“I always dress up, always,” says fashion stylist-turned-self-taught designer Julia Clancey, who ploughs her own personal charisma and vivacity into a range of clothing and accessories. “I used to make kaftans for myself that I would wear to parties,” says the Yorkshire lass living in Los Angeles, “and people always asked me where I had found my outfits.” Channelling the glamour of Hollywood icons of yesteryear, such as Elizabeth Taylor and Veruschka, Clancey’s pieces have been chosen by many a red-carpet regular. Indeed, Madonna wore a Clancey kaftan to host her Oscar party earlier this year. “The Madonna commission was a tight turnaround,” Clancey exclaims brightly. “When we got the request we made her a turban in 24 hours and she wore a kaftan I had already made.”
The bespoke process usually takes a couple of weeks, however – and more like four to eight weeks if hand embroidery is involved. Clancey meets a lot of her clients “out and about” but also has an LA showroom, where commissions start with a mood board of ideas before discussing fabrics, colours and motifs. Her signature silk kaftans (from $2,600) use fabric she sources from India (she tends to buy up all the stock of a chosen material to ensure exclusivity) and can be hand-dyed as well as embellished with Swarovski crystals and pearls. Her turbans (from $200) came about when she was playing around with the fabric leftovers from the kaftans, and together they create a look she calls “resort living”. This also includes accessories, again in silk and crystal, such as cuffs and headdresses; the art deco Zelda designs (Leia cuff, $475; crystal-link belt, $2,859) can be made-to-order in any colours, while the faux pearl-embellished Bridal collection (Empress headband, $432; Dolores body drape, $2,859) was inspired by jewellery passed down to Clancey from her grandmother.
Her latest designs incorporate accessories into the kaftans (from $7,000) by way of an embellished yolk. “My clients want to have a kaftan and matching turban; now I’m able to style it for them with embroidered-in accessories. I offer an easy elegance that’s striking.” It’s a low-key glamour she applies to her own red-carpet routine: “I throw on a kaftan, add a turban – which means there’s no need for hairstyling – a swoosh of bright lipstick, and I’m ready.”