King Of The Cobweb - Julien Macdonald The Slate


King Of The Cobweb - Julien Macdonald

First transmitted in 1998, this programme follows the progress of Julien Macdonald's Spring/Summer 1997 collection.


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BBC Four Collections -

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specially chosen programmes from the BBC archive.

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WOMAN: I think he's got a wonderful personality,

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and he's very, very Welsh, which is nice.

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He likes to sort of bring this Welsh cheekiness or impishness

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into everything he does.

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NEW SPEAKER: I think he is doing something which is entirely new.

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Certainly there is no history of knitted evening wear,

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let alone sort of transparent knitwear.

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MAN: All the time he's trying to break the boundary

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in terms of technical innovation,

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but also what he knits with, in terms of the yarns he uses.

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Really things that have never been knitted before.

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So he's extraordinarily creative.

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When people normally think of knitwear,

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and people would ask me, "What do you do?" So, "I'm a knitwear designer."

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And they'd automatically say, "Oh, you make jumpers, then."

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And I'd say, "No, I don't make jumpers, I make very sexy dresses."

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And they'd say, "Oh, what, like, thick, chunky jumpers, long dresses?

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"You know, cardigans, hats, bobble hats."

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And I'd say, "No, I create modern knitwear."

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Julien MacDonald is one of Britain's leading young fashion designers.

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His revolutionary knitwear has been the talk of Paris, Milan

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and London for the past two years.

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1997 sees a big challenge for Julien -

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the launch of his first catwalk collection

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in the media glare of London Fashion Week.

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Work on the collection began in northern Italy in late August.

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Hi, Julien! How are you?

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- Come sta? - Bene.

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'Miss Deanna is one of Europe's top knitwear manufacturers.

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'Her state-of-the-art factory near Bologna is everything

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'a young designer could dream of.

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'Julien's already been there once to go over the designs

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'with Miss Deanna and choose fabrics.

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'Now, six weeks later, he's back to see

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'the prototypes of the collection for the very first time.'

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Wow! It's bright!

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Oh, wow.

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It's amazing.

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- I think they're really fantastic. - Oh, they're brilliant.

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Bravo!

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'It's amazing for me, it's just like a treasure box,

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'a box of tricks,'

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because everything I can do, they can do better than me.

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And make things...well, make my dreams really come true.

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'Things I dream about I can't do,

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'Miss Deanna likes to try to make them, and does make them, come true.

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'Very special, cutting-edge development knitwear.'

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That's fantastic, this is brilliant.

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- It is new, new, new for you! - I know!

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This is really new. Actually, it is everything new.

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Everything!

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SPEAKS ITALIAN

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'I think that here in Italy, and we can say perhaps also in Europe,

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'she's one of the best knitwear makers.'

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She does a lot of research,

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I mean she's always travelling around the world seeing exactly

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what is dressed in the streets, what the young people has on.

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'She always let the designer feel like at home,

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'having all what they need to work.

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'So I think that's really like a paradise!'

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Pronti.

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Ah, you want me to do it with the pins?

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THEY LAUGH

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'She's very fun to work with, and she's also very tiring because,'

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you know, I'm young and she's

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much older than me, and when I feel tired, she is very alive and awake.

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'And I think this comes with experience

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'because she's used to working with so many designers.

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'And she's a very exciting and fantastic lady to work with

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'because she will try anything.'

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Julien...it's impossible! THEY LAUGH

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I see...and I can take the pins out then.

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'He's very manual.

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'I mean, normally for knitwears, you have to have a good relation

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'with yarns, because those are'

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the materials of the designer.

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And so you have really to know how they can...work. And, um...

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I think he really can see materials,

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'from a yarn, what is the right translation.

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'That is not so easy in knitwear, so not all designers can do that.

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'So I think if a good designer that has his features

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'meets a good knitwear factory, then it's the best.'

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- Can we make this smaller? - Yes.

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'These are the prototypes, the fashion toiles.

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'And this is the first time I've seen the collection

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'actually made into garments, because when you design the sketches,

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'the sketching's very small, they're not real.

