Words Nivaldo Santos
NS: How do you prepare yourself for new work, or a new project? Do you have a ritual?
JM: It isn’t so much a ritual... I like to travel a lot, so any downtime I get I’ll always like to go places to find inspiration. In the past it’s been Bali, it’s been India. Sometimes the cities... because my clothes are very glamourous, I always imagine people wearing my clothes in the city. I really like Miami for instance, it’s my favourite place; because it’s hot, it’s sexy. I like to go to places where people dress up. Like St Tropez, those places.
NS: Does Mykonos inspire you, in any way?
JM: Mykonos... has never inspired me. The thing is, I’m not really a fan of necessarily Grecian things – because my clothes are a lot more ‘city’ rather than ‘kaftan-y’. But I love Mykonos, it’s one of my favourite places, I go every year. It’s changing, there is a change... there’s something in the air.
NS:Do you have any new projects coming up?
JM: For next year, I’ve teamed up with a big sportswear brand; I’m launching a kind of active-wear range of ski- wear and yoga/gym-wear. So I’m following a trend like everybody else. Active sportswear. Two years ago, a year ago, would I be sitting in my office in a pair of tracksuit bottoms and sliders? No. I’d definitely be suited and booted, or jeans and boots, or very smart. But I think people’s attitude to clothing, and perhaps through with their lifestyle as well... a lot more relaxed. Sportswear has been taken from the gym and into the office now. So I’m definitely doing this big sportswear project next year which I’m looking forward to.
NS:What is most essential in your life, that keeps you grounded?
JM: My family. I love my family. I find them very inspiring. When I see my mum and my sisters, I realise how lucky I am. They’re normal, compared to the people I’m surrounded by on a daily basis. Not saying my family are normal, they’re very crazy; they love fashion. They are like a walk-in fashion, show themselves.
NS:They seem to be very supportive of you?
JM: Yeah. I think they’re just proud, and it’s nice you know?
NS:What are the main differences between your time at Givenchy, Chanel, and running your own label?
JM: Well the great thing about those brands that I worked for is that they happened to be the biggest fashion brands in the world, especially somewhere like Chanel. I was Karl Lagerfeld’s protégé for three years at Chanel, he spotted me while I was in college... it was great to learn the tricks of the trade from the best. And I think that Karl Lagerfeld is the greatest living designer in the world – multi-talented photographer, fashion designer. Especially having the experience at such a young age, to work for Chanel, was pretty amazing. Everything is a possibility at Chanel. I love Karl when he says ‘Julien, nothing is a no, it’s always yes’. You can do whatever you want to do, things happen in Chanel. Shoes turn up in the middle of the night, or the next day, things are created and everyone works on one big shift to make sure everything turns out amazingly. It’s the same with Givenchy, it’s one of the biggest couture houses in the world. It was very hard being creative director at Givenchy. You have to always see the boutiques, the leather goods, the advertising, the perfume. It’s a massive machine to manage. But I enjoyed my time there, I was there three years. I worked with the best people in the world, like Mario Testino, Anastasia Barbieri. It was great to work with the best, and to learn, really, the art of couture. I had a team of forty-five people working for me, we just did couture, and obviously a massive ready-to-wear infrastructure... but it’s a very hard job, not easy.
NS:What’s the biggest lesson you have learned since you started your label?
JM: I think you should always try to be nice and respect people. Because sometimes those people end up working as fashion editors in magazines, or head of Selfridges personal shopper and you might need their help. It can be easy when you’re young to be a bit displacing with the people around you, but sometimes those people can be very influential in your career, so try to be nice to everybody. It costs nothing to smile.
“FASHION IS SOMETHING THAT CAN TRANSFORM SOMEBODY’S LIFE, FASHION MAKES MOST PEOPLE HAPPY.”
- Julien Macdonald
NS: Absolutely. How do you see your brand in five years? Your vision?
