First transmitted in 1998, this programme follows the progress of Julien Macdonald's Spring/Summer 1997 collection.
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WOMAN: I think he's got a wonderful personality,
and he's very, very Welsh, which is nice.
He likes to sort of bring this Welsh cheekiness or impishness
into everything he does.
NEW SPEAKER: I think he is doing something which is entirely new.
Certainly there is no history of knitted evening wear,
let alone sort of transparent knitwear.
MAN: All the time he's trying to break the boundary
in terms of technical innovation,
but also what he knits with, in terms of the yarns he uses.
Really things that have never been knitted before.
So he's extraordinarily creative.
When people normally think of knitwear,
and people would ask me, "What do you do?" So, "I'm a knitwear designer."
And they'd automatically say, "Oh, you make jumpers, then."
And I'd say, "No, I don't make jumpers, I make very sexy dresses."
And they'd say, "Oh, what, like, thick, chunky jumpers, long dresses?
"You know, cardigans, hats, bobble hats."
And I'd say, "No, I create modern knitwear."
Julien MacDonald is one of Britain's leading young fashion designers.
His revolutionary knitwear has been the talk of Paris, Milan
and London for the past two years.
1997 sees a big challenge for Julien -
the launch of his first catwalk collection
in the media glare of London Fashion Week.
Work on the collection began in northern Italy in late August.
Hi, Julien! How are you?
- Come sta? - Bene.
'Miss Deanna is one of Europe's top knitwear manufacturers.
'Her state-of-the-art factory near Bologna is everything
'a young designer could dream of.
'Julien's already been there once to go over the designs
'with Miss Deanna and choose fabrics.
'Now, six weeks later, he's back to see
'the prototypes of the collection for the very first time.'
Wow! It's bright!
- I think they're really fantastic. - Oh, they're brilliant.
'It's amazing for me, it's just like a treasure box,
'a box of tricks,'
because everything I can do, they can do better than me.
And make things...well, make my dreams really come true.
'Things I dream about I can't do,
'Miss Deanna likes to try to make them, and does make them, come true.
'Very special, cutting-edge development knitwear.'
That's fantastic, this is brilliant.
- It is new, new, new for you! - I know!
This is really new. Actually, it is everything new.
'I think that here in Italy, and we can say perhaps also in Europe,
'she's one of the best knitwear makers.'
She does a lot of research,
I mean she's always travelling around the world seeing exactly
what is dressed in the streets, what the young people has on.
'She always let the designer feel like at home,
'having all what they need to work.
'So I think that's really like a paradise!'
Ah, you want me to do it with the pins?
'She's very fun to work with, and she's also very tiring because,'
you know, I'm young and she's
much older than me, and when I feel tired, she is very alive and awake.
'And I think this comes with experience
'because she's used to working with so many designers.
'And she's a very exciting and fantastic lady to work with
'because she will try anything.'
Julien...it's impossible! THEY LAUGH
I see...and I can take the pins out then.
'He's very manual.
'I mean, normally for knitwears, you have to have a good relation
'with yarns, because those are'
the materials of the designer.
And so you have really to know how they can...work. And, um...
I think he really can see materials,
'from a yarn, what is the right translation.
'That is not so easy in knitwear, so not all designers can do that.
'So I think if a good designer that has his features
'meets a good knitwear factory, then it's the best.'
- Can we make this smaller? - Yes.
'These are the prototypes, the fashion toiles.
'And this is the first time I've seen the collection
'actually made into garments, because when you design the sketches,
'the sketching's very small, they're not real.
'Then when you see the clothes,
'they're actually real clothes, for real women.
'And when you see them on the body, you know, it's exciting.
'But it's also a time for change.
'We change the colours, we change the sizes of the sleeves,
'the arm holes, the lengths of the dresses, the backs.
'And some things work and some things don't,
'but this is the fun part, this is the design part.'
Yeah. That's it, fine.
Julien's own evolution as a fashion designer started
when he was growing up in Merthyr Tydfil.
