Is it really possible to see beauty in everything? This all too frequently meaningless statement takes on new value in Julia Heuer’s Beautopia, a collection that presents the world through her eyes. A world shaped by love is one of the ways that one can describe Julia Heuer’s latest Spring/Summer 2023 collection Beautopia; flaunting vibrant chic, the collection emphasises Heuer’s plisse-dominant textures and extraterrestrial patterns.
The Paris-based designer first began her fashion journey by designing for Swiss manufacturer Jakob Schlaepfer before building the stature and self-confidence to establish a label that encompassed her own vision. Her inclination toward surrealism, especially in the SS23 campaign, is an act of defiance against the ceaseless expectation of the mainstreamed type of beauty. Heuer’s upcoming AW23 collection CorporateCabana continues in this direction by boldly fusing stunning pieces against a background of environmental degradation. The designer’s creative vision gives a fresher, more sincere meaning to “finding beauty in ugliness”.
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Today we chat to Paris based designer and owner of the self-named label Julia Heuer. How are you doing these days?
Enjoying the sun, finalising the new SS24 collection. Doing pretty pretty good.
We want to know more about the mind behind the materials; when did designing clothes for a living – let alone ones for your eponymous brand – begin to feel like an attainable career path for you?
I was a textile designer for Jakob Schlaepfer when I started designing handpainted and handpleated garments. Over time, people were getting increasingly intrigued by my work and were asking for more. After winning the Swiss Design Award for my first collection Adobe Indigo, I realised that I created a product that people found compelling enough to buy and wear. That’s when I decided to pursue my own creative path.
How does the process of coming up with a design or pattern usually come about?
I usually start with the print artworks. I gather all the images and colour references that I find relevant at the time while we are working on the new silhouettes. Then both of those pieces of research are merged to create the final looks, by coordinating the respective techniques.
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Do you often work on a multidisciplinary scale in order to find inspiration for your collections?
It actually boils down to daily discussions with the team. The inspiration comes from our everyday lives. We openly share any inspiration or situation we come across whether on the street or online while working together on the new developments. I would say inspiration is overall something very ephemeral, fluid and unpredictable.
Beautopia, a beautiful utopia, a universe led by love. How did your Spring/Summer 2023 collection Beautopia come to fruition? What were some of the challenges you faced throughout the process?
I guess the biggest challenge consisted in giving birth while working on this collection. So, this collection was led by love indeed. We had so much fun creating this celebration of joyful looks. Our biggest challenge actually always consists in knowing when to stop. The work on colour and print combinations could be never ending and overwhelming but we somehow have to narrow it down to key looks and save the creative overload onto the next collection.
Julia Heuer clothes, like the Tiago and Olaf dresses, have always been adorned with extraterrestrial-like patterns. Given that you often use the ancient Japanese Arashi Shibori technique, could you tell us a bit about its origins and why you felt it was the ideal technique to use for your brand?
My first encounter with Shibori happened while I was a student at the Denmarks Design Skole. Shibori is a Japanese manual resist dyeing technique used on textiles to create patterns that spread unevenly across the fabric. What’s special in our case is that we don’t use it for dyeing but for pleating.
I was used to approach textile design in a regular way through flat patterns, maybe creases, stitches, some pleats here and there to consider, but Shibori immediately intrigued me. Working with  three dimensional shapes, giving each garment its own dynamic shape. A handycraft technique in combination with a more industrial process of digital print design. It’s the perfect fit for my way of designing, bringing old crafts together with new technology.
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Beautopia features strong elements of surrealism, from the warped and animorphic faces achieved in post-production, to the elongated body proportions and head bows made out of skin-like materials. What do you think it is about the unworldliness of your brand that appeals to people?
I would say it’s about the contrasted approach to beauty, almost like a visual contradiction or confrontation which functions as a whole.
We are already anticipating Julia Heuer Autumn/Winter 2023 CorporateCabana, as looks are being shared on your Instagram. Was there any overlap between Spring/Summer 2023 and Fall/Winter 2023? In other words, were they coming to life simultaneously – whether physically or cognitively?
It’s a continuous flow creatively. I’m never splitting one collection from the next in my mind. They have to be though for many practical reasons but you always have to look and think forward in fashion. Time wise, you’re caught up in the process where the current release feels like the past and future ones feel like the present.
The Autumn/Winter 2023 collection campaign showcases models in the ethereal, swirling patterns, surrounded by beach waste, the collection even incorporates sea life with pieces like the seaweed covered bag and necklaces adorned with cigarette butts, plastic remnants, and tin pull tabs. What was the intention in harmonising the aesthetic beauty of your pieces with something so apocalyptical and unsightly?
Like I mentioned before, I’m not looking into creating pure beautiful imagery. What I find interesting in a single image is how disturbing or dissonant it can get. A slightly awkward beauty with a humorous twist, something to remember and think about.
Our final question – is another Julia Heuer collection already in motion?
Of course! It’s Spring/Summer, the year is 2024.
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