Oscillating between disparate reference points, Zurich-based designer Julia Seemann finds creative potential in tension and contrasts. Crystals and kitsch meet workwear and denim, the result being bold and of-the-moment yet without losing sense of timeless fashion tradition. Her A/W18 collection embodies a variety of moods that stretch from politics and rave culture to her personal experience with the New Age cult in American everyday life. Stripping herself from the safety of comfort zones and the known, the designer seeks harmony in opposing forces and has produced garments that break with mainstream style yet refer to pressing problems in contemporary society. Catch up on our chat with Julia and dive deep into her creative process, research and inspirations.
What’s the story behind the new A/W18 collection?
It’s mainly inspired by my personal experiences during a US West Coast road trip in October last year, as well as different aspects from underground music and the present-day zeitgeist.
How did you decide to embark on a US West Coast road trip? What inspiration did you find there that is unique to the places you visited and the experiences you had?
I’ve had a wish to visit that part of the States for a long time. And while driving through Palm Springs or Area 51, watching local television and American documentary films on Netflix, I soon realized that the New Age cult is way more of a thing in the United States than in Central Europe, where I work and live. It was interesting to see how Californians are mixing spirituality with pop culture. For instance, when the Airbnb host—a spiritual and alternative Goa guy—recommends you to visit the glamorous shopping mall down the street. Those cultural contrasts were confusing, but somehow inspiring at the same time.
How important is it for you to leave your comfort zone in order to create and design?
I think it’s essential to all kinds of creation. To me, designing means not only to create nice products, but more so, to open my mind to different kinds of cultures, music and people, to get acquainted with knowledge that stems from a variety of sources. That’s what really interests me as a designer—the collections I do are the output of that gathered experience and knowledge, so to say.
In the new collection, we see a lot of New Age references. Did you already have a personal interest in that cult, how did it inspire and inform this new work?
I’ve always had an interest in the strange and the unusual. I started to get really fascinated by the New Age cult aesthetic during the California journey. I’m not exactly a spiritual person myself, but I’m interested in phenomena that stand apart from the known and established. In the new collection, I played with prints and fabric choices that drew from a variety of spiritual cult references and motifs. It’s interesting to see that these themes have a particular significance in American culture and everyday life.
You’re known for boldly meshing styles and textiles, producing work that is simultaneously opposing and harmonious. I’m interested in finding out where your research process begins and ends? How does the explorative study behind a collection unfold?
It all starts with my current mood and interests, with what really affects or bothers me at that particular moment in time. That, of course, is influenced by what I see and hear—be it an object I randomly encounter or a music track I hear somewhere. Then, once I have it, I dig deeper. The things that land on my moodboard may not appear to be clearly connected at first sight, but by comparing different, opposing themes, materials and silhouettes, I try to find a tension from which the mood of a new project emanates. And to translate that mood into timeless, bold garments and accessories, I stick to existing codes and references.
You’ve seen quite a lot of success in terms of awards, clients and press exposure. Yet, in one interview you mention that you’d rather see your garments on a regular person on the street than worn by a Hollywood star. Why is that?
With the designs, my team and I want to address and inspire different kinds of people with varying relations to our products. I like the contrast that emerges when, for example, the Chinese pop star Bibi Zou performs in our “Züri brännt” overall or famed model Bella Hadid wears our “Incubus Succubus” shirt, when both pieces are dedicated to counterculture. But I also love seeing someone wearing a BODY SENSATIONS hoodie, because it might mean they really enjoyed one of our parties.
Speaking of BODY SENSATIONS, you launched that party series this past January. What’s music and nightlife’s role in your life and creative process?
Music—as a colossal assemble of distinctive yet interconnected genres and endless subgenres, styles and scenes—is an inspiration and an essential tool for my creative process. Music is also the medium that brings people together. That’s why we launched the BODY SENSATIONS party series—it’s a platform where people gather, enjoy and experience the music that they like and that inspires them. We don’t put fashion on the flag of these events—our aim is to contribute to culture by creating a non-commercial party series for talented and passionate musicians, as well as other creative people and friends, who strip up our interests and potential.
Do you draw inspiration from club culture as well? What is it about those spaces and experiences that intrigues you?
The diversity of style codes and habits that belong to music subgenres and club culture scenes is intriguing. The interconnectedness of these style codes, the people within the various scenes, the roots of their style—all of this is extremely inspirational.