Julia Clancey: My former flatmate reaches for the stars (and dresses them)
Reconnecting with Julia in 2007 after 10 years, outside a fashion shop with bike-as-art in the Meatpacking District, Chelsea, NYC.
Update March 4, 2010
MOVIE: Julia's brother Andrew at his Any Old Iron opening
Below: Dec 2010 movie of Julia at Any Old Iron
THANKS to Facebook, we can now get the low-down on long lost friends, lovers, roommates, colleagues .. . and inhale their exhaust fumes as they rocket to fame.
I've been enjoying Googling the meteoric rise of my former flatmate Julia Clancey, once a hair stylist, now a top British fashion designer. Cameron Diaz, Victoria Beckham, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and a bunch of other starlets now wear her stunning couture threads.
My Googling brought back some fond memories that I've enjoyed recanting below ... apologies that there are not more photos of Julia yet - they're currently in Sydney in my mother's closet, a long way from 'merica, but I'll dig them out soon and - with her blessing, share some (I doubt she'll have a problem - she's photogenic in every single one).
I met Julia in Melbourne, back in 1995 or thereabouts, working out in a South Yarra gym. Now people don't usually talk to each other in gyms, but this was low-key gym, attached to some high school, and never seemed particularly occupied. We ended up downing dumbells and chatting for practically all our workouts, eventually winding up flatmates in the cutest little white, art deco apartment in Lawson Grove, a stone's throw from the Yarra River. We lived on the second floor.
I don't quite know how, but we got into rowing with the local Yarra Yarra rowing club, and it became a kind of obsession. We'd get up at the crack of dawn in the dark to haul out the double scull. One weekend we got stuck in an impressive turgid swell under one of the bridges and after a few hairy minutes, somehow dug our way out of it.
She use to cut hair at Peter Sango, a local salon on Toorak Road. I persuaded her to cut my hair in the kitchen for around $15-$20. I'd long since ditched the Tina Turner-esque perm of my early twenties - what is it about Asians that we must dick with our hair? - so I was already heading for the cheap'n'choosy cycling life. Although she'd have moments of pride in her work ("I did a really great cut on this client today, she went out looking totally transformed"), she was clearly creatively restless. She showed me a piece of her earliest styling work - an arresting image of a boy with a black eye modeling a tie made of gradually wilting leaves. From that one picture I remember thinking, "Julia's Got Talent".
Since I worked as a copywriter for Saatchi & Saatchi I introduced her to Bobbi Gassy, one of Australia's most celebrated art directors. They hit it off, and the rest is history. A couple of years later I jumped on a Bike Friday and did my maiden bicycle voyage - UK End to End, and we lost contact.
Somehow during my 3-month turned 5-year journey we got back in contact, and Julia arranged for me to stayed with her brother Andrew Clancey in Yorkshire. Andrew is now a successful stylist and purveyor of vintage threads in NYC, and just yesterday opened his new store, Any Old Iron, on the Lower East Side. Like sis like bro ... Update March 4, 2010: Movie: Any Old Iron opening
But back to Melbourne ... Julia had done some styling and writing for some local Melbourne hipsterzines, once borrowing my trippy architect-designed sofa - a legacy of my past, yuppie defacto life - for a shoot, without asking me. The sofa made it back OK, the kitsch but cool antique lamp was smashed. She very sheepishly offered to repair the lamp, but I think I just let it slide - there seemed to be no shortage of them in stufforama stores and it was just another thing I'd eventually have to jettison when I left 'stralia on the bike. Witness the sofa (pictured), after spending a good 10 years in the shed of Pete Syndicas' dad. It has only recently been exhumed and moved to Aussie Moulton Bicycles Rep Michael Kater's shed. Sadly it lost one of its arms and the matching whoopie pie-shaped cushions I made, and needs a deep clean or reupholstering or perhaps torching - this is what happens when you go AWOL from the spot on the grid you were once plugged into.
Julia also introduced me to the wondrous logic of wigs:
a) they change your look instantly and completely, and you can and revert back to normal instantly
b) For a small investment ($40+) you can use it over and over again, and it doesn't wreck your hair like perming, coloring and tonging
c) brilliant for winter - keeps your head warm and better than a hat. No beanie-hair!
So we went wig shopping. She had a whole Liza Minelli/Cyndi Lauper like wigrobe, I opted for a pretty safe Cindy Crawford style that gave me that uh, "love you long time" look. See right, modeled with cycling pal and realtor Bruce Renowden at my "Barbie" Birthday barbie. I tried wearing this getup to work one day, just for the hell of it, and my boss at the time joked, hey Lynette, can I go out with you? I'll pay!
Now as far as that outfit goes, I'm proud to say I still have all the pieces in my wardrobe some 12? 13? years later. That's the beauty of Melbourne designers, they make things of the quality and style you can't bear to part with. I only recently Goodwilled my favorite 20-year old Bettina Liano button fly shorts (one pale blue, one black) because my beau insisted they were really "bad". Let me dissect that costume above:
a) Scanlan & Theodore blouse, still in mint condition
b) Metallica cami
b) Red Robin stockings - a good old Aussie sock brand!
c) Hmmm. The shorts from a shop that's STILL there in the mall across from the Como center .. but can't quite remember the name ...
d) Linea Verde boots - fully lined, mind you!
My mother was in fashion for many years, and in my early twenties toyed with the idea of opening a store - Asian knockoffs of cool designs - you can see my cheap'n'choosy tendencies coming to the fore. I soon worked out that the fun part - design, buying and merchandising were a small part of a bigger commitment that I wasn't really geared up for.
Julia and I use to go clubbing some, in places like the Candy bar, though not much, as at that point her taste and mine diverged - she was into Ibiza style clubbing, I was enraptured by the Melbourne underground techno scene (where my favorite night was Filter @ Lounge). She handmade some amazing outfits, I recall a miniskirt of rubber gloves and something studded with rubber ducks ...
Looking back know, I realize that to see where one's passions lie, simply note what you do in your spare time. She was always making stuff. I was always writing about stuff.
With the Oscars 2010 looming watch for Julia on the red carpet - I fully expect to see her on the tube flanked by A-listers. Unfortunately, I'll be in Arizona riding my Bike Friday with 40 customers. Guess we'll miss each other again - here's wishing you more of those Lindsay Lohan $2400 impulse buys, Julia!
Pictured: More from our 2007 reunion in Manhattan's West Village.
If you enjoyed reminiscing with me about Julia, I invite you to read my fond memories of an influential friend I hung out with in Ireland, Alison McKay. Think about the friends in your life, and how you crossed paths ...