Meet Julia M’Poko. This talented 25-year-old has had a keen interest in fashion for as long as she can remember! Having been one of the competing finalists in the 2013 ELLE Rising Star Design Award in association with Mr Price, Julia shows no signs of stopping, and her talent and success in South Africa’s fashion industry continues to soar! We spoke to Julia and got a glimpse into her life as a designer and business woman…
What was your first job out of college and how did you land it?
My first job out of college (although, I was still in college) was working at Pick N Pay Corporate Head Office as the buyer and planner for Real Clothing. I sent in my CV, had the most terrifying job interview but somehow ended up getting the job!
In 2013, you founded and launched your design collection, Julienne. What was the inspiration behind the collection? How much of your heritage and upbringing have contributed towards this collection?
The collection I created last year, Julienne, was inspired by my father’s humble upbringing in the beautiful village of Boyeka in the Congo. I wanted to depict the ease and simplicity of the village in my clothing, by making use of simple, clean A-line silhouettes and creating my own Boyeka inspired textile prints. The concept in its entirety was an ode to my heritage, never forgetting those humble beginnings and stories I was told during my childhood.
You have always been fashion forward, but how did you ultimately determine the type of career you were most passionate about? With an industry as saturated and as fickle as fashion, what made you believe your success could know no bounds?
It was a pretty easy decision to make and it came about while I was in my 4th year of studying. In my final year, we were told that our Graduation show would probably be the last show that 90% of us would ever do. It quickly became pretty apparent to me that I did not want to be grouped in with that 90% category and that this was something I truly wanted to pursue. As far as the fashion industry being very competitive and saturated, I’ve been fortunate enough to have an immense support system that has propelled me towards a career which I believe is my calling. I also live by faith. It’s probably the key element that drives me.
Tell us about the relationship between business and fashion…
With not having a business background, I am still in the process of wrapping my head around the correlation between the two. What I have come to learn very quickly is that one needs to see their brand as a business in order for them to reap the financial benefits of owning your own company. Fundamentally, you have to understand how to make money selling your products and find a structure and businesses model that is unique to your customer. Fashion is ultimately like any other business, so the core elements are the same.
What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve faced in your career as a designer/ entrepreneur and how were you able to overcome them?
My biggest challenge has undoubtedly been curating the right manufacturer and suppliers. It’s important for me to produce a product that will not only sell, but is of the highest quality. Creating a luxury ready-to-wear brand requires that I select only the finest textiles and fabrics! One could buy a simple Julienne dress, but it is important to me that it fits its wearer to perfection, and is created impeccably. So finding a manufacturer that takes all this into consideration isn’t easy. My solution is to hire people and train them so that they are working under my supervision to ensure that the garments have the desired luxe finish.
What is a typical work day like for you?
My workdays vary on a daily basis. I have a Monday to Friday schedule so each day is spent doing something different – no two days are ever the same. I may be working on textile designs one day, patterns and illustrations the next, whilst the following day is most likely filled with sampling garments for clients.
What is most fulfilling about being your own boss?
Waking up every morning with a fresh excitement and zeal because I absolutely love what I do. I also allow myself to have a siesta sometime in the early afternoon to encourage productivity well into the evening. I strongly believe that good rest and hard work go hand in hand.
Advice for aspiring designers?
Don’t try so hard to catch up with what everyone else is doing, that you lose sight of your own journey – pursue your own path. It’s so easy to gaze at others and feel an overwhelming sense of “FOMO” because of their achievements or where they are in life. You are headed in your own direction, their path wasn’t designed for you, and your time will come.
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
“Id have lunch with Diane von Furstenberg (my fashion/designer icon) and I would order Fois Gras as a started and Confit de Canard (duck) as a main, granted that we are dinning at a French restaurant”
I wish I knew how to…
break-dance and write computers algorithms
Africa women are…
” Strong, grounded, and the backbones to family structures”
South Africa is….
”concentrated with a pool of immensely talented young individuals that are shaping this nations future”
Worst money mistake…
“I haven’t come to that part of my career yet”
“My company “
Motivation in 3 words….
”always stay humble “
Images provided by Julia M’Poko