We are sitting on a sunlit summer terrace of the atelier of the Parisian fashion house Julien Fournié, overlooking the green roof of the Opéra Garnier on the right, and the hills of Montmartre with white Sacré Coeur on top slightly on the left. A more “glamorous” address for a fashion studio is difficult to come up with – Rue de la Paix, two steps from the famous Place Vendôme. Home Julien Fournié is 2 years old, its founder – 35, ten of which were devoted to fashion. Monsieur Fournié thoroughly prepared the opening of his brand and his CV is featuring names of the quintessence of French couture that any “Karl” would envy. Though, the career you can only dream of is not the only thing that distinguishes Julien Fournié from other couture designers. In the work of Julien one can feel the impact of his first profession – medicine. Femininity and vulnerability brought to absolute. Julien has a Cheshire cat smile and soft voice, which seem to be familiar from our childhood, and impeccable manners of a French chevalier. If the creativity is a reflection of the inner world of the creator then I am confident that a great future awaits the fashion house Julien Fournié!
I was supposed to be a doctor. After getting my scientific BAC, I passed the exams to the University of Medicine. It took me two years to realize that I was not made for this career. Indeed, in my childhood I already loved to draw and I was surrounded by design: my grandmother was a corset –maker and my grandfather was a tanner. Medicine, however, gave me discipline and helped me to discover the human body, especially through internships in hospitals. Thus you can find in my latest collection the influence of my original education.
At 24, I passed the competition to Applied Arts of Duperré. I discovered a design school where we had a lot of fun but after my experience at the medical school, it seemed to lack a rigor. So I decided to continue my studies at the Chambre Syndicale de Haute Couture Paris and I immediately felt myself in the right place.
In the second year I worked at Dior accessories and in my third year working at Givenchy I won a grand prix Accessories Moet & Chandon. This was my first encounter with Nicolas Degenne, famous artistic director of Givenchy cosmetics line. Finishing my work at Givenchy, I sent my application with a collection called “criminal couture” to Jean Paul Gaultier whom I had always dreamed of working with. Not receiving a reply, I first joined the House Celine, but within a week I met with Jean Paul that offered me to come to work for him. So I went on and spent an insane year at JPG.
And then I was lucky enough to work with Claude Montana for his last 2 years when this house was at the peak of its glory. I learned a way to create things in a way very different from Gautier, extremely precise, architectural.
At 28, after my experience at Montana, I joined Torrente as artistic director. There I was given a total freedom to work and create ‘without limits’. The first show was effervescent, well received by the press and had a commercial success. Unfortunately, despite the great success of the ready to wear collection as well, the adventure was forced to be stopped because of management problems within the company. Taking a job of assistant was not easy for me after all these years of independence.
Meanwhile, a proposal from the fashion department of the Korean LG Group allowed me to leave for a year to Seoul to take the artistic direction of four brands; I learn a new way of working, a new culture.
Returning to Paris I became artistic director at Ramosport where I enjoyed the creation of coats and trench. And then two years ago, pushed by friends, Paris city hall, the Chambre Syndicale, my old school, etc., I decided to create my own fashion house Julien Fournié.
Currently we are working on our fourth collection.
My first collection was called “first models”. It was an obsession, an obsession with women and their vulnerability. I tried to show the strength of women through her vulnerability and the luxury of being herself. The collection was well received, so I decided to work in continuity for my second collection. At that time, I was fascinated by Provence, mostly for the feeling of relaxation which could inspire me more than anything else. I wanted to transcribe the feeling that I had in the last days of the summer, a sort of depression. So I worked on this feeling always in connection with the vulnerability of women, moved by the movie ‘The Hours’ inspired by Virginia Woolf. I dreamed of this woman walking in Provence in the late summer. And I started seeing all the clothes catching fire in contact with the earth. This explains our collection … very “worn” with a vintage touch, ultra-feminine.
The last collection was much less simple: I was inspired by a brief I heard on the radio that in Europe a woman dies every 6 minutes, beaten by her husband… I think that in our time, a designer of haute couture should have a strong voice. High fashion is a powerful vehicle, the press is very present and money invested very significant. Selling dresses is not enough; I wish I could convey a message through my work. To unveil the aesthetic of suffering and pain, I took out my sketches from anatomy lessons. I studied the cut sections of the body, inside and outside. For years many artists work on the aesthetics of suffering and the idea is not new. In my collection, for example, I translated this aesthetic, this vulnerability through large zippers mimicking vertebral column, to illustrate that a woman could be rapidly stripped, abused.
My next collection, although still carrying a targeted message, will be much lighter in spirit.
3. High Fashion
Haute couture was born in France.
For my part I am not yet “haute couture”, but “couture”. I use the elements of high fashion but I have yet to get the approval from the federation. [From the editor: from January 2001, fashion house Julien Fournié is granted “membre invité” status from Chambre syndicale de la Haute Couture]
Haute couture is exciting because it is a creative laboratory; being shifted in timing compared to ready-to-wear it allows designers to define the main guidelines and leitmotifs. Couture allows defining the trends for ready-to-wear (at lower cost because of no production). It also allows me to try new techniques that I cannot directly apply for the ready-to-wear. I continue to define my own styles. As of today, Julien Fournié is expressed by the ultra-vulnerability, openness of the human body; clearly marked waist, feminine shoulders, draped bows; certain models (with a minimum of tailoring) wrap you, while others (with more couture) are very structured; transparency of organza dresses, very feminine.
At the moment my clients are mostly between 18 and 25 years old, who do not want to dress like their mothers. They want something fresher, lighter, and more offbeat, but also less “bling-bling”. The girls of the new generation are more discreet, they know how to buy, they do not spend freely and know exactly what they want.
Geographically, my clients come from very different countries: the Middle East, Canada, but also in Northern Europe. I would like to have some Russian customers! I appreciate Russian women for their strong character, their vulnerability, too, I like the way they take care of themselves, without neglecting the smallest detail!
My sources of inspirations are multiple but the most important is the Woman. I admire women, I love to look at them, listen, see them cry or laugh. My mission is to try to make their life a little happier using my designs, to dress them and deliver the message dear to me.
Interviewed by: Tatiana Stolyarova and Rodion Denisyuk
Photo credits: Luuk Magazine