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'Then when you see the clothes,

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'they're actually real clothes, for real women.

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'And when you see them on the body, you know, it's exciting.

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'But it's also a time for change.

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'We change the colours, we change the sizes of the sleeves,

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'the arm holes, the lengths of the dresses, the backs.

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'And some things work and some things don't,

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'but this is the fun part, this is the design part.'

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Yeah. That's it, fine.

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SPEAKS ITALIAN

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Julien's own evolution as a fashion designer started

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when he was growing up in Merthyr Tydfil.

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When he was a teenager, he was different from all the other boys.

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I'd give him money to go to town with all the other boys

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to buy sweaters, or shirts, whatever, you know, the boys were buying,

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cos they used to start then to go out in the night.

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He'd come home then, well, he'd buy something way out.

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And I used to say to him,

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"Julien, that's too big for you, that's not going to look nice, Ju."

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"You wait now till I finish."

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He'd get the machine down.

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Well, whatever he'd bought, he'd make it all different then.

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I remember I'd often go to Cardiff and buy things from the markets

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and things, kind of recycle them.

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And for me, you know, Cardiff was such a big place, you know,

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living in such a small valley town, it was a big thing to do.

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And I remember I always used to do funny things to my hair.

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I used to have perms and cut it and perhaps imitate, you know,

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a kind of pop star or somebody I liked.

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He used to look really trendy, I got to be truthful with you,

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he did, he used to look the part when he used to go out.

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And he used to put a lot of effort into it. From his hair to his shoes.

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I've seen him going out with odd shoes on.

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I've seen him going out with one lace done up and one lace undone.

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You name it, and he's done it.

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The funny thing is about me,

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when I was young I was never actually good at anything.

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I was always bottom of the class and not top of the class.

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And people would just think, "Oh, he'll end up in Hoovers,

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"or in the light bulb factory,

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"he'll never actually make anything of himself."

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When I went to Brighton,

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I was never the best in the college at the beginning.

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Everything would always fall off the machine and they'd say, "Oh, God,

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"you're hopeless." And, you know, "You take ages to do everything."

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And then what happened is,

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as soon as I started to work with other people, I learnt myself.

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Because when I used to work for Cole, he would say,

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"Oh, Julien, this is a dress, can you make a dress?"

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And, of course, I'd never, ever made a dress,

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I'd never made a jumper, I'd never even made a bobble hat.

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I'd knitted little squares.

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And all of a sudden I was in a situation where

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I had to make a dress.

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So I would go the library, get a book, and actually read

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how to make a dress, and then I would make the dress.

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I remember waking up one morning and everything just clicked,

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everything just fell into part.

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It was almost as if somebody had come to me one night and kind of sprinkled

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magic dust over me, and I woke up and I could do all these things.

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Cos the day before, I couldn't do them.

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After Brighton, Julien's progress was rapid.

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Studying at the Royal College Of Art,

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he took part in a competition to design clothes

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for one of the top names in the fashion business -

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Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld.

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I was very scared and I was shaking.

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Because don't forget, you know,

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Mr Lagerfeld is the most famous designer in the world.

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Then when he actually saw what I did, of course, for him,

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he'd never actually seen fabrics like mine before.

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Because what I do is very unique to me. It's very modern, it's very edgy.

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It can be young, and it can be very old and very sophisticated.

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So, I had something that he wanted.

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So, of course, I won the competition, he loved my work.

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And, um, there was me and two other people

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that got sent to Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel headquarters

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to spend the summer in Paris.

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At the end of the holidays, the other students went back to college,

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but Julien was asked to stay on and become Karl Lagerfeld

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and Chanel's knitwear chief.

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There I was, 22 years old,

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Julien MacDonald from Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales.

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You know, it was odd. I was the knitwear designer for Chanel.

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You know, I was the boss, I didn't answer to anybody at all.

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Karl just let me do whatever I wanted to do.

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If I wanted to do something, I could just do it.

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And then I would have to go to all the factories

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to supervise all the production.

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I'd say, "Hello, I'm Mr MacDonald," and they'd like...

