Julien Macdonald’s collaboration with Mothercare has finally launched; we managed to steal an interview with him to talk childrenswear, London life, and a certain North West…
Is this your first foray into childrenswear?
Yes – it’s the first time and it’s just the start! We want to introduce different age categories but for now we’re starting with newborn up to two.
So this isn’t going to be a one off?
Oh no, it’s not a flash in the pan. It’s a proper commitment from myself and Mothercare – we’ve already started to develop the next Christmas collection!
I have two godchildren – one is five and the other is just under a year – so over the last three or four years I’ve had a lot more children in my life. The collection features my favourite things, like animal print and stars, and the quality of the material is much higher than Mothercare would normally use. The characters within the range are all things you might find in a zoo – we’ve got Tommy the Tiger, Bella the Rabbit. And the collection is called ‘Smile’, simply because it’s the first thing you do when you think of children!
Why do you think lots of designers are branching into childrenswear?
I don’t know… there’s obviously something in the air! The clients of these designers have children, and they’ll want a dress for their little girl or a jacket for their little boy. I’ve just made Kim Kardashian’s little girl [North] a dress. A lot of celebrities are being very open about their children – they’re happy going out with their ‘mini-me’ and being photographed, whereas in the past that wasn’t the case. Now adults are much more fashionable, it reflects on their children; they can afford to buy fashionable clothes. Before, if you wanted your child to look trendy, you’d have to go to luxury boutiques, which for most people are unobtainable. Designer baby clothes became a bit snobby – not everyone can afford to spend £300 on a child’s dress – whereas now there’s access to fashionable, affordable clothing for kids, and it’s having an affect on designers. It’s a brand extension for everybody.
Do you think in the future it’s something you’d like to do for your own line?
Yeah, definitely. I’ve actually been designing couture children’s clothes for quite a long time. A lot of my business is made on bespoke dressing, and the women I dress always ask me to make their little girl or little boy something nice, whether it be for a bah mitzvah, wedding or a birthday party, When I designed the couture at Givenchy, a lot of the clients would want an identical dress for their child. I’ve always made these kind of couture high-end pieces for children but I’ve never publicised the fact.
When you’re designing for babies, how does your design process change – there’s obviously lots to think about!
There’s more of a practical aspect to it. The clothes tend to be a simpler shape because the kids want to run around, whereas if you’re a woman you want the waist squeezed in and the skirt right up to there. Parents still want it to look amazing, but it’s got to be functional. They tend to be going somewhere – when you get off a jet you want your kids to look great!
When you were growing up, did you have any interest in fashion?
I was always fashionable. My mother and father were always working – so my sisters really brought me up. I was always around fashion – I loved it. When I was in art college I found I had a passion for decorative textiles, hence my work tends to include a lot of embroidery and embellishment. I’ve managed to channel my artistic skills into the art of dressmaking; I see my clothes like decorating a cake – it’s just a different kind of art form.
What do you miss about Wales?
I miss my family. There’s a sacrifice to having a certain career, and not being around is one – you don’t have family life like that. Nevertheless, I’m still very close to them and all my school friends – I’m looking forward to the school reunion in July. I won’t recognise half of them! My school friends’ children are all teenagers now! Mad.
What inspiration do you take from London life?
Over the years I’ve travelled the world and I’m always inspired by the places I go and the people I meet, whether it’s Bali, Miami or India. But you know, I think I’m lucky enough to live in the biggest cosmopolitan city in the world. Most of the clients I dress don’t even live here but they all come, because it’s their favourite stop-off city. A lot of them have apartments here or they love staying in the hotels. They love the British high street – it really is the best in the world. Even my wealthiest clients, after going into Harrods and Selfridges, they’ll do the high street – Topshop, Zara, Kurt Geiger… they love it!
You can shop the entire collection, here.