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History

Alexander Julian History
 
 

Alexander (Alex) Julian was born and raised in Chapel Hill, NC. His father, Maurice S. Julian, opened a cycling shop in Chapel Hill, Julian's Cyclery, later becoming a clothier and opening Julian's in 1942. Alex pursued a degree in English at the University of North Carolina while working at his father's clothing store. Alex pleaded with his father to open a store of his own, and while his family was away for a month in the summer of 1969, Alex released one of his father's tenants from a lease, dropping out of school and at age 19 opening his first store, Alexander's Ambition. He subsequently bought out his father's interest, leading to a period where he and his father were in direct competition.

In 1975 Alex moved to New York City with the goal of winning a prestigious Coty Award before age 30. He achieved that goal and received four additional Cotys, making him the youngest designer ever inducted into the Coty Hall of Fame. Alex was also one of the first to win the CFDA Award, receiving that honor in 1981. Subsequently he received two Cutty Sark Menswear Awards, and the Cutty Sark Career Achievement Award, before age 40.

Alex broke new ground when he became the first American clothing designer to create his own exclusive fabrics. His textile design is part of the Smithsonian's permanent collection. In 1981, he created the renowned collection of men's sportswear known as "Colours by Alexander Julian." His innovative and intrinsic use of colour, a Julian signature, brings continuity to each of his creations. Colours is very representative of the art that has inspired Alexander Julian throughout his lifetime. The collection is very timeless and has many distinguishing characteristics. For example, Alex uses techniques like space dying yarns to create a surprise of color and a uniqueness to each garment.

In 1988, former Charlotte Hornets’ owner George Shinn reached out to Alex to design the groundbreaking and iconic basketball uniforms. Alex's favorite and signature color combination has always been purple and teal and it was a perfect match for his new basketball project. Lucky for the Hornets, Alex not only designed the jerseys but quickly pointed out that the organization was using a forest green in their stadium, not a teal, a problem Alex quickly resolved. Alex agreed to design the jerseys for five-pound batches of pulled pork from Papa Doc's Pig Palace every month, or as Alex calls it "Carolina Caviar." The rest is history!

Shortly after the success of my Charlotte Hornets uniform designs, one of Alex’s colleagues introduced him to a "neighbor", the actor, Humanitarian, and car racing enthusiast Paul Newman. Alex says “my charge was to design new car colors, and uniforms for the famous driver's and crew. The wonderful Mario Andretti and ‘like father like son’ Michael Andretti were our superstars. It was a fascinating challenge as both the racing suits and the crew suits had to be made of fireproof material, which, at the time, was offered only in very limited colors. I chose a palette, and supplemented it with small amounts of appliqué on the driver's suits. The pit crew presented it's own unique set of issues. Fit was a big issue for me. I observed them at close hand, and not only were the uniforms unfashionably tight, but because of the fit, it restricted their movements. Safety was tantamount. I spoke with the scientists at the fireproof fabric supplier, and to my great delight discovered that adding more room in the one piece crew suits not only made them easier to move in, and better looking, but actually improved their flame resistance. It seems the extra air pockets provided extra insulation for the wearer. I designed many different color combos and versions for the team and their exciting dedicated drivers through the years. I was honored to be chosen as the first professional fashion designer to win the "Motorsports Designer of the Year." Both Michael Andretti and Nigel Mansell won their National Championships in my uniform and car colors.”

Every one knows Carolina Blue and argyles go together because of the UNC Tarheels. It was Alexander Julian who brought the two together and designed the most iconic collegiate uniforms ever made. How did it all happen? Here is the story as told by Alexander Julian: "I remember it like it was yesterday!!! It was Spring ‘90, my wife and I were in London on business, and our room phone at Claridge’s Hotel rang that funny “bbrrring-bbrrring” that British phones make. I picked it up, and much to my surprise, a familiar voice said, “Hey Alex, this is Dean Smith calling.” I was so shocked that I quickly sat down on the edge of the bed to hear why “Coach” was calling. “I really like what you did with the Charlotte Hornet’s uniforms. I think it’s time for Carolina to update, and I think you’re the man for the job,” he said. I unhesitatingly replied: “Coach, it would be my greatest honor to do whatever I can for you and for Carolina.”
Much later I described to a reporter the way I had felt when Coach called: “You have to remember: I was born and raised in Chapel Hill, my Dad was Class of ‘38, he founded Julian’s in 1942, I was Class of ‘69, my daughter was Class of ’90, I had designed the 1st official tie for the Chancellor’s Club for Chancellor Hardin, I was honored with a Distinguished Alumni Award, and if you cut me open I bleed TrueBlue!... For me, with all my history with UNC, to get a call from Dean Smith asking me to re-design my Tarheels Basketball uniforms, was, well, like getting a phone call from God, asking for new Halos for the Archangels!!! I still feel the same way, Dean Smith IS the “Dean”, and I’m forever grateful for his ‘putting me in the game’!"

After success with the Charlotte Hornets uniforms, Alex was approached in 1990 to redesign the Charlotte Knights baseball uniforms with another special request: to design the new stadium itself! Alex famously said of the stadium, "I look at everything as if it were a textile design. When it was finished and built with the 14 colors of seats, if you look at it from center field it's the world's biggest shirt!" Truly a work of art, Alex received the American Institute of Architects award for his design efforts. Go Knights!

The 1994 introduction of Alexander Julian's distinctive yet lively furniture collection was the most successful launch in the history of the International Home Furnishings Market in High Point, North Carolina. In the short time since its debut, Alexander Julian Home Colours has evolved into a full line of home furnishings, home accents and home improvement products. Alex cleverly incorporates his well-known influences of haberdashery - argyle, paisley, and wing-tip motifs — into products ranging from leather accessories to furniture finishes. Alex's innate sense of color, combined with rich and interesting textures, can be seen in upholstery as well as neckties. Alex designs his collections from a spectacular 33-acre Connecticut farmhouse estate, which he shares with his wife, Meagan. Surrounded by nature and his 35-year archive of fashion designs, it's no wonder where his inspiration originates!

Alex's latest sport inspired concept is in bicycling apparel. An avid bicycle enthusiast himself, Alex's father opened "Julian's Cyclery" in 1936. Fashion follows function, and, in 2014, Alex developed new cycling shirts that are uniquely designed to combine high performance with street-smart wearability. With digital printing on bike jerseys, Alex created moisture-wicking shirts that are stylish for not only a bike ride, but for anytime- the office, lunch, golf, wherever! The shirts are available in Performance Bikes stores countrywide.

In 2015, Alex and his youngest son, Huston, started working together to relaunch the Alexander Julian clothing brand. Alex says, in regards to collaborating with Huston- “he was very much a dark horse candidate. He got a degree in chemistry and environmental science (from UNC Chapel Hill). It was totally unexpected to me (that he would want to collaborate on the brand). My wife told me about it and I was like, ‘You’re kidding.’ He had her smooth the way. At the prep school he attended in Connecticut, he started a gentleman’s dress code. He started the whole dress-up thing with men wearing jackets and ties to school. It ended up where half of the guys in the school were dressing up… I truly love working with him. He’s always been a part of (Julian’s). He works with marketing for the store as well as media outreach for all our brands. He’s involved in design, too. He actually designed some of the pieces in the line. We collaborated on them together. It’s definitely a ‘Julian’ design.”

 

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