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"Well, you can't be Mr MacDonald, you're so young!"

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They would phone up Chanel headquarters and say,

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"Oh, we've got this young boy, he says he's the knitwear designer

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"for Chanel, is it true?" And they'd say,

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"Yes, Mr MacDonald is the boss.

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"If he says it's black and three metres,

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"it's black and three metres."

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I just remember I was actually dressing Naomi Campbell,

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and I'd sent her off and all of a sudden it was like,

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"Julien! Julien, Julien." And I remember Andre Leon Talley

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grabbing me, saying, "Quick, Karl wants you, Karl wants you."

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And I just thought, "Oh, my God, something's broken,

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"a dress has ripped, or they want me to do something."

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So then I ran to Karl at the side of the catwalk and said,

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"Karl, what's the matter, what do you want?"

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He said, "We're all going on the runway now."

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I said, "What?" He said, "You're coming on the runway with me."

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I said, "No, I'm not, it's not my show, it's your show."

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He said, "No, no, no, you're coming with me.

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Then all of a sudden I was literally pushed onto the runway.

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And then of course in front of me there was all of Paris.

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Karl took the very unusual step of actually bringing Julien out

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onto the catwalk with him.

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And normally,

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Karl Lagerfeld is a man who likes to keep the limelight to himself.

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So I think we all realised instantly that this was something

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quite special.

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I think what he liked about Julien,

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and I think what everybody notices,

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is his kind of wizardry with weaving

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and the fact that he's completely at home using very strange materials,

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like, you know, silver thread, gold thread, metal...

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The kind of fibres and textures

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and elements that you wouldn't normally associate with knitwear.

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Well, it was something I was doing for a long time.

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I'd just developed the technique for very feminine, lacy fabrics.

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And American Vogue kind of quoted me as being the "genius of knitwear".

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And then in Harper's Bazaar,

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"Julien MacDonald, the supreme knitwear designer".

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Then in British Vogue, "Julien MacDonald and the king of knitwear."

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All of a sudden I became king of the cobweb.

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I think, on the whole, we associate knitwear with day wear,

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we think it's comfy, it's stretchy, we wear it in layers.

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And Julien's taken knitwear into an entirely new realm.

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The one thing that perhaps we could liken it to

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is cobwebby knitting,

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but it's something that's always been used for shawls, um, in wool,

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certainly not in transparent, body-moulding evening gowns.

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Julien's clothes are appealing to a new fashion client.

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Perhaps not always used to wearing evening wear.

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And what he's done with this dress is,

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he's taken the basic shape of the V-neck T-shirt,

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which is something that 1990s women are familiar with,

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and married with a style which could be likened to 1930s bias cut,

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sort of body-moulding evening wear.

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And married the two together.

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I think you've got to be special to wear them.

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I think you've got to be really...trim. Have no cellulite!

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So we can't wear them.

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They are really special, his clothes,

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and I don't think that a lot of people can afford them.

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I think you've got to be in the right sort of work

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to be able to wear them and to buy them.

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But things are about to change.

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Julien's been working with Marks & Spencer to create

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a new collection specially designed for the high street.

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When he first came to see me, the first sort of interview we had,

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when he was talking about actually designing for a chain store,

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he was... It excited him.

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Not only was he excited about working with Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel

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and making his own couture collection,

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but he was very excited about putting clothes together

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that his sisters could afford in Cardiff,

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and, you know, that were affordable to a lot of people.

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It's very different because my fabrics are very technical

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so firstly I have to teach the factory how to make my fabrics.

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And then, of course, with Marks & Spencers,

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it's about price and quality.

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So it has to be at a price that people can afford

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and at a quality that's acceptable to a Marks & Spencers customer.

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So it's actually very, very challenging.

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You have to make things which people want to wear

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and that all people can wear, from a size eight,

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and also something that somebody at a size 16 can wear.

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What we will get is the flavour of his couture clothes

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and what we saw on the catwalk,

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but they will obviously be reinvented for mass production.

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And, as I said, he's very keen that we have prices

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that his sisters can afford, he keeps going back to that.

