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'We Welsh have loads of style'

Nov 10 2004

Sarah Drew Jones, Western Mail


DEBENHAMS in Cardiff had never seen anything like it. Welsh design wonder Julien Macdonald swept into town last night to launch his first Designers at Debenhams diffusion range, Star, and he brought the place to a sequin-covered standstill.

Looking every inch the international fashion icon, Merthyr boy Julien, 32, was accompanied by his Valleys entourage - sisters Beverley and Lesley and nephews Alex, 19, and Jarvis, seven - assorted fashion advisers, friends, TV crews and, naturally, five gorgeous catwalk models who wouldn't have looked out of place on the catwalks of Milan.

But don't think they were expensively dressed in vintage couture. Far from it. Clad head to pedicured toe in Julien's stunning new Star range, no item of clothing cost more than £90.

For while, as you might expect, the collection is glitzy, glammy and gorgeous, unlike Macdonald's usual creations, prices start at just £35. And sizes go up to a realistic 18, a fact which Julien himself insisted upon.

"I really wanted the range to be accessible for everyone. I know people think, because I dress celebrities like Kylie and Rachel Stevens, all my clothes are for small women, but I've always dressed women of all sizes in my business, and some of my best-selling sizes are larger ones.

"I've got no problem with it at all. I love that my designs for Debenhams go to bigger sizes, because it means more women can wear them - like my sisters for example, and I'm very proud of that."

With a faultless CV - former British Designer of the Year, Karl Lagerfeld protege, creative director of Givenchy, creator of gowns for the stars, and darling (some say enfant terrible) of London Fashion Week - Macdonald's style credentials are impeccable. But he's still a good Welsh boy at heart.

"I won't ever hear a word said against Wales or Welsh style, because I think we've got loads of it! I've dressed both Catherine Zeta-Jones and Charlotte Church - I bumped into her when I was on holiday recently actually - and they're fantastic examples of Welsh curves, and they really know what suits them. Every Welsh woman has a bit of that."

He believes, too, that we're getting better at fashion. "I think over the last few years, people have started to become more interested in clothes and fashion and I'm happy to be a Welsh designer because it gives me the chance to give Wales the top fashion it deserves. Wales doesn't need much help from me in glamming it up!"

Julien's style is something of a departure for the chain store, whose existing Designers at Debenhams range consists mainly of the minimalist elegance of Jasper Conran and John Rocha. Macdonald agrees, saying, "I think my clothes are much more sexy, more glamorous, and that's what makes my clothes stand out from everybody else's. Everybody wants to be glamorous. Clothes are all about being fabulous, and if you've had a bad day, in the night you can get dressed up and go out and feel like a million dollars and that's exactly what the Julien Macdonald woman should be - she should look a million dollars!"

And is it dollar signs, rather than pounds, Julien has on his mind these days? After all, in the Western Mail in October, Julien shocked the fashion world by exclusively revealing that he would not exhibit at London Fashion Week again, and was instead making plans to decamp to the States to show at New York in February.

Last night though, he confessed he's changed his mind. "I'm not going to New York, I'm going to stay in London for the time being, and I really want to work more on the Debenhams collection too, as at the moment it's only a capsule collection, a range for Christmas.

"But in the New Year there'll be different clothes coming into store every month."

And while his plans for fashion-world domination continue apace, Julien has plans for closer to home too. Your home in fact.

"It's homewares for me next, I think. For Debenhams too, so they're affordable. Soon you'll be able to have Julien Macdonald all over your home...!"


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