More than two decades after its inception, and after a lengthy sabbatical from the fashion circuit, MOJEH meets the creative director successfully breathing new life and modernity into Hervé Léger’s iconic knitted dresses.
“Confidence is a woman’s best accessory,” says Christian Juul Nielsen. The Danish creative director has been at the helm of Hervé Léger for little over two years now and has already infused the house with a fresh new set of sartorial codes.
Having previously worked alongside Galliano, Raf Simons and Nina Ricca, Christian arrived at Hervé Léger with experience in couture, ready to wear, maximalism, minimalism and femininity – as well as an inherent ability to design clothes that women want to wear.
Since his appointment, the brand has gone through a distinct transformation. There is a clean, contemporary feel to Christian’s new and arguably improved version of Hervé Léger. We caught up with the Danish designer to find out what, and who, is inspiring the brand’s new look…
How did you get into fashion?
I’ve been sketching my whole life, for as long as I remember – everything from cartoons to dresses. I then got all these fabric samples from my grandma that she had used for patchwork blankets… I started draping them up on dolls, mixing as many fabrics as I could. I then joined every single art class I could get time and money for. I was always drawing. Then I applied for London College of fashion and got in. While I was there I contacted a Danish designer working for John Galliano, bought a single ticket to Paris for an interview, and couldn’t believe it when I got the job. I stayed there for six months, doing all my college work at night, and my internship during the day and at weekends.
While at Dior, you worked alongside Galliano and Raf Simmons, can you tell us what you learnt from those periods?
During my Galliano years, I always draped on the mannequin and learned to work on a body in a three-dimensional way. Working for Raf Simmons taught me a lot about research and modernity, figuring out what is reverent in the moment and what makes a dress feel modern. At Nina Ricci, I learned about delicate fabrics- lace, chiffon and more precious materials – and at Oscar de la Renta, it was all the about red carpet glamour.
How did it feel to accept the position at Hervé Léger?
Throughout my career I have worked for heritage brands and when the call for Hervé Léger came, I jumped at the chance. I was seduced by the amazing archive that the brand has- pieces that Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford and Karen Mulder wore on numerous runways. I love an iconic 90’s moment.
You launched your own brand last year? How do you manage your time between the two brands?
I produce four collections a year for AKNVAS. The very first one is just coming out now for spring in speciality stores and online. I believe you are as strong as your team and surround myself with what I consider the best people in the industry.
Do both brands pacify different needs for you as a designer?
Yes, for sure. I very much think about real women when I design. AKNVAS being very much a creative thinking city girl who is focusing on her career life, and the Hervé Léger girl is super feminine and not afraid to express it.
Can you talk me through the design process – from concept to creation?
I base my collections on a light story, but really focus my collections on both brands on real women. I make mood boards which can have anything form a passport photo of a friend to a 1930s vintage dress on it. I love female artists from the 80s like Annie Lenox, Blondie and Kim Wilde.
Who are the Hervé Léger muses?
I am most inspired by the muses of the 90s – Helena Christensen and Karen Mudler are some of my favourites. And modern day muses, who are the girls I surround myself with. I am very social and take inspiration from those around me and how they dress in everyday life.
Do you have a favourite piece from the SS20 collection?
The oversized white t-shirt dress.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Designing the Raf Simons Haute Couture Dior gown that Jennifer Lawrence famously tripped in while accepting her Best Actress Award for Silver Linings Playbook during the 85th Oscars.
How you ever been to the Middle East?
Yes, Dubai and Abu Dubai. Middle Eastern women are so beautiful, and very inspiring, with their sense of colour and confidence. Hadia Ghaleb recently wore on of my dresses and looked stunning – she has great energy.
What do you think is the secret to dressing modestly and still looking subtly sexy?
I actually love long sleeve dresses. I find it important that a woman feels good about herself when she puts on a dress, whether it’s a mini or a long sleeve gown. Confidence is the best accessory.
Read Next: MOJEH Talks to Wes Gordon