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But what you'll still get is the creativity,

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and you'll get those very lacy knits and the sheer looks

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and the fine sort of gossamer weights.

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The creativity with yarns that he is known for.

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These will be wearable, very special and very glamorous.

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London, or Britain, is unique in the world in the opportunities

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it does afford young designers on the high street.

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And in the last couple of years we've seen many such marriages

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springing up - between Debenhams and Jasper Conran,

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between Dorothy Perkins and Clemence Ribeiro, between BHS and Paul Frith.

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And Marks and Sparks with Julien MacDonald is one of the latest

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kind of designer partnerships.

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And what it means is that Julien's sort of,

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the wilder extremes that he can go to on the catwalk,

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encouraged by somebody like Karl Lagerfeld,

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can then be tempered and sort of toned down

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for the mass market consumer by a company such as Marks & Spencers.

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Julien's Marks & Spencer clothes hit the streets in May

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and the company are also the sponsors behind his new show.

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The collection marks a radical departure from his cobweb chic.

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Yeah, I like that.

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And the underneath, how it must go?

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- So short, or the same length? - Yeah.

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SHE SPEAKS ITALIAN

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SHE SPEAKS ITALIAN

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Yeah, it's better now.

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Can you walk down?

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Small things make a lot of difference.

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That's better.

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'This will be a really big shock'

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for many people.

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Because my work before is much, much more sophisticated

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and it catered for a different clientele.

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The new collection is very young, it's fun, you know,

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it's short and it's extremely sexy.

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'And I think for the customers I have now, they will be very kind of,'

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"Oh, where is the old Julien MacDonald?" But of course fashion

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is about change and if you don't change, then you get left behind.

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Back home, there's only two weeks to go before London Fashion Week.

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It's an organisational nightmare.

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I've got to go to Paris tomorrow, as well.

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Who have you got confirmation on?

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I haven't confirmed anyone yet.

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But I thought we were going to do that.

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We can do that tomorrow.

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Oh, Joanne, I thought you were going to do that.

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You have to do that straightaway.

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JULIEN: 'Well, London Fashion Week is probably the most important

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'event of the year for fashion designers.

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'It's where you show your clothes to everybody in the fashion business

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'and everybody in the world.

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'The most prestigious event on that calendar is actually having

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'the last show, because the last show makes everybody stay,

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'it makes the buyers stay, it makes the press stay -

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'and of course I'm their last show, it's an immense pressure.'

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It looks like it is quite difficult to work with, you know?

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There's two sides to this business.

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There's a side which is very glamorous and fun

0:20:270:20:29

and there's a side which is extremely bitchy and very catty

0:20:290:20:34

and people which have daggers

0:20:340:20:36

who just want to put you down on every instance.

0:20:360:20:39

So I surround myself with people who I think are nice and genuine...

0:20:390:20:45

in their profession and also in their personal life.

0:20:450:20:48

'So I always ask my friends to make things for me.

0:20:480:20:52

'And the people who work for me, they become my friends.

0:20:520:20:56

'We work as a family and as a team, where we all work together to create

0:20:560:21:01

'a look which isn't just about Julien MacDonald, it's about everybody.'

0:21:010:21:06

And if you see, at the front...

0:21:070:21:08

And then we can take them off and what we've done with the design,

0:21:080:21:12

we can just change it round, so...

0:21:120:21:14

'Julien can change rapidly,

0:21:140:21:15

'he's renowned for changing collections

0:21:150:21:17

in between collections, so that's quite good, and for me,

0:21:170:21:23

it's quite inspiring and quite encouraging,

0:21:230:21:25

because I have to change as rapidly as Julien does, so...

0:21:250:21:28

And that's good cos it means that we get loads of ideas out

0:21:280:21:32

and perhaps what we don't use this season, we'll use again next season,

0:21:320:21:35

so there's elements which we keep.

0:21:350:21:38

But again, it's knowing each other's vocabulary of design and...

0:21:380:21:41

what the limits are.

0:21:410:21:43

NARRATOR: Julien's workshop is in the old garment district

0:21:470:21:50

of London's East End.

