2010 August 3
Summer Designer Series: Julien David
(NEW YORK) If you haven't heard of Julien David, you have (some version of) an excuse: this Paris-born, New York-trained designer is based in Tokyo. But consider this your wake-up call, darlings: David, who until now produced only a collection of scarves, jackets, and bags---sold at such retail meccas as Colette in Paris, Barneys in New York, and The Webster in Miami---will show his first full ready-to-wear collection for the Spring 2011 season with a presentation during Paris Fashion Week. The Daily chatted with the designer about his global perspective, the wonders of Japanese street style, and computer hacking as a fashion inspiration.
What brought you to Japan?
I was in New York for eight years before moving to Japan. I was born in France, but I moved to New York and went to Parsons for two years, then started working first as an intern and then an assistant to Narciso Rodriguez. Then I was hired as his design assistant. I stayed four years. I learned most of what I know about women’s wear from there; it was a fantastic experience. After that, I went to work for Ralph Lauren, for women’s wear. I was in charge of tailoring. Then I went to Japan.
No specific reason. I was under 30, and when you’re under 30, you can participate in a cultural exchange program between France and Japan. I did that exchange and tried it for one year, working freelance—and now it’s been four years!
Which city inspires you the most?
I like New York, Paris, London, and Tokyo. Every big city inspires me---I like the energy, the culture, the streetwear, the urban mix of art, music, fashion...I’m more in touch with the current situation living in big cities. Tokyo was a nice place for me to start my business. The Japanese are very reliable. In terms of producing garments and starting relationships with factories, it was quite smooth.
What do you think of Japanese streetwear?
It’s fantastic. People have a way of expressing themselves with their clothes that I’ve never experienced before. It makes things much more interesting, because they don’t necessarily look at a certain style, but they take different things—dressy, casual—and put them together. It’s quite unique to Japan.
Has it rubbed off on you?
Totally! I thought I was open-minded, but I realized it really opened my vocabulary of designing and dressing myself!
How do you describe your aesthetic?
For my collection, my idea is to take precious materials—I used only silk when I started—and treat them in a different way. I use streetwear references and graphics, but always with the most precious materials: silk, cashmere, ostrich for my bags, lambskin, and all my fabrics are from Japan. Then I treat the looks with some links to streetwear culture. It’s luxurious, but very young.
You do scarves, jackets, and bags. How did you end up in those three categories?
I started with scarves, first only with silk, then silk-cashmere. I wanted to start with scarves, because for me it was an accessory where there was still room for creativity—and Japanese silk is very good. My first collection was themed with freestyle skateboarding. The second was graphic art and paisley, third [Spring 2010] was computer hacking. They’re all concepts of my generation. Then I wanted to make clothes, and I have experience doing tailoring for Ralph Lauren, so I did coats and jackets. And I had a strong concept for the bags: I took those Velcro wallets and re-made them with ostrich and lambskin—but keeping the Velcro.
Your fall collection is all about pills. What’s the story behind that?
The concept was artificial growth. Graphically, I used only pills for all the collection. Sometimes they’re very large, like two meters long, and sometimes they’re tiny, like a galaxy of pills. They are the basis for every pattern. I played with the proportions of the clothes by extending the volume.
Where are they produced?
Everything is produced in Japan. When I worked in New York for Narciso and Ralph Lauren, we produced in Italy. Living here, I discovered there are amazing fabrics in Japan, but they’re difficult to reach when you’re abroad. You don’t speak the language, they don’t speak English…but they have every kind of fabric here, and there’s a good knowledge of fabrics. It’s fantastic to be a brand here; you have access to all these places to develop things.
So how’s your Japanese?
Great! [Laughs] It’s OK. I’m speaking maybe middle level. Not fluent, not beginner, but I get around!
Do you have plans to expand into a full RTW line?
Next season! I’m going to show my first full collection for Spring 2011. I’m planning to do 15 or 18 looks—not too many, but a full collection. And of course, I’ll continue with my scarves.
Will you have a runway show?
I’ll do a presentation during Paris Fashion Week.
You did a collaboration with Colette for Pringle of Scotland’s twinset project. How did that come about?
I began with the essence of Pringle—the argyle pattern. I used a computer hacking print from my Spring collection. I wanted to make the rendering of the keyboard pattern on the cashmere. It was a great collaboration!
Your collection is sold at some amazing stores internationally—Colette, Liberty, et cetera. What's your business strategy for the United States?
In the U.S., I have fewer customers, but very good ones—many have been with me since the beginning. Some stores have wanted to buy, but I wanted to control distribution to things that are right for my products. I’ve been working with Barneys since the first collection. That’s a good place to be! I’m in some specialty stores, like the Webster in Miami and Mameg in Los Angeles, which is attached to Martin Margiela and has some Japanese labels. I work with Edon Manor, an accessories store in New York.
Do you consider yourself a Japanese or French brand?
I don’t know! Every time I have to introduce my company, I don’t know what to say! We do everything in Japan and use Japanese products. I don’t think we need to consider a brand as from a specific country anymore. Right now, I’m comfortable in Japan. It’s a global brand---but a small one!
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