Born: Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 8 February 1948. Education: Graduated from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1969; self-taught in design. Family: Married Lynn (divorced); married Meagan, 1987: children: Alystyre, Will. Career: Worked in his father's Chapel Hill menswear store to 1969; mens-wear designer/retailer with own store, Alexander's Ambition, Chapel Hill, 1969-75; founder/designer, Alexander Julian Company, New York, from 1975; showed first collection, 1975; introduced popular priced Colours by Alexander Julian line, 1981; launched womenswear line, 1983; Colours by Alexander Julian for Boys, and Watercolours simwear line, 1984; Colours girlswear and hosiery collection, 1984; introduced home furnishing line, 1985; Alexander Julian Enterprises men's couture line and Colours luggage collection, 1988; created fragrance for women, 1991; designed uniforms for the Charlotte (North Carolina) Hornets professional basketball team, 1988, and the Charlotte Knights semiprofessional baseball team, 1990; designed the Knights Stadium, 1990; licensed Windsong for sportswear worldwide and American Trouser for bottoms, 1996; expanded home furnishings, mid-to late 1990s; signed Couristan for rugs, 1997; signed tailored menswear license with PBM, 1998; rebranded main floor collection as Alexander Julian, removing "Colours" from the identity, 1999; rebranded home collection under Alexander Julian at Home, 2000; signed home décor deal with retailer Lowe's, 2000. Awards: Coty American Fashion Critics award, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1983, 1984; Cutty Sark award, 1980, 1985, 1988; Men's Woolknit Design award, 1981; Council of Fashion Designers of America award, 1981; Color Marketing Group's Forrest L. Dimmick award for Excellence in Color Marketing, 1998. Address: 63 Copps Hill Road, Ridgefield, CT 06877, USA.
Stegemeyer, Anne, Who's Who in Fashion, Third Edition, New York,1996.
Burggraf, Helen, "Profile: Alexander Julian," in Men's Apparel News, 6 January 1981.
Boyagian, Paula, "Alexander Julian," in Fashion Retailer, October 1983.
Schwatz, Tony, "Coats of Many Colors," in New York, 24 September 1984.
Fressola, Peter, "Alexander Julian," in DNR, 1 March 1988.
Barol, Bill, "Pastels on the Hardwood," in Newsweek, 3 October 1988.
"The Americans: Alexander Julian," in DNR, 15 August 1989.
Cameron, Victoria Pearson, "Why So Blue? (Men's Fashions)" in Esquire, March 1991.
Spevack, Rachel, "Julian's Colours Label Making a Comeback," in DNR, 6 February 1996.
Wyman, Lissa, "Julian for Couristan: Complete Home," in HFN, 14July 1997.
"Big and Brights: A Designer and His Wife Play with Color and Scale in Their Hardworking Kitchen," in Country Living, November 1997.
Gellers, Stan, "Alexander Julian Now Colours PBM's Clothing World," in DNR, 23 November 1998.
Howell, Debbie, "Lowe's Signs Alexander Julian, Gives Home Décor Biz Big Push," in Discount Store News, 20 March 2000.
Alexander Julian stated his philosophy in his Colours collection, first launched in 1981: "I believe in men who want to dress in their own image and not according to any singular vision that would have all men appear alike."
Julian was born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and grew up in the retail environment of his father's shop, which Alexander managed from the age of 16. He moved to New York in 1975, winning the prestigious Coty Men's Wear award for the first time in 1977, and became the youngest designer to be included in the Coty Hall of Fame. Julian had citations on the U.S. International Best Dressed List for nine consecutive years and has won nearly all the most prestigious fashion design awards in the United States.
Julian was one of the first U.S. men's clothing designers to create his own exclusive fabrics by working with European mills and exploring a broad range of color with a special eye for innovative and unusual color effects. Since the launch of Colours by Alexander Julian in 1981, a well-priced collection reflecting the use of color and texture that had become Julian's signature on his couture menswear collection, the Colours range has expanded beyond menswear in the U.S. to include outerwear, furnishings, sleepwear, leather goods, belts, bed linens, eyewear, and women's and men's fragrances. Today the collections are a worldwide multimillion-dollar business, with licensees in Japan, Mexico, Canada, and the U.K., where the imaginative color palette, changing each season, is a novelty in British menswear.
Julian has designed uniforms for sports teams such as the Charlotte Hornets and North Carolina University Tar Heels basketball teams, and the uniforms, car colors, and crew clothes for the Newman Haas racing team, which is co-owned by Paul Newman. His clothes are worn by entertainment personalities such as Bill Cosby, Paul Newman, Tim Robbins, and jazz singer Harry Connick, Jr.
In 1992 Julian designed the clothes for all the male leads in Robert Altman's critically acclaimed movie The Player, creating a complex series of variations on the dress codes prevalent in the film industry. "What exists with most movie studios is that everyone tries to emulate the boss," states Julian, "and that's exactly what we did here." The personality of each character is played out in the color of his clothes: the style of jacket worn by all the male executives is identical, and as the narrative becomes more complex, the colors of the clothing worn by the main protagonist, played by Tim Robbins, change from green and gold to darker and darker colors as his situation changes. Additonally, Julian believes creative thinking in education should play a more significant role in children's learning development, and to this end he has set up the Alexander Julian Foundation for Aesthetic Understanding and Appreciation, which is helping to pioneer an experimental learning center in the United States.
Julian is one of the few menswear designers to successfully make the jump into home furnishings. Products for the home, from rugs and wallpaper to lamps and upholstered furniture, are marketed under the Alexander Julian at Home banner. Home décor has been his fast-growing business segment through the mid-to late 1990s and into the early 2000s, accounting for about 40 percent of revenues at the turn of the century. In 2000, Julian signed a deal for a range of home decorating products, including paint, carpeting, window treatments, countertops, and flooring, to be sold in the Lowe's do-it-yourself retail chain. Many of the products were available in other retail channels as well.
Julian favors a comfortable and casual style in the home, and his designs and color palette reflect the "modern traditional" identity of his menswear. In both areas of his business, he focuses on vibrant, mix-and-match colors and patterns and employs highly textured fabrics. The look of his upholstery mirrors the stripes, ties, and polka dots familiar from his ties and shirts; while his rugs are in the plaids and paisleys his customers know from his jackets and accessories. Julian's interior designs can also be viewed in public places, such as a baseball stadium he designed in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a restaurant in Westport, Connecticut.
In menswear and at home, Julian advocates flexibility, such as designing suits with jackets that can double as sports coats. The designer's menswear business underwent some changes in the late 1990s and early 2000s; he reassigned his tailored clothing license to Pincus Bros.-Maxwell (PBM) and simplified his main floor collection under the Alexander Julian name, deemphasizing the "Colours" label in that sector. He also continues to sign new licensees; the Alexander Julian brand encompasses all price tiers and customer segments within his core home furnishings and menswear markets. In addition to tailored apparel and home furnishings, others in his group of manufacturers market casual clothing, neckwear, fragrances, eyewear, and accessories.
Julian's strategy has been to bring a high-quality product to market at a fair price. He has been able to successfully walk the line between offering a creative, differentiated product and one that is commercially viable.
updated by Karen Raugust