When he was a teenager, he was different from all the other boys.
I'd give him money to go to town with all the other boys
to buy sweaters, or shirts, whatever, you know, the boys were buying,
cos they used to start then to go out in the night.
He'd come home then, well, he'd buy something way out.
And I used to say to him,
"Julien, that's too big for you, that's not going to look nice, Ju."
"You wait now till I finish."
He'd get the machine down.
Well, whatever he'd bought, he'd make it all different then.
I remember I'd often go to Cardiff and buy things from the markets
and things, kind of recycle them.
And for me, you know, Cardiff was such a big place, you know,
living in such a small valley town, it was a big thing to do.
And I remember I always used to do funny things to my hair.
I used to have perms and cut it and perhaps imitate, you know,
a kind of pop star or somebody I liked.
He used to look really trendy, I got to be truthful with you,
he did, he used to look the part when he used to go out.
And he used to put a lot of effort into it. From his hair to his shoes.
I've seen him going out with odd shoes on.
I've seen him going out with one lace done up and one lace undone.
You name it, and he's done it.
The funny thing is about me,
when I was young I was never actually good at anything.
I was always bottom of the class and not top of the class.
And people would just think, "Oh, he'll end up in Hoovers,
"or in the light bulb factory,
"he'll never actually make anything of himself."
When I went to Brighton,
I was never the best in the college at the beginning.
Everything would always fall off the machine and they'd say, "Oh, God,
"you're hopeless." And, you know, "You take ages to do everything."
And then what happened is,
as soon as I started to work with other people, I learnt myself.
Because when I used to work for Cole, he would say,
"Oh, Julien, this is a dress, can you make a dress?"
And, of course, I'd never, ever made a dress,
I'd never made a jumper, I'd never even made a bobble hat.
I'd knitted little squares.
And all of a sudden I was in a situation where
I had to make a dress.
So I would go the library, get a book, and actually read
how to make a dress, and then I would make the dress.
I remember waking up one morning and everything just clicked,
everything just fell into part.
It was almost as if somebody had come to me one night and kind of sprinkled
magic dust over me, and I woke up and I could do all these things.
Cos the day before, I couldn't do them.
After Brighton, Julien's progress was rapid.
Studying at the Royal College Of Art,
he took part in a competition to design clothes
for one of the top names in the fashion business -
Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld.
I was very scared and I was shaking.
Because don't forget, you know,
Mr Lagerfeld is the most famous designer in the world.
Then when he actually saw what I did, of course, for him,
he'd never actually seen fabrics like mine before.
Because what I do is very unique to me. It's very modern, it's very edgy.
It can be young, and it can be very old and very sophisticated.
So, I had something that he wanted.
So, of course, I won the competition, he loved my work.
And, um, there was me and two other people
that got sent to Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel headquarters
to spend the summer in Paris.
At the end of the holidays, the other students went back to college,
but Julien was asked to stay on and become Karl Lagerfeld
and Chanel's knitwear chief.
There I was, 22 years old,
Julien MacDonald from Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales.
You know, it was odd. I was the knitwear designer for Chanel.
You know, I was the boss, I didn't answer to anybody at all.
Karl just let me do whatever I wanted to do.
If I wanted to do something, I could just do it.
And then I would have to go to all the factories
to supervise all the production.
I'd say, "Hello, I'm Mr MacDonald," and they'd like...
"Well, you can't be Mr MacDonald, you're so young!"
They would phone up Chanel headquarters and say,
"Oh, we've got this young boy, he says he's the knitwear designer
"for Chanel, is it true?" And they'd say,
"Yes, Mr MacDonald is the boss.
"If he says it's black and three metres,
"it's black and three metres."
I just remember I was actually dressing Naomi Campbell,
and I'd sent her off and all of a sudden it was like,
"Julien! Julien, Julien." And I remember Andre Leon Talley
grabbing me, saying, "Quick, Karl wants you, Karl wants you."
