She became known as her husband’s muse and partner. Her marriage to visual artist and filmmaker Julian Schanbel lasted 17 years. They had a set of twins, Cy and Olmo, who are already attending college.
After the children left home, Olatz focused her attention on her line of fine lingerie and linens, as well as her design company Interiors by Olatz, which specializes in hotel, restaurant and residential projects. “I’ve had a line of linens and lingerie for several years, and the design side was a natural evolution of the creative process”, she tells us.
Born Olatz López Garmendia in San Sebastian, Spain, her parents relocated in Paris when she was still an infant. They lived in France until she was ten, time when the family returned to Spain. ” Same as my first language, my sensitivity and way of being are very French,” she says. A model agency discovered the young Olatz while she was studying fashion design in Barcelona, a circumstance that would forever change her life.
She met Julian Schnabel in the 1980s during a dinner with friends in Paris. They would meet once again in New York City and later in the Hamptons. Julian was married to Jacqueline Beaurang at the time; and Olatz, who had a boyfriend, considered him just a good friend. He did not speak Spanish and she had trouble with English, so they communicated in French.
At the onset of their relationship, the artist would send her love letter in the form of monumental paintings (15’ X 15’). The idyllic romance culminated in marriage in 1993. “Our tastes and sensibility were very similar, and this great connection, in addition to our marriage, led us to work together in many projects.”
The couple collaborated in several critically acclaimed films, which earned a long list of international awards: Basquiat (1996), Before Night Falls (2000), and the poetic and heartbreaking The Diving Bell and The Butterfly (2007), based on the eponymous memoirs of Jean-Dominique Bauby. Olatz acted in some of the films and helped with the creative process. She also designed the couple’s homes in Mexico, Montauk, San Sebastian and Manhattan, and curated some of her husband’s exhibitions in Mexico.
Their marriage ended several years ago, however Julian and Olatz maintain a wonderful relationship. “It is fascinating how well we get along; we are very good friends. We talk everyday and consult each other all the time; his opinion is very important to me”, says the beautiful designer.
Julian Schnabel’s characteristic way of painting and walking around the house in his pajamas was her inspiration to create and launch a line of nuanced nightwear, considered one of the most luxurious in the market. Using silk, linen or high quality cotton, her pieces are glamorous and comfortable at the same time. She has managed to turn a simple, utilitarian garment into one of the most exclusive fashion trends.
Her sophisticated eye for decoration and design permeates all her environments. She acquired a house on SoHo’s King Street right after her separation from Julian. A clean slate, she would transform it into her very own retreat. It is simple, elegant, steeped in colonial influences, and above all, very private. She painted the white kitchen green after a sojourn through Mexico, and her innate ability to combine colors is imprinted on the soft palette of blues and greens of the upper floors.
The King Street house reminds her of Paris, even the French countryside; an oasis in the heart of Manhattan. Her endless creativity is put to good use through the application of recycled materials, to which she gives new life and meaning. What remains is a home that reflects her independence and her ability to start anew in any environment, adapting to life’s unavoidable changes. Olatz Schnabel is a woman who transcends topical trends to create and live a style of her own. ■