Julian Chang makes a splash in the fashion world
The table extends 20 feet through the center of tiny workroom. It is covered by a fuchsia, turquoise and red ribbon of fabric. Books about the grand fashion houses of Azzedine Alaia, Chanel and Jean Paul Gaultier occupy the shelves in the powder room. And the tiny staff behind the Julian Chang label hovers over sewing machines and stitches beautiful things.
Chang is in the storefront, surrounded by samples of previous collections, quietly recalling the natural birth of his eponymous label.
“My sister was a model in Lima, Peru. It was one of my first introductions to the fashion world,’’ says Chang, 33, who runs his company in the Miami Modern (MiMo) district. “I was drawn to the energy and excitement of fashion; I knew I wanted to be a part of it and to do something creative.’’
Before his 18th birthday, Chang traded one coastal metropolis for another to pursue his dream. Fast forward a decade or so and Chang is a bonafide hit. His label, a modern cocktail of effortless sophistication and glamour, sells in 1,200 boutiques from Miami to Chicago to Lima. He owns showrooms in Miami.
Chang’s collections have been celebrated in the glossies too, including People, Vogue en Espanol, Women’s Wear Daily and a slew of local mags. His ready-to-wear collection won top honors at 2010 Miami International Fashion Week. And he counts Gloria Estefan, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Paz Vega among his celebrity clientele along with members of South Florida’s own well-heeled circle.
“I design my clothes for the woman who is sexy, sophisticated and wants clothes that are classic and comfortable. She is an everyday woman, maybe a mom, maybe a career woman,’’ he explains as a customer who seems to fit the bill saunters in, lured by the dressed mannequins and sample sale sign in the window. “I also design for the woman who wants something elegant, something special, something that people notice when she walks into the room. And those two looks could be for the same woman.’’
His brand, launched in a Miami Beach condo, is built on modern silhouettes, texture and details. The fall runway 2010 collection was a nod to the crisp power of black and white, dressed in ruffles, shimmering embellishments and a hint of lace.
“My inspiration usually comes from textiles and colors,’’ he says. “The city’s energy and sexiness influences my designs.”
Chang, of Peruvian-Chinese descent, grew up in Lima with four sisters. His parents owned a manufacturing company. Since he was 8, Chang has been enamored with paint. “I loved abstracts, and I would paint on everything, on the walls, on the floor.’’
His interest in art soon gave way to fashion, and he set his sights on launching a career in Miami.
“Peru has a fashion scene, but it’s much more about handmade compared to the sophistication you see here,’’ he says. “It’s more forward or evolved here.’’
Chang graduated from the Miami International University of Art & Design, where the faculty remembers him as a passionate, disciplined student — and the winner of several awards.
“He was a standout student. I never doubted he would become a designer. Julian was always working on his garments, always entering contests, always helping backstage at shows,’’ says Charlene Parsons, chair of the university’s Fashion Merchandising, Fashion Design and Accessory Design program. “He has an eye for trends. I still remember an incredible gray wool dress he made. It was fitted, very couture.’’
After school, Chang worked for Tail, an upscale menswear company. In 2002, he struck out on his own, blending his childhood art experiences, exposure to the modeling industry and formal training.
Instead of heading to New York, Chang settled in Miami, where he believed he could help shape a burgeoning fashion movement that drew from the diverse tapestry of South Florida. He invited friends for lunches and brunches at his apartment and hosted mini trunk shows featuring cocktail and evening dresses. Soon, he had moved the business to a retail shop on 79th Street, part of Miami’s upper eastside.
Four years ago, he moved into the emerging Modern Miami district, first to a space off Biscayne, then north to his current space at 7416 Biscayne Blvd., which allowed for a larger workroom. He also expanded to include a wholesale division.
“I really like this area because it feels like a neighborhood,’’ Chang says. “It has a lot of character. You can feel the changes.’’