And I just thought, "Oh, my God, something's broken,
"a dress has ripped, or they want me to do something."
So then I ran to Karl at the side of the catwalk and said,
"Karl, what's the matter, what do you want?"
He said, "We're all going on the runway now."
I said, "What?" He said, "You're coming on the runway with me."
I said, "No, I'm not, it's not my show, it's your show."
He said, "No, no, no, you're coming with me.
Then all of a sudden I was literally pushed onto the runway.
And then of course in front of me there was all of Paris.
Karl took the very unusual step of actually bringing Julien out
onto the catwalk with him.
Karl Lagerfeld is a man who likes to keep the limelight to himself.
So I think we all realised instantly that this was something
I think what he liked about Julien,
and I think what everybody notices,
is his kind of wizardry with weaving
and the fact that he's completely at home using very strange materials,
like, you know, silver thread, gold thread, metal...
The kind of fibres and textures
and elements that you wouldn't normally associate with knitwear.
Well, it was something I was doing for a long time.
I'd just developed the technique for very feminine, lacy fabrics.
And American Vogue kind of quoted me as being the "genius of knitwear".
And then in Harper's Bazaar,
"Julien MacDonald, the supreme knitwear designer".
Then in British Vogue, "Julien MacDonald and the king of knitwear."
All of a sudden I became king of the cobweb.
I think, on the whole, we associate knitwear with day wear,
we think it's comfy, it's stretchy, we wear it in layers.
And Julien's taken knitwear into an entirely new realm.
The one thing that perhaps we could liken it to
is cobwebby knitting,
but it's something that's always been used for shawls, um, in wool,
certainly not in transparent, body-moulding evening gowns.
Julien's clothes are appealing to a new fashion client.
Perhaps not always used to wearing evening wear.
And what he's done with this dress is,
he's taken the basic shape of the V-neck T-shirt,
which is something that 1990s women are familiar with,
and married with a style which could be likened to 1930s bias cut,
sort of body-moulding evening wear.
And married the two together.
I think you've got to be special to wear them.
I think you've got to be really...trim. Have no cellulite!
So we can't wear them.
They are really special, his clothes,
and I don't think that a lot of people can afford them.
I think you've got to be in the right sort of work
to be able to wear them and to buy them.
But things are about to change.
Julien's been working with Marks & Spencer to create
a new collection specially designed for the high street.
When he first came to see me, the first sort of interview we had,
when he was talking about actually designing for a chain store,
he was... It excited him.
Not only was he excited about working with Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel
and making his own couture collection,
but he was very excited about putting clothes together
that his sisters could afford in Cardiff,
and, you know, that were affordable to a lot of people.
It's very different because my fabrics are very technical
so firstly I have to teach the factory how to make my fabrics.
And then, of course, with Marks & Spencers,
it's about price and quality.
So it has to be at a price that people can afford
and at a quality that's acceptable to a Marks & Spencers customer.
So it's actually very, very challenging.
You have to make things which people want to wear
and that all people can wear, from a size eight,
and also something that somebody at a size 16 can wear.
What we will get is the flavour of his couture clothes
and what we saw on the catwalk,
but they will obviously be reinvented for mass production.
And, as I said, he's very keen that we have prices
that his sisters can afford, he keeps going back to that.
But what you'll still get is the creativity,
and you'll get those very lacy knits and the sheer looks
and the fine sort of gossamer weights.
The creativity with yarns that he is known for.
These will be wearable, very special and very glamorous.
London, or Britain, is unique in the world in the opportunities
it does afford young designers on the high street.
And in the last couple of years we've seen many such marriages
springing up - between Debenhams and Jasper Conran,
between Dorothy Perkins and Clemence Ribeiro, between BHS and Paul Frith.
And Marks and Sparks with Julien MacDonald is one of the latest
kind of designer partnerships.
