PARIS, Jun 13, 2005/ FW/ — British designer Julia Smith welcomed Fashion Windows at her plush offices at De Fursac, the French fashion company that she has completely turned around and made over into a true fashion house.
At De Fursac, the lovely Ms. Smith puts to work the various skills and talents that she has developed over the years as menswear designer for the likes of Givenchy Homme, Trussardi, etc.
Julia now speaks with clarity about her adventures, which have led to her being one of menswear top design talents.
FashionWindows: Why men’s wear Julia, and how did it all begin ?
Julia Smith: I’ve always found men’s fashion fascinating. I did men’s sportswear in college, and I won a prize for it.
FW: Describe what it was like.
JS: It was sporty. It was an interpretation of a bomber jacket in grey. I even died it myself. I received an amazing reaction from it. I won a prize that took me to Italy.
FW: So then what happened?
JS: I had four job offers. There was a consultant and designer positions for London, Germany and Italy. I refused and went to work over 8 years in womenswear. I did five years at Whistle’s in London. I then did 3 ½ years at Trussardi in Milan. I designed for the men’s and women’s collections, did the show and handled some of the Trussardi licenses in Japan.
It was a couture way of making the models. It gave me valuable insight into working with the body and working with leather on the body. It was excellent.
FW: What was it like working with the Japanese as woman?
JS: I had a good experience there… Upon my first trip there in 1989, I fell in love. I was considered to be “geijing”, which means an honourable man. With the Japanese, it is a question of trust. I think that that was their biggest criteria. And in Japan, I oversaw more than 60 licenses.
FW: What was it like handling all that responsibility?
JS: It was all so interesting because you create a world and in that world, you are creating different lifestyle products… Everything was about proportions and Zen. What I learned there I try to incorporate into my collections.
FW: So after the Japanese experiences, you returned to Europe?
JS: Right. I moved to Givenchy, which in turn brought me to Paris. I changed Givenchy Gentilmen into Givenchy Homme.
Alexander McQueen and I spoke greatly in detail about the synergies we were creating. I was there about 5 years. I brought factories and contacts to Givenchy that they didn’t have before.
FW: What exactly are your functions at De Fursac because I understand that they are many?
JS: Here I am Artistic Director, as well as the Head of Marketing & Style.
FW: How do you manage to pull it all together Julia?
JS: I have a great team. I have Ingrid working with me on communications and marketing.
FW: Julia, I noticed that in Paris, you were among several designers to show in the same season big outer pockets as details in your collection. How does that happen? Is there like some collective synergy that binds you all together?
JS: We all go to the same salons and see the same fabrics. It’s like instinct. In the 60’s, there was so much hope. But today, you have to have a certain amount of courage in order to follow your own instincts.
FW: You are the house’s first in-house designer. So where do you want to take De Fursac?
JS: First, De Fursac was always known for quality and its commercial appeal. Mr. [Edmond] Cohen and I developed together a strategy for quality and pricing. We worked to improve De Fursac’s quality. I changed all the shapes with the exception of one. I improved the fabrics and the interior of the suits.
FW: What does it all mean?
JS: Today, it’s difficult to separate design and marketing. Today, it’s about having a concept and a lifestyle behind your brands. I designed the logo myself. The packaging I did with Ingrid.
The internet site has my imprint on it too. Everything is well-planned out before we make a move. Because it’s so competitive today, we have to be on top of everything in order to make sure that things get into the shop on time.
My mission was to make De Fursac into a total look, whereas before, it was only doing suits. I watched people a lot and, it shows in my work…
[Photo courtesy of De Fursac
Contact: Jean-François Soler
51, rue des Petites Ecuries
75010 Paris, France
Tel: (33) 1 42 21 36 36
Fax : (33) 1 42 21 36 38