Julia Clancey is a nomadic wonder. She floats between New York, LA and London exactly the same way she has floated through her eventful life. This daughter of York has succeeded at everything she’s tried her hand at to date, thanks to – I’m told – a combination of bloody hard work and a spot of luck.
Julia arrives at the bo-ho chic Zetter Townhouse wearing a lacy dress under one of her own silk belts. I ask if the dress is one of her own creations too. “Oh no, I don’t wear my own dresses during the day – they’re far too… dressy!” She laughs. “It’d look a bit like I was doing the walk of shame!”
The acclaimed designer, known for her unapologetically indulgent work, might be accused by some green-eyed observers of simply blagging her way to the top. And whilst a bit of blagging never hurt anyone, as Julia explains, there’s method in the madness. “I’ve just always been open to opportunities, taken risks and believed that anything is possible. Because, it really is!”
Julia began her adult life spending a not so shabby sounding four years living on a Greek island and working in a bar – a period of her life which she describes as ‘comical’. Her and an Australian friend then upped sticks, with every intention of opening a restaurant in Beijing. Plans, as they tend to do, changed and Julia found herself down under, naturally falling into roles as a stylist, copywriter and even editor of a fashion magazine. Her position as a stylist came about when she was attending a friend’s ‘rubber night’ at a club in Sydney. Tossing the obvious fetish option aside, Julia threw caution to the wind with a hilarious costume carefully constructed from inner tubes, marigolds and ducks. “I met this chap there who was Creative Director of an advertising agency. He said, ‘I love your way of thinking! I’d like you to style a campaign for me!’” So, taking Julia under his (rubber ducky) wing and, disregarding the fact that she was unaware of what a stylist even was, the stage was set.
Having exhausted her Australian visa some years later, Julia moved back to London and began styling musicians and occasionally making clothes for music videos. When the director of a big ad campaign presumed she was a designer, she ran with the idea (a pattern is emerging here) and soon found herself creating costumes for the multi-million pound campaign that would launch her next career. The first ever design completed for her own collection was immediately shot by Corrine Day for British Vogue, simultaneously setting the bar incredibly high and “probably pissing a few people off…” Not a bad launch pad. Julia has now been in the industry – in one capacity or another – for an impressive seventeen years. This startles both myself (her youthful looks make it difficult to believe) and Julia herself. “Shiiittt” she laughs, shaking her head, as she remembers her first piece. “That’s my child. My seventeen-year-old child is hung up in a wardrobe…”
In a recent turn of events, Ms Clancey has been wrenched from the warm glow of Boys Town, West Hollywood, for the moment at least, and is back home in the chilly embrace of England. She explains that she was only planning on coming back for Christmas, before falling for our charms once more and deciding to stick it out until Summer. That’s not to say that she’s slacking though. As driven as ever, the clever creatrice is currently working on Adornments by Julia Clancey, her brilliant collection of accessories. “That’s my main thing right now and I’m really naughty with it. My PR told me off, he said ‘Julia, you’ve got to stop being so indulgent!’” We wholeheartedly disagree, and imagine that her extensive client list would too. As well as by many a Hollywood starlet, her beautiful creations are admired by absolute goddess and long-time supporter, Dita Von Teese, who Julia often has in mind when designing.
All of her designs, both dresses and accessories, are adorned with Swarovski crystals and are definite objects of beauty. Her last collection, for example, was hand-embroidered in India and featured beadwork inspired by jewellery given to her by her grandparents. Her magpie-like love of shiny things is obvious, especially, I’m told, when it comes to her next dress collection. “They’re just so indulgent. I know I’m going to have a tiny heart attack when I see the price, but they’re going to be stunning! You’ve just got to take risks though – you’ve just got to.” The elegant, timeless dresses that will grace the red carpets of next year are to be kept closely under wraps until award season previews in November.
She’s positively buzzing about an upcoming exhibition of her work; an archive of everything, including items not yet seen in the UK. The impressive collection will be showcased this March in a very grand – yet undisclosed – London setting. It seems that there are a lot of photographers and illustrators that she’d like to collaborate with in future exhibitions, favouring that sort of presentation to a standard runway show.
As the Queen of Spontaneity puts it herself, she’s had ‘a real dabble’ in the industry so far. Keen to do more film costume work as well as exploring interior yacht design, there’s no way that she’s stopping her creative journey just yet. Before heading off to plan the party she’s holding at the Groucho Club a few days later, Julia informs us that she had eight costume changes at her 40th, but that she’ll probably stick to one this time. Sometimes, the multi-tasking can be left in the studio.