0:21:500:21:52

The day before the show,

0:21:520:21:53

the final details are still being stitched into place.

0:21:530:21:57

JULIEN: 'I always tend to cast the models I know.

0:22:010:22:03

'I always pick the models I've met through, you know, Chanel

0:22:030:22:06

'and through Karl Lagerfeld.

0:22:060:22:08

'The girls, they know me, they know what I'm like, so then

0:22:080:22:11

'I can enjoy myself, because I'm surrounded by friends.

0:22:110:22:15

'I always design thinking,

0:22:150:22:17

'"Oh, that'll be Naomi Campbell" or, "That will be Jodie Kidd."

0:22:170:22:19

'I know exactly what each girl will wear.'

0:22:210:22:23

This is it.

0:22:230:22:25

NARRATOR: It's important to make your mark with your first catwalk show

0:22:280:22:32

and Julien's chosen a rather unusual venue to do just that.

0:22:320:22:36

Well, this is Spitalfields Opera House

0:22:390:22:41

and this is the location for the show.

0:22:410:22:44

I've just come myself about ten minutes ago, just to see the space.

0:22:440:22:48

CLATTERS ECHO

0:22:480:22:50

FOOTBALLERS CALL OUT TO EACH OTHER

0:22:540:22:57

JULIEN: 'Well, I like it, because outside is such reality,

0:22:590:23:03

'there's people playing football,

0:23:030:23:04

'there's market stalls, fruit and veg, the fishmonger.

0:23:040:23:07

'When you walk through the door, I said, "What's that smell?"

0:23:070:23:10

'She said, "Oh, it's the fish shop opposite." So that's real

0:23:100:23:13

'and that's also what London and this part of London, the East End,

0:23:130:23:17

'is about, so it's amazing.

0:23:170:23:18

'In this room tomorrow night, will be

0:23:210:23:23

'500 of the world's most prestigious press and journalists,

0:23:230:23:27

'pop stars and media celebrities

0:23:270:23:29

'and some of the most richest women in the world as well,

0:23:290:23:31

'who'll actually be buying the clothes.

0:23:310:23:34

'So it's very important that the first impression is strong.'

0:23:340:23:39

It's him and there's a PA and there's a guy on bongo drums.

0:23:390:23:43

'Last time I was very nervous

0:23:430:23:45

'and thought, "Oh, God, is it worth all this fuss, all this performance?'

0:23:450:23:48

Cos people think it's very glamorous,

0:23:480:23:50

but, you know, the pressure is immense

0:23:500:23:52

and I'm extremely tired and very fragile,

0:23:520:23:55

so the smallest thing affects me now because I'm on my wits' end.

0:23:550:23:58

NARRATOR: The last day of London Fashion Week has arrived

0:24:000:24:02

and the final reports are being filed by the world's fashion press.

0:24:020:24:06

Meanwhile, over at Spitalfields,

0:24:090:24:11

everything is almost ready for the show.

0:24:110:24:14

But the front-of-house calm belies the chaos backstage.

0:24:250:24:30

HUM OF VOICES

0:24:300:24:31

JULIEN: 'It's very stressful, being a designer.

0:24:360:24:38

'Although it's, you know, fun, and it is glamorous,

0:24:380:24:42

'everything is addressed to you - you know, what colour shoes?

0:24:420:24:46

'How would you want this? What music do you want? What drinks do you want?

0:24:460:24:49

'What time do want people to come?

0:24:490:24:51

'You have to have the answers for everything.

0:24:510:24:54

'Everybody's kind of working for you freely, nobody gets paid.

0:24:540:24:58

'Everybody is there because they love fashion.

0:24:580:25:00

'So you have to be nice to everybody.'

0:25:000:25:03

Delegate a dresser to a girl, that's your job!

0:25:030:25:06

There's a fashion show going on inside, you must know that, you know?

0:25:090:25:12

Roles, man.

0:25:120:25:13

'I like to think that I'm kind of a normal type of guy, you know,

0:25:150:25:19

'I'm quite funny, I'm very easy-going.

