Julien Macdonald

Julien Macdonald

Julien Macdonald

Last updated: 14 November 2008

The celebrated fashion designer who has worked for Chanel and Givenchy.

Julien Macdonald was born in Merthyr Tydfil on 19 March 1972. His mother Joan taught him to knit, and by the age of 13, Julien had redesigned his Cyfarthfa High school uniform and was making cardigans for the family.

Despite this, he initially didn't want to become a fashion designer. He trained as a tap dancer and set his sights on a career onstage, until a year-long art foundation course in Cardiff inspired him to nurture his talents as a fabric designer.

He took a degree course in Fashion Textiles in Brighton, and presented his graduate show in 1996 at the Royal College of Art, where he was accepted to do an MA in knitwear. Julien's flamboyant dresses were noticed by Isabella Blow, a fashion editor for British Vogue who quickly became an ardent admirer.

By this time he was in high demand. Karl Lagerfeld had already signed him to produce knitwear for Chanel, to great acclaim.

Upon graduation Julien set up his own company, which debuted at London Fashion Week. On 23 August 2000 he gained a degree of notoriety when Kelly Brook attended the premiere of the Guy Ritchie film Snatch wearing a barely-there dress with matching pink knickers, designed by Julien and showing off far more than they revealed.

By 2001 he was named as the British Designer of the Year. As the accolades continued to fly in, he continued working with celebrities. Joely Richardson wore a backless gold dress to the premiere of Maybe Baby, and Geri Halliwell similarly stole the show in a Macdonald-designed red dress at the UK premiere of Bridget Jones's Diary.

He has designed Kylie Minogue's world tour costumes, and Naomi Campbell and Melanie B have appeared on the catwalk wearing his creations. However, Julien has done more than just work with celebrities, and in August 2004 he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the University of Wales, Newport, in recognition to his contribution to UK fashion.

In 2000, at the age of 28, he was appointed chief designer at Paris couture house Givenchy, replacing Alexander McQueen. His all-black first collection for them was announced in July 2001, and marked a departure from his previous signature styles. More successful still were his ready-to-wear styles, which were revealed in October 2001.

Since then he has signed up to design for Debenhams, for whom his Star range was launched in 2004, and has redesigned uniforms for British Airways flight attendants, check-in staff and pilots - a move not without some controversy.

"I want to bring glamour back to travel," he said. "The girls will look very sexy and the men will look like strong heroes. They'll be the envy of all the other airlines." However, a Transport and General Worker's Union spokesman objected, saying: "Our members should not be dressed as sex objects".

However, he has courted more controversy for his continued and unrepentant use of fur in his designs, particularly chinchilla, sable, fox and mink, which has brought him into conflict with Peta and other animal-rights groups.

"Whatever they do I'm not going to stop using fur," he told The Independent in February 2006. "If I stop using fur in my collection I might as well close my business down.

"Almost 60 per cent of my business is catered for the Russian market and my biggest sales are fur. Russian women demand fur coats and they won't wear anything else because it's so cold and they want to look fashionable."

He was in a slightly more combative mood in February 2007, when he claimed that "People who don't like fur can piss off. I love fur. It's a beautiful natural product from animals."

A spokesman for Peta said: "Heartless greedy designers like Julien Macdonald may not care about electrocuting animals and ripping off their fur for fashion, but decent compassionate people do. Millions of animals suffer on fur farms and in steel traps in the wild. The cruelty of the pelt pushers must end."

In June 2006 Julien Macdonald was awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours for services to fashion.


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