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SOME (JULIA) BASS FOR YOUR CLOSET

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You may have spotted the other half of Skattie, Mali, dressed in an awesome coat at the recent Zeitz Mocaa Gala Dinner (the coat pictured above). Like most of us, Mali lives for likes, and trickle in, they did, to compliment him on his ensemble, which included that stunning coat by emerging Cape Town designer Julia Bass. Click here to read Mali’s hilarious reflection on the gala dinner and how Julia’s coat was his saving grace on a night that was teetering on the disastrous. But before you do that though, I’d like to introduce you to the designer and her eponymous brand Julia Bass Originals, and treat you to the amazing lookbook shot by her filmmaker sister Jenna Bass, and modelled by Beatenberg drummer Robin Brink and dancer Nicola van Straaten.

S: Tell me about the Julia Bass brand: your philosophy, the customer you’re creating clothing for, etc.

JB: Julia Bass Originals as a brand is a unisex, non-demographic Fashion label based in Cape Town. It produces conceptual designs channeled into wearable, quality garments, which combine fabrics and styles with creative pattern construction to create new and interesting pieces. Most of the garments are unique, once-offs, or made to order. I run the brand myself, and I pretty much make everything myself. In terms of philosophy, I try to find what makes people feel good and comfortable and then do it differently. I always try push ideas further and never compromise. I specialise in jackets and coats but can also make a great pair of jeans.

Unless the work is commissioned, I actually try not to design with a specific customer in mind. One of the questions I get a lot is whether I design clothes for men or women, to which my general response is that it’s just for anyone who likes it. Right now I’m just so excited if anyone likes what I’m making, that I’m definitely not going to put a boundary on it by saying it’s not for them. Somehow, I don’t think that would be good for business. This way I can make what appeals to me, and if other people like it, then GREAT!

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S: What was your starting point in establishing the brand?

JB: I started putting the brand together while I was studying and it’s developed from there. From the beginning, I wanted to create work that would encourage people to engage with what they wear, to understand the meaning of what you put on your body, and not just consume blindly. There is so much power in fashion and clothing and I guess I wanted to try harness some of that to express my own ideas. Pretty much from the get-go I knew I wasn’t going to be making chiffon ball gowns, so I headed straight into menswear. Around the end of 2014 I realized though that it was still all clothing I would wear, so I stopped trying to define it by gender. It’s still fun watching people try figure it out though, it really confuses them. But I guess if it gets people thinking about gender divides in fashion, then I’ve achieved something. From there my work has focused more on both physical and mental comfort, clothing that can make your body feel good, not only externally, but also in the way your perceive your body.

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S: Being a young designer, your signature is obviously evolving with every collection you make, but what would you say is the Julia Bass signature right now?

JB: First: really good jackets and coats. Two: an element of humour. Sometimes it’s good to just say, “well why not?” Sometimes there’s no good reason other than the fact that there is no good reason. “Why not a full velvet suit?” or “why not a formally tailored onesie?”

Three: There’ll probably be some stupidly complicated pattern construction that will seem great in theory, but that I will later totally regret when it comes to sewing the final garment together.

Four: Press Studs – way better then buttons.

Five: Influences ranging from Vivienne Westwood to Bruce Willis.

And six: Discontinuity. Each idea is usually designed and realised as one complete garment. Although they all work together in the theme, and may have overlapping details, each piece stands on its own as a unique interpretation of the concept.

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S: You straddle both ready-to-wear and the conceptual. Which of the two do you see yourself leaning more towards going forward, and why?

JB: I don’t think I’ll give up the conceptual side too soon. It’s what keeps me interested and engaged. I wouldn’t make clothes if there wasn’t a reason behind it, even if it has to be somewhat diluted down to make the garments more easily accessible. Moving forward, I think it’s likely that the clothes will stay somewhere in the middle ground of conceptual and RTW. I don’t think my aesthetic or design method will change, but there’ll be an added exhibition element or dimension that carries concept from more than just “nice clothes”.

S: Where does one find Julia Bass Originals?

JB: I’ve actually just opened an Etsy store. I’ll be listing some new pieces there so you can check it out (click here). Otherwise you can email be for any other enquiries or commission: julia.bassjr@gmail.com

Models: Nicola van Straaten, Robin Brink

Photography: Jenna Bass

By Sandiso Ngubane

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