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Shop Talk: Tom Julian, Trend Expert

Tom Julian is a New York-based, noted trend expert with more than 20 years in the fashion world, including serving as the principal fashion commentator at the 67th to the 80th Annual Academy Awards ceremonies (from 1995 to 2008). Over the years his reputation for identifying unique insights on fashion and consumer trends has earned him the title of having the “Coolest Job” from Adweek magazine.

In 2008, Julian proudly launched his own company Tom Julian Group. He has also spearheaded the creation of the highly trafficked “Style” section of www.oscar.com. As if Julian hasn’t accomplished enough, he has also written two spectacular style guides specifically for men: “Nordstrom Guide to Men’s Style” and “Nordstrom Guide to Men’s Everyday Dressing.” Both publications are essential additions to every man’s library as they are equal to having your personal stylist or sales associate right in your back pocket. Julian recommends using his guide to everyday dressing as a checklist, so men now have no reason to feel confused when shopping alone.

Last week, I had the grand pleasure of meeting and talking to Julian. A warm, insightful and vivacious man, he offered tips on men’s spring fashion, his take on the recent Oscar red carpet fashion and his personal opinion on the whole Galliano scandal. Here’s what Julian had to say in this exclusive interview.

LS: The other day I wrote a blog post about what’s on my spring shopping list. What should my male readers have on their spring shopping list?
TJ: It’s very simple. Right now every guy should be investing in an unlined cotton blazer. We might call that a deconstructed jacket or a shirt jacket. It has a cotton shell and no lining. You can wear it with a shirt and tie or you can wear it with a T-shirt. The next thing I would add to the wardrobe is the field shirt, military shirt or what we sometimes call the expedition shirt. You can wear it over a T-shirt and it becomes very utilitarian. There are a lot of these out right now. A lot of guys love to wear T-shirts during the summer, but if you’re going to wear a T-shirt, make sure it’s a V-neck T-shirt. The V-neck is the new silhouette T-shirt. There are variations of it. There is the high-V, the low-V and there is the plunging V. Plunging V is not for everyone. Another thing happening is the wonderful textured fabric called cotton slub. Cotton slub is a high-low fabric. The designer John Varvatos started it for men, and it really has taken off. When I’m working with a guy, I will say, “We need to get you cotton slub in a T-shirt, a polo, a pullover, maybe even in a sweater-way.”  As far as shorts this year, the short is a nine-inch short. It’s a little more tailored and has a flat front. And I think the ideal short should have a small pattern to it, whether it’s a mini check or a pinstripe. It adds more personality. The other item I’m really big on is the dark denim jean. It can be dressy. It can be worn with a shirt and tie. And it’s very appropriate for nights out on the town or for casual offices. When it comes to shoes, probably the best shoe for men for spring is either the canvas shoe or the driving shoe, which is the moccasin. I like that because for a lot of guys, it’s something new for them. There are driving shoes that have very thick soles, such as Geox. Then Ralph Lauren might do one, which is more suede and two-tone and textured, which makes it very country club. Then there can be a loafer style, which allows a guy to wear it with chinos. Ultimately, I really believe that when it comes to spring a guy needs a flat front chino. It should have a self-tab waist band on it and side entry pockets where the pocket is more on the seam. That way if the pant is a little trimmer, it doesn’t pucker for him and therefore he doesn’t get that balloon effect.

LS: That’s a good tip! I’m noticing fashion is becoming more earth-friendly and humanitarian-based. Is this just a trend being used as a gimmick to sell fashion or is this going to stick around in the fashion world?
TJ: It’s an evolution. It’s been happening. Some companies are better at it than others. In the late 80s and early 90s, we went through a whole organic cotton movement. It didn’t catch on because it really made cotton expensive and people didn’t understand. Today, people are very globally aware. I think what they like and what they embrace is the company that makes a donation on behalf of a purchase. TOMS Shoes is the best example of that. I suspect we’ll see more TOMS model concepts as companies bloom and grow.

LS: What did you think of the Oscar red carpet fashion?
TJ: I thought it was a return to luxury in a minimal way. Minimal meaning quality. What I loved were the colors, the metallics and the haute couture. I saw colors on all aspects, like Lara Spencer wearing vibrant green to Rachel Roy wearing cinnamon and persimmon together, as well as the reds. I do believe purples and reds were the focus. And I had so many favorite purples. I loved Natalie Portman’s purple and Mila Kunis’ lilac and lace. But for dark purple, I love Scarlett Johanson because up close, it was such a work of art. It was beautiful and intricate. The scalloping on the back was fantastic. I was very intrigued by all the metallics – from Celine Dion to Gwyneth Paltrow. Every year there is one couple that captivates me, and this year that couple was Armie Hammer and his wife. I fell in love with them. They were stunning.


[Photo credit: JustJared.com.]

LS: How do you feel about social media and its influence on fashion? From fashion bloggers being invited to design collections to brands being active on Twitter?
TJ: During New York City Fashion Week, I realized that Facebook is more immediate and visual than TV ever was. My new mantra [when it comes to social media] is: It’s the sound bite, it’s the snippet, it’s the noise, it’s the clutter. There is no deep learning or history lessons to be told. How do you tell a story in 140 characters? However, I do think the beauty of social media is that independent retailers and small designers can talk more and have engagement with their customers.

LS: What’s your take on the whole Galliano issue? And, can art be separated from the artist? Can design be separated from the designer?
TJ: No. The artist is his brand, his voice, his personality. The artist is not playing a role, like an actor who can create something and walk away from it. The artist is truly the creative expression, the vision and the voice. I was not aware of the legality of this situation. We are now talking about someone who has broken a law in France in a big way. My feeling is that any big corporation would want to address this immediately and put it to rest. This is a luxury, global organization. I think what LVMH did is appropriate and right. Transparency is important today. Kudos to the corporation for nipping the situation in the bud. But, it is very unfortunate.

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