Fashion designer Julian Macdonald, 46, was taught to knit by his mother and by the age of 13 had redesigned his uniform at Cyfarthfa High School.
He caught the eye of Karl Lagerfeld while studying fashion knitwear at Brighton University and was soon made head designer of knitwear at Chanel.
In 2001, he became creative director at Givenchy. He runs his own label, has many celebrity clients and also designs for Debenhams. He lives in west London with his dog, Jake.
Born and raised in Merthyr Tydfil, he wakes at 7am, has a coffee, checks over his emails and Instagram before going for a run in Hyde Park with his miniature doberman, Shaky Jake.
After 40 minutes, they stop at the Italian water gardens for porridge and fruit. Growing up close to the Brecon Beacons and the sound of the water reminds him of home. On the way back he’ll go to Barry’s Bootcamp to get a workout. He admits to being “A bit of a health freak”.
His boyfriend, Andrew, were together for 14 years before they split, Julien got the house and the dog which he shared with his best friend, Mark, from Wales. The only problem is having to watch him eat a packet of biscuits in front of the TV every night. Anything sweet is my downfall.
The mews house is his studio is a five-minute walk from home. “It’s all white, like a pretty beach house, full of people knitting and sewing beads on dresses, and celebrities running round for something for a dinner or an awards ceremony”.
“I’ve been called the “king of bling” because my clothes are so glamorous, but the majority of my clients are strong, curvy, Latin women — Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé — they’re not twigs. Clients of all ages, shapes and sizes come to try things on, so we’re always adjusting waists in or out and hems up or down. They have a million questions. How shall I do my make-up? How shall I wear my hair? Which shoes?”
“Growing up in a knitting circle. My mother would be watching TV, drinking gin and orange and speed-knitting for everyone in the street. I thought that was the norm. My knitted dresses have become really popular, so we take on a lot of students. Bella Hadid wore a knitted dress to Cannes this year, and they were all going: “I made the back!” “That’s my sleeve!”
“If I’m being good, lunch is a salad from Ottolenghi. On a bad day, I’ll eat rubbish chocolate — anything that comes in a bar. I get that from my mother: breakfast used to be a piece of cake, dinner was something tinned on toast. She worked in a lightbulb factory and looked like Bet Lynch — super-glamorous. Loads of jewellery, fabulous hair and nails. Dad worked in the washing- machine factory and went to the working men’s club. With my dyed hair and weird clothes, his friends thought I was bonkers. They’d shake their heads and go: “Glyn’s son … He’s not right, is he?”
“When families come in I LOVE it. I dress the mother, daughter, baby … Recently, I delivered a dress to North, Kim Kardashian’s daughter. It was white, covered in Swarovski crystals. Kim loved it. Kris opened the door, gave me a cup of tea, then said: “Do you mind staying? Kanye’s just driving up the road.”
“I get home most nights around 9pm and have something simple, like a stir-fry. I call my mother every night at 10pm. My friends think it’s hysterical. She’ll tell me what she’s been doing, who was at the market, and she loves hearing about my life. The whole family has been to every one of my shows. Twice a year, the Merthyr minibus hits the road for London Fashion Week. I go to bed around 11.30pm and I always sleep well.”
One of the wonderful things I love about my job is not knowing what’s going to happen next – hold told The Times. The other day I was woken up by a phone call from Celine Dion, saying she’d be wearing my clothes on her world tour. It sounds such a cliché, but dreams really do come true.
WORDS OF WISDOM
Best advice I was given: Karl Lagerfeld told me: “Forget about the past, always focus on the future and your dreams will come true”
Advice I’d give: Be nice to everyone because some day that person could be a high-profile editor
What I wish I’d known: Being a fashion designer is not enough, you need a good business mind as well as creativity
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