Julien Archer

Julien Archer

We started working with Julien Archer to design our first pajama collection in late 2022, and he’s been a wonderful collaborator and friend ever since. We’re lucky that Julien agreed to sit down and chat with us about creativity, being queer in the South and, of course, his passion for textiles and design.

We have some incredibly talented friends in common, like George Venson of Voutsa and Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin. How did you get involved in working with such amazing designers?

Yes, it’s really such a small world. I met George when I first moved back to New York through a mutual friend and we just hit it off.  I was working with him for a little while making patterns. It was right when I moved back from Alabama, where I was working with Natalie. I’ve known Natalie since I was 16 years old, when she came to my home town and hosted a workshop. She was staying with a woman who I was making textiles for at the time, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. When I was living in New York the first time, Natalie had been up here and we were catching up and I was telling her about how I wasn’t satisfied with my schooling and she told me I should move to Alabama and work for her. I always kept that in mind and eventually did move to Alabama to work for her, and we’ve been close ever since. 

Had you been to Alabama before moving there?

No, it was kind of a blind move. I learned so much from my time there, I am so glad I did make the move. 

Have you always been interested in apparel design? Did you know you would make it a career? 

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always made clothes. My mom taught me how to sew when I was really young. It just stuck. It ended up being where I could always find work. I feel like it’s a craft that you can always improve, there is always something to learn and it’s just captivated me. I always knew it would be my career. I have other art practices as well, but I always knew that sewing was my trade. 

I read somewhere that Parsons is what took you to New York but what has made you stay, or come back? 

Alabama was such a small town, and I knew I couldn’t stay there. I do still have so many dear friends there though. 

I think part of it had to do with being a queer person and wanting to be in a city with more queer people. I had close friends in New York at the time and I saw that I could have more opportunities in New York City than in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia.

What do you miss about Richmond?

I miss being in a place with more nature. New York can be so hard and urban. I do get out of town enough though. My partner and I go on a lot of trips upstate to go hiking and camping, or to Maine to visit friends. 

I found a piece on Alabama Chanin’s website written about you, right around the time of your departure from there - I think it was published in August of 2014. You were moving on to do some traveling and find a bespoke tailor to apprentice with. Did that ever come to fruition?

Yes, it did. Not quite a bespoke tailor, but I ended up working with a costume house that did high level, couture dress making. I worked there for seven years, part time. We mostly made costumes for opera, theater productions and TV and film. I still work with her when she needs an extra set of hands. 

It’s now been 10 years since your departure from Alabama Chanin, right? What has the last 10 years looked like for you?

I apprenticed with the costume house for about seven years, but I’ve also done a lot of creative work for other fashion brands. Creative draping, making garments for the runway, working with brands like Calvin Klein, Kaite, and a handful of other smaller designers. Being in New York, I try to take advantage of all the city has to offer, going to museums, gallery openings, etc. I also love traveling. 

What was your most memorable trip in the last year?

I went to Japan for two weeks and then Seoul for a week. It was amazing. It was my second time going to Japan. My boyfriend is half Japanese and grew up partly in Tokyo so he knows his way around some, and we had so much fun exploring. This time we went to an island about an hour off the Southern coast of Nagashima, and it was so stunningly beautiful. 

Were you totally blown away by the textiles and garments made in Japan?

Yes, I’ve sourced a lot of fabrics during my visits there in the garment districts of Tokyo. The quality of their goods is so high. I’ve also enjoyed finding antique textiles there; kimonos, obi, sakiori which are woven from antique kimonos taken apart thread by thread and then woven into obis. They are very expensive when you source them in the US but they are at every flea market in Japan. 

Working with you on the pajama collection was such a joy and we learned so much from you. I’m curious, what was that process like for you? Was this project pretty similar to pieces or collections you’ve helped design before? 

It’s always really different. I know with this project, there were pretty specific ideas of the style and silhouette. A lot of the creative draping work I do is more conceptual or intuitively making a gown then I hand it off and it gets refashioned and made. For my own work, I’ll have an idea of a specific piece that I want to make and go from there. I’ll find different references, experiment with different seam finishes, work on the muslins until I get the fit just right, then source fabric. Working with you all was closer to the way I make my own pieces. 

Rapid Fire

What are you looking forward to right now?

I’m looking forward to finishing my first collection of clothes. 

Do you have a favorite designer at the moment?

I’ve been looking at a lot of vintage Saran.

What’s inspiring you right now?

My friends.

Do you have a favorite travel apparel piece or accessory?

Yes, I have these leather slides I had custom made by this woman in the East Village who has been there since the 80s. She has a shop there with her two children.

A book that has changed you

A handful of years ago I read Gentrification of the Mind by Sarah Schulman and I think that had a profound impact on me.

Dream car

Any road trip car that you could live out of. I don’t know what that would be just yet. 

Next trip

I might be going to Venice this month for the Biennale, but if I don’t do that, I think my boyfriend and I are going to stay with a friend in Tangier. 

Road snack

Lately it’s pistachios. 

Driver’s seat or shotgun?

I prefer the driver's seat. I am the world's worst backseat driver.