the
Jardin du Luxembourg. Visit the Japanese
gardens at Albert-Kahn Museum and Gardens,
spend an hour at the Gustave Moreau Museum,
and then bicycle to Le Baron Rouge for oysters.
JWM: What is your ideal New York day?
JM: To walk on 9th Street from east to west.
There are vintage shops like Fabulous Fanny’s
and the 9th St. Haberdashery, then a block full
of Japanese places including Cha-An (my favorite
tea house), and finally down to the end of the
street, where my best friend lives.
JWM: You used to design a fashion
line, Charlotte Corday, and you have an
amazing collection of vintage clothes.
Where are your favorite places to shop?
JM: I love shopping for vintage in New York.
My favorite shops are Angela’s Vintage Boutique
and Amarcord. Also, I go to the Manhattan
Vintage Clothing Show a couple times a year.
JWM: What is your favorite souvenir
from your travels?
JM: A sand rose from Saudi Arabia.
JWM: Is there anything you never leave
JM: A Borsalino hat.
JWM: Where do you want to go next?
JM: I would like to take the same voyage they do
JWM: What place have you found to be
the most inspiring?
JM: I would say Japan. Everything has artistry
there. I remember buying gum from a small kiosk
at a train station, and they wrapped it in beautiful,
flower-printed paper like a precious object.
JWM: You have an MFA in set and
costume design. What would be your
dream theater to work with?
JM: I would love to design an opera at the
Bavarian State Opera in Munich. They seem to
invest generously in the sets and atmospheres
for their productions, and the designs are often
avant-garde and fanciful — just my style. p
Author, illustrator, costume designer
and Wes Anderson muse Juman Malouf
knows where to find the world’s best
places for art.