- There is a surprisingly uneven balance between how much of the actual work is split in strategic business and structural decisions, versus time and work spent on artistic decisions, which are generally what most people will associate with the industry.
- When you grow a brand, it is vital to have some extremely trustworthy manufacturers. It can be almost impossible to reach the minimums of most factories, and you need someone who will support you.
- Find a partner to share your experience with, and make sure you are having fun along the way. Read books, meditate, stay positive.
The Danish duo Julius and Victor Juul founded their label Heliot Emil just four years ago. Since its inauguration, the brothers have felt the effects of Covid-19, gone viral over a pair of trousers, and learned the hard way how important it is to have manufacturers that believe in your product. Based out of Copenhagen, Denmark, Heliot Emil has fought against the odds as a brand operating outside the borders of Paris, Milan, and London. Just recently the brand received the great honor of being accepted to the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, which will allow them to host their fashion show on the Parisian fashion week calendar.
Julius and Victor have fought with bare fists to make a name for themselves in the fashion industry and with their sky-high incline in both production and employees, the brand challenges the status quo of what it means to be up-and-coming and exactly when a brand deserves to shake that title off itself. Julius Juul spoke to 1MOQ about the ups and downs, manufacturing, and the most common misconceptions of being a fashion designer in 2021.
MADELEINE HOLTH: When did you start thinking about founding Heliot Emil?
JULIUS JUUL: My brother and I have always wanted to create a universe together and it transcends working in the fashion industry through art direction. Our thoughts about creating a brand began around 2016 as I had just finished working for HOOD BY AIR in New York and Victor had finished business school in Denmark.
MH: What was your original goal? Has this changed over time?
JJ: Our fundamental principles have always been based around a melting point of form and function. A lot of my aesthetic references are based on functional content—like military uniforms, machines, hiking gear. This is fused with more objectively elegant references like architecture and sculpture. I like to think of it as industrial elegance. Like seeing the beauty in raw machinery or unfinished buildings.
MH: Take me through the process of your first collection (SS17). What were your themes? What obstacles did you face?
JJ: The first collection was actually inspired by Japanese biker gangs. “Bosozoku” featured a lot of soft materials like silk, linen cotton with raw edges, and hand-painted fabrics, mixed with more technical elements like bombers, and carbon-infused outerwear used in motorsports. It was very artisanal and a lot of the processes behind the garments were done in our own studio. When it came to the actual production there was a lot of work that we didn’t see coming. We had to custom paint and dye multiple pieces in our warehouse far outside Copenhagen. It was quite a struggle but definitely a fundamental part of our learning curve towards a more smooth production process.
MH: You have managed to stay away from the #Scandinavianbrand genre—why is that?
JJ: I wouldn’t say we have purposely avoided this genre. We have always stayed true to our fundamental values and I think my aesthetic fascinations revolve around concepts that are outside of the Scandinavian norm. While I appreciate Danish minimalistic ideas, my true fascination comes from approaches that are slightly more brutalist and technical.
MH: Have you faced any challenges by being an "outsider" in terms of nationality?
JJ: Well, Denmark has its positive and negative sides when it comes to running a fashion business. I would have loved to be in Paris, London, or New York for some aspects of the work, and for others, I am happy to be in Copenhagen. Generally, there is a lot of support for the fashion industry in these metropolitan cities, and you have the advantage of being very close to your audience. However we are extremely grateful to have such tremendous support from around the world. We face a slight challenge in recruiting talent for our team, luckily we have managed to have a very international team with us and we are so fortunate that the majority of our team has moved to Copenhagen to work with us.
MH: What side of the industry has surprised you the most?
JJ: The surprisingly uneven balance between how much of the actual work is split in strategic business and structural decisions, versus how much of your time and work is spent with artistic decisions, which are generally what most people will associate with the industry. Fashion is a very interesting line of work to navigate, as it covers both a need to grow, a financially sustainable model, and also provides a medium for artistic expression. When you compare the two, they are on opposite ends of their individual scales.
MH: In terms of production, what challenges do you most commonly face?
JJ: When you grow a brand, it is vital to have some extremely trustworthy manufacturers. It can be almost impossible to reach the minimums of most factories and you need someone who will support you with a strong understanding of your growth potential in order to be considered amongst the best manufactures. This is quite a challenge when starting out—and still continues to challenge our more innovative ideas today.
MH: What takes up most of your time professionally?
JJ: This is an important question. At the moment, we are putting more effort into structuring the team. We have been a small team for a long time, and with the pace the brand is going through, we need new people to join our adventure. I am spending more and more of my time managing my team and making sure I communicate the creative direction of the brand in accordance with my aesthetics. It is a big challenge to let go of some of the areas, so for now, I am still very much involved in all creative processes in the company. Although I know with the growth we are achieving, this is not a sustainable way to run a creative department. I have to think ahead and plan to have more support in all these areas.
MH: We have to discuss your liquid metal pants, which caused quite the stir on social media. Did you know these would be so popular?
JJ: I did not think that the response would be as amazing as it has been. When I first saw the samples after we developed the fabric, I was really hopeful and super excited to see how amazing it responded on camera. I think because most people have never seen anything quite like this it has an excellent effect on social media.
MH: What advice would you give to someone starting up?
JJ: Find a partner to share your experience with, and make sure you are having fun along the way. Read books, meditate, stay positive.
MH: Common misconceptions of being a designer that pisses you off?
JJ: [Laughs] Great question! I guess comparing fast fashion with “high fashion” is quite a misunderstanding and sometimes it can be a bit of a struggle to make people understand the difference.
MH: What's next for Heliot Emil?
JJ: Many things! We are currently working on our AW21 show which debuts at Paris Fashion Week. We are extremely proud to have been accepted by the committee at the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode and can’t wait to show everything we have been working on. We are also very close to releasing our furniture collection which has been in the works for almost a year—this is super exciting. We are super excited about our growth and hope to live up to everyone's expectations.