0:25:190:25:21

'I'm there to make everybody enjoy themselves,

0:25:210:25:24

'cos if you don't enjoy yourselves, people don't do it.

0:25:240:25:27

'They don't come back to help you again.'

0:25:270:25:30

- Hi, hi. - Wow.

0:25:300:25:32

LIVELY BUZZ OF CONVERSATION

0:25:320:25:34

Ten minutes left to take your photos, please. Ten minutes only for photos.

0:25:410:25:45

That includes you, Richard, I'm afraid!

0:25:450:25:48

- Are you excited? - Yes, I am excited!

0:25:480:25:50

Isn't he the most...?

0:25:500:25:51

'Julien MacDonald's a great character,'

0:25:510:25:53

and a wonderful person

0:25:530:25:55

and he has a tremendous Celtic spirit,

0:25:550:25:57

so I think everyone's very excited, and his knitwear is exquisite.

0:25:570:26:00

There's no-one probably that does knitwear like this in the world.

0:26:000:26:04

I'm actually confident about it because I know it's a strong show

0:26:040:26:07

and also that before each girl goes on, I'll check them,

0:26:070:26:12

to see what they look like and everything, so...yeah, I'm happy.

0:26:120:26:15

It's what I've always wanted, so it's great.

0:26:150:26:18

PA: Can you feel it?

0:26:180:26:20

APPLAUSE AND CHEERING

0:26:200:26:22

MUSIC: People Crew Intro (featuring Mark Sheer) by People Crew

0:26:240:26:27

# I'm alive, the man with the second face

0:26:590:27:01

# And I'm ready y'all to rock the space, real

0:27:010:27:04

# I'm alive the man with the second face

0:27:040:27:06

# And I'm ready y'all to rock the space, real... #

0:27:060:27:09

JULIEN: 'When it comes to me going on the catwalk, I'm like a madman,

0:27:290:27:32

'I'm crazed up because that's my adrenaline is at a peak!

0:27:320:27:37

'You know, I'm happy, It's over, it's the end!

0:27:370:27:41

'So of course what you do is run on the catwalk because you're so happy.

0:27:410:27:45

"I've finished it, it's over!"

0:27:450:27:47

'You know, "I loved it, thank you very much!"'

0:27:470:27:50

MAN: Excellent. It was...

0:27:500:27:52

We took a chance on someone so young finishing British Fashion Week

0:27:520:27:55

and he pulled it off. And it's...

0:27:550:27:58

very exciting, um...

0:27:580:28:00

We've just come backstage to see him

0:28:000:28:03

and people are literally in tears, it is that exciting.

0:28:030:28:05

Sensational.

0:28:050:28:07

We are all now little flies trapped in Julien MacDonald's web.

0:28:070:28:12

100% knits!

0:28:120:28:14

There was a lot of interest.

0:28:140:28:16

Also because there was only one Julien MacDonald

0:28:160:28:19

that was doing knitwear and very young

0:28:190:28:22

and everybody was looking for somebody

0:28:220:28:24

that was doing something new in knitwear.

0:28:240:28:27

I'm going to find your mother and father, just to say thank you.

0:28:290:28:32

Look at you!

0:28:320:28:33

I thought the shoes were exquisite,

0:28:330:28:35

I thought the clothes were very exciting.

0:28:350:28:37

You have to look at it as knitwear.

0:28:370:28:39

For knitwear, it's very modern.

0:28:390:28:41

Oh, it's lovely.

0:28:410:28:43

I didn't want the show to end, it was so lovely.

0:28:430:28:46

JULIEN'S DAD: It was an excellent show.

0:28:460:28:48

Very, very good and all the top models here.

0:28:480:28:53

He's done his mum and dad proud.

0:28:530:28:56

A Welsh boy from Merthyr Tydfil - really, really good.

0:28:560:29:01

I enjoyed it because my work is my life and also my hobby.

0:29:010:29:06

If I didn't enjoy it, I wouldn't do it, full stop.

0:29:060:29:09

So this what I'm about - this is Julien MacDonald.

0:29:090:29:12

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.


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