I love haute couture. It’s fashion at its finest…true art. From Alexander McQueen to Dior, haute couture has proven to be an art form so beautiful and unique, that I often look at these creations in wonder while marvelling “How did they do that?” and “I’ve never seen fabric so beautiful!”
Beautiful haute couture designs by Iris van Herpen, a favourite of Lady Gaga’s
There is a reason why only a small percentage of the world’s population can afford haute couture. With the clothing being sewn by hand, intricate beading completed by the world’s finest artisans and embroidery of the likes that is rarely seen anymore, an haute couture creation can take hundreds of hours to complete. Let’s not forget the fine fabrics sourced from all over the world, or made by 3D printing (I encourage you to look at the incredible designs of Iris van Herpen) or custom designs made with semi- precious and precious materials such as pearls and diamonds.
During last fall’s Runway For Hope fashion show, I was struck by the creations of local Richard Robinson Academy of Fashion Design graduate, Julianne Buchholz. Her designs were unlike anything I’d ever seen and really stood out. From a long teal sequined skirt reminiscent of a mermaid’s tail, to beautifully constructed bodices covered in scarab beetle shells, I was floored. I needed to meet this lady.
Julianne was kind enough to sit with me over some chai tea and discuss her creations, her inspiration and her future plans. Read on to learn more about the lady behind the incredible designs of Julianne…
I met Julianne at a local coffee shop and spotted her immediately. She looked fabulously cool and poised with her hair whipped up into a neat half bun, some perfect eyeliner action at play, and a stunning pale blue suede sleeveless top. Yep – that’s Julianne.
Hi Julianne! Thank you so much for meeting me. You look beautiful – wow!
Hi Dominique! Haha! Thank you. Thanks for meeting me too.
Where did you get that fabulous top?
I made it!!
Of course you did – naturally. Tell me a little about yourself, Julianne.
Well, I originally hail from Calgary, Alberta. I moved here about five years ago with my husband, a Carleton University Engineering student.
Haute couture – incredible. Why haute couture?
I actually hated sewing. As a kid, my mother put me in sewing classes which I hated. I soon began to appreciate sewing and the art form of hand sewing. I have a very artistic background, with a mother who cross-stitches and a grandmother who is an embroiderer.
Also, I’ve been drawing since I was 5 years old and have taken many art classes. I won an art competition when I was six and that really got me going. I won the competition with a chalk still-life drawing on a black background that I created. It was featured in the Triangle Gallery of Visual Arts of the Museum of Calgary.
I also love the idea of wearable haute couture, and keep that in mind when I’m designing.
Wow. That’s pretty impressive, Julianne. So, your parents were always supportive?
Yes – most definitely.
So, why did you move to move to Ottawa?
Actually, I applied to several schools for design such as Ryerson in Toronto and the Art Institute in Vancouver, but I decided to move to Ottawa because I really wanted to attend the Richard Robinson Academy of Design to study haute couture.
After graduating, I also taught Textiles at the Academy and feel my training really helped me understand all sorts of different fabrics.
I’m in love with your last collection of pieces adorned with scarab beetle shells. What inspired you and that particular collection?
Well, my husband is Egyptian and my trip to Egypt to meet his family changed my life. I fell in love with the culture and the architecture of Egypt’s buildings and monuments. We went for a camel ride and I was completely inspired by the geometrics, textures and symmetry of the beautiful tasseled blankets covering the camels.
I was also very inspired by the Scarab Temple in Egypt. It really struck me.
I went to Egypt too and feel the exact same way. It was a trip unlike no other. I love scarab beetles…their shells are so beautiful and interesting. I was totally drawn to your collection and wondered how you dreamed up that concept! What does into a dress or designing one of your collections?
Well, I love to blend industrial looks with haute couture. My signature is a simple silhouette with great fabrics and lots of embellishment. In fact, I love embellishment so much that one of my dresses took 200 hours to complete…but not all of my creations are that detailed. I can whip something up in 10 hours. I also love very detailed looks and will hand fray satin for instance for my designs.
I also love wearable haute couture. When designing, I’m always thinking “How am I going to get into this dress? How am I going to sit in it?”, etc.
A great source of learning an inspiration for me was working in a small shop in Gatineau where I learned production, creating bags, boat covers, tarps and awnings for a military supply company. A great learning experience. I can now upholster a couch thanks to that job!
My mom really inspires me too. She passed away from cancer last year and in her honour, I light a candle each time I sell a design. She inspires me each day to keep going. It’s not always easy – this line of work. Putting myself out there is hard and sometimes it hurts not getting the credit you know you deserve.
Taking risks is also important to me and I often research and try out different materials. For instance, I first collection – the Voodoo Collection – was adorned with real cat skulls!
Julianne’s Voodoo Collection
Oh my God. You must send me pictures! I have to see that! So, do you have any advice your young, new designers?
Yes. A lot of new designers fail because they rush into the business. Fashion shows, opening stores…it’s too much too soon. The market is also flooded with clothing designers.
I notice also that a lot of designers like the idea of designing, but don’t learn the art of designing. For instance beautiful beading, embroidery, button-making, lace work…these are dying art forms.
Exactly. While you do not have to be a good seamstress to be a good designer, great construction is important. Learn the craft well.
And when you are starting out, take it slow. Learn the business and seek out good opportunities and being open to those that come your way.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
I definitely still see myself in fashion, continuing to grow as a designer and artist and supporting Canadian design. My favourite designers are Canadian such as Sid Neigum. While I love colour which is very evident in my collection, I’m drawn to Sid’s design and love the all black colour palette. Also, I love Michael Kale as he experiments with different materials…like me!
I also eventually want to get into 3D printing for my designs incorporating more technology into fashion such as heat sensitive fabrics.
In the immediate future, I’ll be launching my website, gearing up to show my latest collection at World Mastercard Toronto Fashion Week in the fall and further growing my brand. Speaking of which, I want to name a future line “Furrera” – this name embodying a sexy, confident woman…my alter ego.
Wow. That’s incredible! I love this “out of the box thinking” and I love that you are wearing your own designs today. Speaking of which, describe your own sense of style.
I really like structured things. I’m not super trendy and feel simple is best. I also design for what I wish I could wear, for the “woman I want to be”…which is more confident.
I struggled with an eating disorder for years but I’m proud of myself for kicking that disease. So yes, confidence through fashion is important to me.
What don’t you like about designing clothing?
Argh! Pattern making is exhausting!
Tell me about your next collection.
My next collection is totally inspired by my mom. It has a very “Holland in the 70s” vibe, which is where my family hails from. There will be lots of fur, braided leathers, leather laces, bell sleeves and bell bottoms. I am also learning about ceramics and creating my own Delft-inspired ceramic pieces to be incorporated into this collection – ceramic shoulder blades.
You’re making your own ceramics???
Yes! And learning watercolour painting to create the Delft effect.
You’re amazing. Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you, Julianne.