JULIE HARRINGTON FOR INSPIRER - PARIS
How long have you been designing?
I actually made a simpler version of the fringe bag I currently make when I was about nine. My father was a hunter and tailor and gave me scraps of deerskin to play with. He had recently taken me to a Native American Picnic/Celebration at the Tuscarora Indian Reservation and I was fascinated by the fringe and beadwork I'd seen there.
When was your ‘aha moment’ that led you to start your collection?
I guess I just noticed that the fringe bags were selling faster than anything else I was making. I did alot of research regarding the bags other designers were making and made a point of finding ways to do things uniquely. I started dying my own hides. I made sure I was providing a superior product.
At age 25, I was a goldsmith fabricator for a well known designer in San Francisco. I could barely pay my bills. I was wandering around window shopping when I spotted a body piercing studio. I didn't know what that was but ended up talking with the owner who asked if I could make some custom jewelry for his shop. Three months later I was gainfully self employed. I made my living with body jewelry for over twenty years and had the time to make all the other things I love to make and sell as well.
Do you come up with concepts for designs first or is it more of an unplanned thing?
It's hard to answer that because the one thing I'm never short on is ideas. If there's a need for something new I work conceptually, trying to fill that need. There's always lots of ideas that play out organically too. I wish I could clone a happy workaholic version of myself to help me out!
Is there anything people find characteristically original about your designs?
People definitely notice the details that I take the time to add. Things like vintage mother of pearl buckles and buttons that I tumble and polish to look their best. It's very difficult to find that kind of quality in the findings that are made today. I also take pains to make things last. I love working with leathers but they stretch when they're stressed with weight. I make the shoulder straps on my bags with a stabilizer in the center, using permanent leather glues and careful stitching. I have seen a whole lot of artfully made bags out there that just have a raw edge strip for a shoulder strap. I know what that looks like after you've carried the basic's around in your new bag for just a few hours. It's not pretty!
What do you hope to have achieved in the industry 10 years from now?
I would love to spend my time with design and have good craftsmanship being consistently executed by well paid artisans for a loyal clientele. I would love to see a healthy economy here in the U.S. making that possible.
Who is your favorite designer?
I love the wild ones...Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Betsy Johnson, how could anyone narrow it down to one? I'm a fan of Project Runway, LOVE Jay Mc Carroll, Christian, I could just go on....
What do you do in your free time?
I love to spend time with my daughter. I had my one and only at age 40 and I don't want to miss a moment of it. I love facilitating her creative process. She has all these great ideas and then I bring in the stuff to do it with and get the largest charge out of what she comes up with.
find her collections on her website