We first noticed Julia Bass’ work when her “Bauhaus to Boho” piece was exhibited at Design Indaba in 2013 as part of the Foschini Design Awards. She had transformed a plush Chinese R5 Store blanket into a covetable rose-printed coat that demanded attention among the other finalists. A recent Fashion Design graduate from CPUT, Julia Bass stays true to her design intentions, producing clothes that are impeccably finished with a unisex twist. We loved her final project which explores group anonymity vs expression of individual identity in South African culture and fashion and so were naturally intrigued to find out more.
How and why did you become interested in fashion design?
I’ve always loved clothes. Since I was little I had opinions about how my family should dress. My interest in fashion only developed later on when I realised I could express myself through what I wore. Once I started studying, I realised the more I learned and engaged with it the more passionate I became about it.
What do you enjoy, or alternatively dislike, about it?
I love that I can view every aspect of society through the lens of fashion design. It gives me the opportunity to learn about any subject in a way I can relate to; from gender constructs to astrophysics. It’s a creative and expressive outlet. However, saying that, it is a totally subjective and highly competitive industry. Everyone will always have an opinion. I’ve got something of a track record for clashing with lecturers.
How would you describe your style of fashion design, and what influences it?
Design that has a strong concept and reasoning behind it; clothing that does something. I’m influenced by society and how it functions but my designs come from expressing my own thoughts and feelings which I try to translate into a running theme. I take a situation or a mood and think about what I want on my body to convey it to the rest of the world. Music and movies also play a big part, from Bruce Willis to Bruce Springsteen.
Do you prefer designing menswear or womenswear, and why?
I really enjoyed designing menswear this year. I feel it just fitted the aesthetic I was going for. Saying that, it’s pretty unisex. I’ve never really been into typically girly clothes, I prefer stealing my dad’s old t-shirts. I wouldn’t design anything for men that I wouldn’t wear myself.
Was studying Fashion Design at CPUT what you expected it to be? Has your perception of the field changed since your first year? – And if so, how?
I think every fashion design student has the same rude awakening when they start first year. We all go in thinking it’ll be about drawing some pretty clothes that will then somehow get turned into real garments. But really they start you out at the bottom. I thought I could sew until I had to make a straight row of stitches. It’s surprisingly hard and they strongly enforce quality control. You have to learn all the nitty-gritty aspects of garment construction and business studies as well as design theory. Some of it is tedious and dull but it does give you a solid grounding which I’m grateful for. It’s really what you make of it. Some people really didn’t enjoy design theory, but I loved learning about an entirely new topic for every essay. You can spend days trying to find the origins of the kilt. It’s fascinating stuff.
What’s the best piece of advice you received while studying?
“where’s the rest of it?”
Which of your creative projects are you most proud of and why?
All my projects so far I’ve sewn myself, so there’s a certain amount of pride attached to each piece. I guess what I’m proudest of are my jackets, especially the parka I made as part of my final collection. It was an amalgamation of a bunch of ideas I’d been playing with all year. The overall concept for the collection was to look at the creation of individual style within the power of mass anonymity in protests and social demonstrations. There’s a certain military feel, mixed with punk styling and utility-wear functionality all wrapped up into a fashion garment. It wasn’t a simple piece to put together, it took about three days of solid sewing but I’m so proud of the final product.
You say you’re “taking the style out of lifestyle”, what do you mean by this?
How does your personal style relate to and influence your fashion design?
Who are you currently inspired by?
Aitor Throup, Vivienne Westwood, Craig Green, The Ramones, College Dropout Kanye West, Juergen Teller, Micky Rourke
What are your plans for 2015 and beyond?
I’ve just been accepted to do my Btech (fourth year) which I’m really excited about. I’ll be working on a bigger collection for the end of the year while hopefully working on some commissions along the way. A friend and I are thinking about starting our own clothing label. After that, well, the dream is to work/ study/ intern overseas, maybe London. If I could work for Lazy Oaf, life made.
Where can we stay updated with your work?
Julia Bass Originals on Facebook.
Model: David Viviers
Photography: Katja Marr
Lighting Assistant: Phillip Kramer
Shot at Black Dog Studio