One of the best things about the fashion industry today is that is truly is global. Gone are the days when you had to live in one of the “big four” cities to make it as a designer. In fact, many creatives finding themselves living in less crowded, more inspiring locations often have a fresh perspective on and added depth to their work. We met with Zurich-based designer, Julia Seemann, to talk about life as a designer in Switzerland and how it feels to have Rihanna pluck your pieces straight off the runway.
You lived and studied in Switzerland, how do you feel that has influenced your work?
—I think it influenced my work in terms of my approach to how I develop a collection; the process is pretty structured. My family and a lot of my friends are in Switzerland so that gives me some security and I feel at home here. But building a fashion brand in Switzerland is difficult because the fashion scene is very small and people here sometimes don’t really understand what the job of a fashion designer is. That’s why I’m also thinking of relocating to one of the big four, maybe London; it’s easier to build a network because you’re right at the pulse of an internationally relevant fashion scene. But I’d still need some time before undertaking a big step like that, it can’t happen overnight. Logistically it’s quite complex and expensive so we’ll see how everything evolves.
You interned for Vivienne Westwood and Meadham Kirchhoff; all designers who are known for their bold, visual and sculptural designs, something your work definitely shares. Has working with these visionary designers inspired the way you work and create?
—Yes, I could say that it influenced the way I work and also how I don’t work. At Meadham Kirchhoff I learned how essential it is to intensely research the themes and moods you’re interested in before you start designing, and to visualise it all on a big moodboard. I also learned a lot about organisation and timelines. Aesthetically, I would say that working for them had an influence on my work but it came more naturally, as they helped emphasise my vision and interest in music and subcultures the direction in which I wanted my own work to go.
Your work is very texture and pattern led, deconstructing and combining leather, vinyl and denims – all rather harsh fabrics – in a uniquely feminine way and contrasting patterns across garments. What is it about mixing up textures and prints that appeals to you?
—I like the contrast between harsh textures and the female body. I think my garments, through using such harsh materials, textures and oversized volumes, set the female body in a new and modern context. I like the idea of a girl wearing her boyfriend’s denim jacket as if it comes naturally and the idea of mixing up the closets of both men and women. Working with contrasting materials and patterns in one garment enhances it on a visual, textile and haptic level. I want to make clothes people want to touch and feel on the body.
Rihanna loved your work so much that she wore an entire look of yours the day after it premiered on the runway, which is incredible! Who else would you love to see sporting your designs?
—I would of course love to see her again in one of my outfits but I don’t want to design clothes only for celebrities. My vision is to make clothes for the people that surround me, my friends, people like you and me. I think as a young fashion brand today it’s important to understand your customer. It makes no sense for me to have a fashion brand and make clothes no one can really wear or dresses you wear once for a special occasion and then banish to the closet.
Your work is evidently inspired by various art-forms, but what else inspires you creatively?
—I’m a pretty nostalgic person in terms of music, which is another source of inspiration. I like the connection between different subcultures and their respective music scene. I don’t concentrate on one type of music or scene; what really interests me are the codes of clothing but also the habits and moods of those different scenes, be it the dark wave, hip hop or techno scenes. Back in the day, those trends where much more distinct in society. I remember when you were a kid in school you had to decide wether you wanted to be the hip hop girl or the punk girl. Nowadays those boundaries are much more ambiguous, which is a chance for me as a designer to mix it all up and create something new. Personally I like to go to a gothic party one day and then go to see Estonian rapper TOMM¥ €A$H the next day. This is what youth culture is about today and that’s what inspires me creatively.