News & Runway

Julia Clancey, Designer: A tFS Exclusive Interview

The Brits are known for their mastery of the witty double entendre and their fashion-forward sensibility, but not necessarily both qualities at the same time.

Julia Clancey is one designer who combines contemporary looks of fantasy and romantic whimsy with a twisted sense of cheeky humor. (Just go to her website, and you will see what I am talking about.)

Never taking herself too seriously, Julia believes that fashion should be fun, and that a little frothy abandon is good for the temperament.

Since debuting her collection at London Fashion Week in 2004, Julia has been setting red carpets and award shows on fire with the likes of Paris Hilton, Megan Fox, and Lindsay Lohan flaunting her designs.

With editorials in Vogue, Elle and W, Julia Clancey is proving the she is the go-to designer for statement pieces that wow and pop.

The Fashion Spot: You worked as a fashion editor before you became a designer, could you talk about that?

Julia Clancey: I wasn’t really looking to become a designer. I worked as a fashion stylist for rock bands in London. When I moved to Australia, I was styling, and I wrote for a few fashion magazines. I got into fashion design because I was creating clothes for lead singers of various rock bands.

Anyway, I had designed for the Welsh band Catatonia’s lead singer Cerys Matthews, when the director of Catatonia’s videos asked if I would create the costumes for a Whirlpool campaign he was directing. I got swept up in the flow of this multimillion dollar campaign, and designed the clothes for the entire campaign. I really kind of faked it, but it worked out well in the end. That’s how the whole thing started.  

tFS: You are British, but now living and running your business out of Los Angeles. How did this come about?

Julia Clancey: My former publicist, Kelly Cutrone at People’s Revolution, got sponsorship for me from IMG and Smashbox for LA Fashion Week.  Since my clothes have a red-carpet appeal, I felt it was best to move to LA because of all the movie premieres and awards shows.

tFS: Do you think that being a stylist has helped you become a better designer?

Julia Clancey: As a stylist, you are very much in touch with how clothes look on your clients from all angles. You identify with who your client is, what works on their body, and what pieces compliment their wardrobe. So I bring that skill set to my role as a designer.

tFS: Many of the clothes in your collections have sparkle and shimmer, why that particular look?

Julia Clancey: I think I must have been a drag queen in another life. [Lots of laughter] I like things that sparkle. My house in London has a chandelier in every room, and I am just partial to glitzy, shiny things. I don’t really work with prints. I like to work with great solids, and embroider with crystals and sequins.

tFS: You love fantasy fabrics such as silk and chiffon – why?

Julia Clancey: I like to waft. I like to twirl and float and command the dance floor. I love all forms of dance, especially ballet, so I have this attraction for tulle and fabrics that really move. There is nothing better than walking in a garment that makes a statement, and having the wind make the fabric flow, so that you create this aura of floating.

tFS: You have these great names for your collection, Saucy Sundaes, Rich, Pretty and Precious, and All That Glitters.  How did you come up with these delicious names?

Julia Clancey: I love writing forwards and descriptions of my collections, and I like to live a little bit in a dream. The names for my collections reflect the indulged, ultimate lifestyle of my fantasies.

tFS: Let’s talk about your Cannes Cannes Collection.

Julia Clancey: My Cannes Cannes Collection was inspired by my desire to go the Cannes Film Festival, and what I would have in my wardrobe if I went to the festival, lived the luxury life, and attended lots of celebrity parties.  I believe if you design or buy a garment for a certain occasion, you will end up going to that place or event. And I did end up going to the Cannes Film Festival and partying on an incredible yacht.

tFS: Can you talk about the loose, tiered, draping aesthetic in your Cannes Cannes Collection?

Julia Clancey: When I was in Cannes last year, I noticed that everyone was wearing caftans, so I incorporated that look into this resort collection. Caftans are great garments to wear bathing suits under, so I made a modern twist on the caftan by using layered effects and tiered draping.

tFS: Your website is very, as the British would say, cheeky.  It also has a wonderful component where shoppers can match size with color palettes.  How did you come up with that element?

Julia Clancey:  I think fashion should be fun, and you see that reflected in my website. My site is still in the embryonic stage, and you will see lots of new components as we develop the site. With the Cannes Cannes Collection, all the caftans are one size, so shoppers can go to the site and match and play with the colors.

tFS: Your clothes were a part of the finale of America’s Next Top Model Cycle 13. How did that come about?

Julia Clancey: I dressed this lady who organizes all the big events in Cannes. Through her I met one of the producers of ANTM, and was picked to be a part of the finale. Tyra was great to work with, and it was wonderful being on location in Maui.

tFS: What’s next for you?

Julia Clancey: Cannes Cannes launches in July. I am developing a secondary line, Little Miss Clancey, where the price points are lower than my signature line.  We are planning a big launch of that in September. And I am developing an accessories line to launch in the US in February.

For information about Julia Clancey’s collections, go to juliaclancey.com.

Photos courtesy of Deborah Anderson.