And what it means is that Julien's sort of,
the wilder extremes that he can go to on the catwalk,
encouraged by somebody like Karl Lagerfeld,
can then be tempered and sort of toned down
for the mass market consumer by a company such as Marks & Spencers.
Julien's Marks & Spencer clothes hit the streets in May
and the company are also the sponsors behind his new show.
The collection marks a radical departure from his cobweb chic.
Yeah, I like that.
And the underneath, how it must go?
- So short, or the same length? - Yeah.
SHE SPEAKS ITALIAN
SHE SPEAKS ITALIAN
Yeah, it's better now.
Can you walk down?
Small things make a lot of difference.
'This will be a really big shock'
for many people.
Because my work before is much, much more sophisticated
and it catered for a different clientele.
The new collection is very young, it's fun, you know,
it's short and it's extremely sexy.
'And I think for the customers I have now, they will be very kind of,'
"Oh, where is the old Julien MacDonald?" But of course fashion
is about change and if you don't change, then you get left behind.
Back home, there's only two weeks to go before London Fashion Week.
It's an organisational nightmare.
I've got to go to Paris tomorrow, as well.
Who have you got confirmation on?
I haven't confirmed anyone yet.
But I thought we were going to do that.
We can do that tomorrow.
Oh, Joanne, I thought you were going to do that.
You have to do that straightaway.
JULIEN: 'Well, London Fashion Week is probably the most important
'event of the year for fashion designers.
'It's where you show your clothes to everybody in the fashion business
'and everybody in the world.
'The most prestigious event on that calendar is actually having
'the last show, because the last show makes everybody stay,
'it makes the buyers stay, it makes the press stay -
'and of course I'm their last show, it's an immense pressure.'
It looks like it is quite difficult to work with, you know?
There's two sides to this business.
There's a side which is very glamorous and fun
and there's a side which is extremely bitchy and very catty
and people which have daggers
who just want to put you down on every instance.
So I surround myself with people who I think are nice and genuine...
in their profession and also in their personal life.
'So I always ask my friends to make things for me.
'And the people who work for me, they become my friends.
'We work as a family and as a team, where we all work together to create
'a look which isn't just about Julien MacDonald, it's about everybody.'
And if you see, at the front...
And then we can take them off and what we've done with the design,
we can just change it round, so...
'Julien can change rapidly,
'he's renowned for changing collections
in between collections, so that's quite good, and for me,
it's quite inspiring and quite encouraging,
because I have to change as rapidly as Julien does, so...
And that's good cos it means that we get loads of ideas out
and perhaps what we don't use this season, we'll use again next season,
so there's elements which we keep.
But again, it's knowing each other's vocabulary of design and...
what the limits are.
NARRATOR: Julien's workshop is in the old garment district
of London's East End.
The day before the show,
the final details are still being stitched into place.
JULIEN: 'I always tend to cast the models I know.
'I always pick the models I've met through, you know, Chanel
'and through Karl Lagerfeld.
'The girls, they know me, they know what I'm like, so then
'I can enjoy myself, because I'm surrounded by friends.
'I always design thinking,
'"Oh, that'll be Naomi Campbell" or, "That will be Jodie Kidd."
'I know exactly what each girl will wear.'
This is it.
NARRATOR: It's important to make your mark with your first catwalk show
and Julien's chosen a rather unusual venue to do just that.
Well, this is Spitalfields Opera House
and this is the location for the show.
I've just come myself about ten minutes ago, just to see the space.
FOOTBALLERS CALL OUT TO EACH OTHER
JULIEN: 'Well, I like it, because outside is such reality,
'there's people playing football,
'there's market stalls, fruit and veg, the fishmonger.
'When you walk through the door, I said, "What's that smell?"
'She said, "Oh, it's the fish shop opposite." So that's real
'and that's also what London and this part of London, the East End,
'is about, so it's amazing.
'In this room tomorrow night, will be
'500 of the world's most prestigious press and journalists,
'pop stars and media celebrities
'and some of the most richest women in the world as well,
'who'll actually be buying the clothes.
