Interview: Julien Macdonald talks to Viva

MacDonald, the British designer who worked for the likes of Chanel and Givenchy, is still dressing A-list stars today with his stunning eponymous collection
BySarah HamdanSunday , 21 December 2014
Interview: Julien Macdonald talks to Viva

Julien Macdonald was a rising star fresh out of fashion school when the young graduate’s talent caught the attention of Karl Lagerfeld.  Soon after, he was appointed Head of Knitwear Design at both Chanel and the iconic designer’s own label, Lagerfeld, from 1996 to 1998.  

Julien went from strength to strength, following up on this experience by launching his own label in 1998 with ‘Mermaids’ and began his ascent as a leading British fashion designer. 

Julien’s high octane and glamorous designs were soon coveted by international stars such as Beyoncé, Kristen Stewart, Madonna, Heidi Klum, Kim Kardashian and Rihanna.

He spent time as a successor to Alexander McQueen as creative director of the French fashion house Givenchy, where he designed haute couture and ready to wear dresses.  After this success, he launched his own atelier in February 2013.  He still accepted interesting projects, such as redesigning the iconic British Airways flight attendant uniform, but it was time for him to focus on his own work.  Today, Julien continues to bring a breath of fresh air to the British – and global – fashion industry.

VIVA sat down with the inspirational designer for an exclusive Q&A to talk about his collaboration with Debehams and all things to wear for the party season.

Which designers did you admire when you were growing up, before you worked in the industry?

Versace and 80’s high glamour have always been an influence for me – ever since I was young I’ve had a certain flamboyance! 

I have always admired creative, interesting people like Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow, who I was lucky enough to call friends. 

How did working at Chanel and Givenchy influence your style?

Working for Chanel and Givenchy were both incredible experiences and I learned huge amounts at both brands. 

I spent two years watching and learning from Karl Lagerfeld.  

I designed knitted tweeds for Chanel that they still use today, which is an incredible achievement.

How did you decide it was the right time to venture out on your own back in 1998?

After being spotted by Karl Lagerfeld and working successfully for Chanel, I wanted to step out on my own to design. 

I felt that there was a gap in the market for my particular brand of glamour, so I wanted to put my own name to my designs. 

What were you most proud of with your first line?

My first collection felt like such a big achievement because it was amazing to put something out there that I made myself from start to finish. 

I was lucky to receive great feedback and start gaining attention from celebrities who wanted to wear my designs. 

Are there any changes you would make in retrospect?

I feel very blessed to have had some amazing opportunities throughout my career. 

I don’t think there’s much I would change, as I’ve been so lucky, and any challenges I have come across have made me a better designer and person. 

What can you tell us about your new STAR by Julien Macdonald collection for Debenhams?

My new collection is quite rock ‘n’ roll – I’ve used leather, zips and animal print for an edgy feel, mixed with a bit of sparkle to keep it feminine. I always try and use a new animal print in each new season collection – this time I’ve designed a fiery red, white and black pattern, which is featured on a dress and tunic. 

What are the key trends and colours you are focusing on in your new collection?

In this collection, I’ve used a dark forest green on some standout pieces, including a gorgeous jacquard trouser suit, which is perfect for making a statement when you don’t want to wear a dress. 

There’s also some fabulous matching top and skirt combinations, one in printed snakeskin and another in a sequined gold and black Art Deco inspired pattern. 

Festive season is upon us – what tips do you have for dressing for party season?

Anything glitzy and sparkly is great for this time of year. You also can’t go wrong with a black body-con dress, statement necklace and a fabulous pair of heels. Teamed with a smokey eye or a pop of colour on your lips, you’ll be sure to turn heads!

What do you love about collaborating with Debenhams?

Collaborating with Debenhams is great, because it has allowed me to take my philosophy and look, and produce a more affordable range for my customers. 

As my Designers at Debenhams portfolio has grown – with kidswear, homeware and womenswear – I’ve created a stylish lifestyle brand all under one fantastic roof. 

What do you think of the fashion sense of women in the Mideast – how does you own aesthetic fit in the fashion landscape here?

Middle Eastern women are very glamorous which fits wonderfully into my aesthetic because glamour is my signature. They love animal print and sparkle and aren’t afraid to make a statement with them, which is fantastic because I hate boring fashion. 

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