My lovely and talented friend Sara Arnesen invited me to join her at the Susie Bubble conversation with Julie Verhoeven, fashion illustrator-turned-designer, at the David David pop-up store on Monmouth Street. Held in the tiny basement room where illustrations adorned the wall, it was an intimate setting that matched Bubble’s giggly approach and Verhoeven’s apparent shyness. She spoke about taking inspiration from unusual places – a first college project was a “Pylon dress” – and how initial ambitions for St Martin’s saw her land an assistant role to then bright young thing John Galliano. She later launched her own line, Gibo, as she was “frustrated” by consultancy work.
Yet it seemed her niche came in the collaborations line – she produced stellar collections in conjunction with Louis Vuitton, Mulberry, Versace and Loewe. For these, she was allowed to simply do the drawing, leaving the marketing and admin to others. She confessed that she finds much of fashion is “dull”, full for protocol and show production is often simply too stressful to enjoy. The financial insecurity of a creative job like her own was another focus of the discussion; there ws clearly a pragmatism behind her move in getting together with world-renowned names. It was clear that such overwhelming and unrelenting concerns was a frustration that tests her ambition on a daily basis. However, she spoke with passion and tenderness about her wok and the projects she’s been involved in in the past, which include art exhibitions and music videos too.
Verhoeven is currently a lecturer in womenswear at the Royal College of Fashion; Bubble was interested in the idea of illustrator once turned away from fashion college becoming a guiding voice in one of London’s most prestigious courses. But Verhoeven was quick to point out that pure illustration is becoming an increaingly obsolete career path; collaborations being a necessary rather than optional aspect of her own. In a world where one has to compete with fashion photography, the role is continually challenged in ways in which it never was before. With such a gentle demeanour and grounded approach to the business, we’re personally not surprised that she has been given position to advise and inspire the next generation of design talent.