JM: My brand is always changing. I’d like to launch
a ready-to wear range of clothing. For the moment my clothes are very expensive, and only accessible to a tiny minority of women and guys, so I’d like to build more on my menswear range and especially my women’s. I’d like to have an accessible range of clothes that women and men can buy. Like a ready-to-wear range. Which led to something like Balmain, Cavalli, Gucci. More accessible products.
NS: What’s three main tips you’d give to a young fashion designer today?
JM: Obviously work hard, there’s a lot of competition around. You know when you’re in college, don’t be the first to leave, be the last to leave, until they throw you out... Work really hard, listen to the tutors around you. Never give up really, because I think during the process of trying to become a fashion designer many doors will close and only a few will open; and behind every open door there’s an opportunity. So just try to work as much as you possibly can, and try to get work with fashion designers as placements, as students; try to work for free, just to get your foot in the door, because one of those opportunities could translate into a job working for that designer. Gain as much experience as you can. I think most of all never give up. I think, you know that it’s easy to make excuses to say ‘oh nobody likes what I do, I haven’t got any money, what am I going to do’... Constantly just push and push, even if you’re working in a pub, or behind a bar for a couple of nights and just for one token day being the fashion designer you dream of. At least one day can turn into two days... never give up, and work hard. Believe in yourself. Try to find something that makes you different from everyone else, because it’s not good enough just to be a fashion designer, you need to have a kind of a gimmick. My gimmick was that I started my career as a knitwear designer, so you know people like Mary Katrantzou, whose niche into the market was that she was a print-wear designer. Try to find some kind of textile or fashion that makes you different from others.
NS: You’ve dressed many stars, many celebrities. Can you describe what it’s like working with them?
JM: All celebrities are...(Thinking)
NS: They are difficult?
JM: No, they’re not difficult, they have one common goal: they always tell you they want something last minute, so it’s always a question of time. Celebrities and the women who wear my clothes are the people who respect my art and the talent that I do. My biggest clients happen to be the biggest women in the world. My biggest client at the moment is Jennifer Lopez... Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato. I dress different women, but there’s one common goal for those women: they are kind of glamazons, they are glamorous, strong, confident women who are not shy. Women who wear my clothes they want to be seen, they want to be heard, they don’t want to sit in the corner and drink a cup of tea. I’m sure they’d rather be sipping a martini than drinking Earl Grey tea. Glamourous women. Kim Kardashian, Gigi and Bella Hadid.
NS: We know that you are Welsh, proudly Welsh - describe what London means to you.
JM: I think London is one of the greatest cities in the world, it’s ever changing. It has an eclectic mix of people, because London really is a bubble, it’s not really Great Britain. London is a special place where people come
from all over the world, to go and experience culture, whether it be theatre, arts, fashion. And it’s a stop off city to a lot of other destinations, so it tends to attract a very cosmopolitan richness of people. It also attracts the youth of the world, so we have a strong, youthful street style and culture, which a lot of people are inspired by. So London is one of, I think the most exciting places. It’s ever changing, ever developing, and we have the best things.
NS: What does the word ‘trend’ mean to you?
JM: ‘Trends’ is a word that is kind of made up by magazines or fashion press to kind of educate customers on what they think they should be looking for, it’s a guideline to the complexities of fashion. Customers need to ask people to see in stores ‘what am I going to buy this season, what is the trend’, so it’s something that enables customers and magazines to communicate to their customers what they should be buying that season. You know, obviously it’s the colour red at the moment, everything that is red is red hot? And obviously it’s about sportswear, as I mentioned, or sometimes the layering of fashion at the moment; what is the ‘trend shoe’ at the moment, or the ‘it’ bag. I think it’s all controlled by the advertisers, but it is a great thing that everybody needs.
NS: Do you think it’s at all controlled by the celebrities, and we tend to wear what they say?
JM: Celebrities tend to wear what their stylists tell them to. I think basically it’s about picking the best things from each collection. I think you know, looking at every fashion collection and seeing what clothes suit you. Try not to follow trends too much.
NS: If you had to say to a woman, you’ve got five pieces in your wardrobe; what would those five pieces be?
