Twelve hours after arriving in New York after a fashion-themed transatlantic crossing on the Queen Elizabeth 2, Julien Macdonald debuted his short film for Etihad Airways at Skylight Clarkson Square on Thursday night.
Save for a trip to open a store in New York during his Givenchy days, Macdonald hadn’t been in the city in more than 20 years. But at 23, he interned at Interview magazine. “Ingrid Sischy was my boss. Hard work,” he said. “What I loved about it was I had free tickets to all the parties. I said, ‘You don’t have to pay me, but I want to go to all the parties.’ She said, ‘Julien, that’s the deal.'”
“I was the little boy, who used to take all the clothes back to all the designers. I never thought one day I would be one of those designers,” he said. “It brings back a lot of fruitful memories so I am happy to be back.”
Much has changed since Bergdorf Goodman ordered every piece from his first collection, called “Mermaids,” after seeing how Isabella Blow styled his show. Macdonald planned to buzz by the flagship today to see one of his dresses in the store windows.
Now the designer would like to sell 50 percent of his company to a business partner or investor in order to re-enter ready-to-wear. “I decided six months ago to put a business plan together partly to get a line of ready-to-wear, dresses, accessories and shoes. I’m not interested in separates like blouses and trousers,” he said. “I started my business in knitwear. I love Alaïa but there really isn’t any great knitwear businesses out there. We have Hervé Leger and Alaïa but there’s nobody else.”
Looking to price the knitwear between $1,320 and $5,280, the new collection could include a more attainable simple cocktail dress at $600. MacDonald recently reached the masses in an unexpected way, designing a hamburger box for the fast-food chain McDonald’s. Not surprisingly, some questioned the decision but he explained, “You know what, my clothes are very expensive. The average price tag is $10,000 to $40,000 for a dress.”
His disco-themed Studio 54-inspired fashion show on the QE2 was another way to broaden his base. “Everyone was dancing and clapping and singing. It was more like a Vegas show than a fashion week show,” he said. “You know what, there were a lot of people who would never get to see a fashion show in their life.”
Singling out Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, Jennifer Lopez and “Lenny Kravitz’s daughter” as his biggest clients, MacDonald said, “Even though I’m 46, my brand attracts young people. I kind of laugh how women of all ages wear my clothes. It’s just about women who love fashion and are confident. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what size you are. You want to be the life of the party.”
The event was held on the opening night of NYFW: The Shows and unveiled Etihad Airways’ promotional film that aimed to show the similarities between the production of a fashion show and the preparations for a safe flight. Vice president of marketing partnerships Patrick Pierce said, “We haven’t come up with a direct-to-consumer concept as far as buying apparel through any of these designer relationships. The film is whimsical, it’s colorful, it was a way to draw attention from passengers who are tired, or perhaps nervous or distracted, and understand the really important safety features on the aircraft. For us, it was a very catchy way to get people’s attention. If they find it humorous or the stylish, that’s a good thing.”
The company hopes that the film will help to gain attention beyond its 18.5 million passenger base. With 110 destinations, the airline is adding about 10 more annually. There are currently 3,500 members in Etihad’s Runway to Runway initiative, which was launched in February during NYFW. “As a loyalty program, we want to retain these customers because the industry is hyper-competitive on price,” Pierce said. “Design matters to this community. When they see our crew uniform and are greeted with a smile, and spend time in our lounge, it’s very different.”
After flying to Abu Dhabi to host another Etihad cocktail party Sunday, it will be back to London Tuesday with six days to prepare for London Fashion Week. “I’m very excited to be taking first class back. I came by boat and I am going by wings back,” he said. “I like being busy. I think people who say they are tired or are too busy are boring. Being busy keeps you youthful and excited.”