'So it's very important that the first impression is strong.'
It's him and there's a PA and there's a guy on bongo drums.
'Last time I was very nervous
'and thought, "Oh, God, is it worth all this fuss, all this performance?'
Cos people think it's very glamorous,
but, you know, the pressure is immense
and I'm extremely tired and very fragile,
so the smallest thing affects me now because I'm on my wits' end.
NARRATOR: The last day of London Fashion Week has arrived
and the final reports are being filed by the world's fashion press.
Meanwhile, over at Spitalfields,
everything is almost ready for the show.
But the front-of-house calm belies the chaos backstage.
HUM OF VOICES
JULIEN: 'It's very stressful, being a designer.
'Although it's, you know, fun, and it is glamorous,
'everything is addressed to you - you know, what colour shoes?
'How would you want this? What music do you want? What drinks do you want?
'What time do want people to come?
'You have to have the answers for everything.
'Everybody's kind of working for you freely, nobody gets paid.
'Everybody is there because they love fashion.
'So you have to be nice to everybody.'
Delegate a dresser to a girl, that's your job!
There's a fashion show going on inside, you must know that, you know?
'I like to think that I'm kind of a normal type of guy, you know,
'I'm quite funny, I'm very easy-going.
'I'm there to make everybody enjoy themselves,
'cos if you don't enjoy yourselves, people don't do it.
'They don't come back to help you again.'
- Hi, hi. - Wow.
LIVELY BUZZ OF CONVERSATION
Ten minutes left to take your photos, please. Ten minutes only for photos.
That includes you, Richard, I'm afraid!
- Are you excited? - Yes, I am excited!
Isn't he the most...?
'Julien MacDonald's a great character,'
and a wonderful person
and he has a tremendous Celtic spirit,
so I think everyone's very excited, and his knitwear is exquisite.
There's no-one probably that does knitwear like this in the world.
I'm actually confident about it because I know it's a strong show
and also that before each girl goes on, I'll check them,
to see what they look like and everything, so...yeah, I'm happy.
It's what I've always wanted, so it's great.
PA: Can you feel it?
APPLAUSE AND CHEERING
MUSIC: People Crew Intro (featuring Mark Sheer) by People Crew
# I'm alive, the man with the second face
# And I'm ready y'all to rock the space, real
# I'm alive the man with the second face
# And I'm ready y'all to rock the space, real... #
JULIEN: 'When it comes to me going on the catwalk, I'm like a madman,
'I'm crazed up because that's my adrenaline is at a peak!
'You know, I'm happy, It's over, it's the end!
'So of course what you do is run on the catwalk because you're so happy.
"I've finished it, it's over!"
'You know, "I loved it, thank you very much!"'
MAN: Excellent. It was...
We took a chance on someone so young finishing British Fashion Week
and he pulled it off. And it's...
very exciting, um...
We've just come backstage to see him
and people are literally in tears, it is that exciting.
We are all now little flies trapped in Julien MacDonald's web.
There was a lot of interest.
Also because there was only one Julien MacDonald
that was doing knitwear and very young
and everybody was looking for somebody
that was doing something new in knitwear.
I'm going to find your mother and father, just to say thank you.
Look at you!
I thought the shoes were exquisite,
I thought the clothes were very exciting.
You have to look at it as knitwear.
For knitwear, it's very modern.
Oh, it's lovely.
I didn't want the show to end, it was so lovely.
JULIEN'S DAD: It was an excellent show.
Very, very good and all the top models here.
He's done his mum and dad proud.
A Welsh boy from Merthyr Tydfil - really, really good.
I enjoyed it because my work is my life and also my hobby.
If I didn't enjoy it, I wouldn't do it, full stop.
So this what I'm about - this is Julien MacDonald.
First transmitted in 1998, Julien Macdonald wowed the international fashion scene with his original and daring knitwear designs. This programme follows the progress of his Spring/Summer 1997 collection, his first catwalk collection at London Fashion Week.