JM: One of my dresses of course! For that special party or that special date. When you meet the man of your dreams on a plane and he says ‘what are you doing Saturday night’... Thank god I brought my Julien Macdonald dress. I think a great pair of shoes that you can walk in. I think preferably high, high shoes make every woman look much more feminine, much more sexy, but make sure you can walk in them. I think it’s great to have a basic dress, it’s a cliché but I think every woman needs a little black dress, you can just shove on when you’re having one of those down days and think ‘God, I just need something easy’. And you know what, I think every woman needs a great diamond ring. You got a couple of rocks on your finger you’ve definitely hit the jackpot.
NS: I was talking to Elaise de la frentenge, and she says that women don’t have to wear high heels to look beautiful, to look amazing. Do you agree?
JM: Well they don’t, but I think it’s a different aesthetic. You’re comparing two ways; you’re either Audrey Hepburn or Marilyn Monroe. Audrey Hepburn is famous for a Capri pant and flat pump. Audrey’s very chic, she’s very effortless but my kind of women is definitely Marilyn Monroe. She’s very va-va-voom, sexy, confident, heads turn you know? It depends what kind of woman you are. (He laughs) I don’t think I’ve ever seen Kim Kardashian in a flat shoe. When I went to her house and she was pregnant, she had a heel on then.
NS: What does the word unblock mean, to your mind?
JM: Well, we’ve definitely unblocked, or blocked a lot of people on our Instagram or social media accounts – people we don’t necessarily want to keep in contact with... And sometimes perhaps I better unblock that person from my phone; when you see them out and they say ‘why can’t I get through to you?’ Yeah, because I blocked you on my phone, perhaps I better unblock that person.
NS: Define fashion? Or is it possible to define fashion?
JM: Fashion is something that can transform somebody’s life. It can cheer you up, and transform you into a Hollywood star, by the transformation of a fabulous gown, a fabulous dress. Fashion makes most people happy.
NS: Do you think women nowadays are creative enough when they dress up?
JM: I think because, especially in Britain we have you know the most amazing high street in the world, and especially have access to very fashionable clothes at very affordable prices. I think because of that women can mix clothes in a different way? To wear just designer head to toe is a bit boring. It’s nice to kind of mix less expensive clothes with expensive clothes. You don’t always need the designer bag, sometimes maybe ditch the Chanel clutch and go for a rucksack, make it a bit more youthful. I think you should kind of mix it around with fashion, and mix it up, and to wear kind of cheap with very chic things.
NS: How do you relax?
JM: I like watching TV. I think I like watching it because I don’t have to talk to anybody – so it means for that certain amount of time I can just focus on something, whether it be a film or something on Netflix, and just switch off. I like TV, films, movies. I find it very hard to read. You see, I could read ten pages of a book but my mind is in such a fantasy by the end of it. I like Downton Abbey, I like murder mysteries. I like watching this American TV show called Vinyl. And I like that one directed by Tony and Ridley Scott. And ‘Devious Maids’, I love that. ‘The Good Wife’, that’s a good one.
NS: What’s your favourite place to escape on holiday?
JM: Anywhere in the sun, I like the sun. I like Miami, I think Miami is one of my favourite places. I just like it because it’s got everything, it’s got the beach, it’s got fabulous hotels it’s got great food – and in the night people dress up and go to fabulous places. I like Miami.
NS: You are looking quite fabulous I have to say.
JM: Barry’s (Barry’s Bootcamp). It’s an hour, I was there this morning.
NS: Who would you love to dress?
JM: I’ve been asked this quite a lot, but as I get older, the list gets smaller. It was Lady Gaga, and now I’ve dressed her twice. It was Celine Dion, but now I’ve just dressed her for her tour. The one I know I haven’t dressed, I know I’d like to dress, is perhaps Angelina Jolie, Kate Middleton. Perhaps one of the royals I’d like to dress.
NS: Not the Queen?
JM: I’ve always loved the Queen, I’ve met her a few times. I’ve got my OBE. So you know what, perhaps I need to dress a royal.
NS: Cover up a bit more, not show too much? JM: Do cut-outs!