INDIE sat down with four young designers to talk about working at some of the world’s most renowned fashion houses—and the determination, drive and dose of luck this requires. First up: Julen Linde, leather goods design assistant at Céline.
Julen Linde has seen the inner workings of a fair few fashion houses since his graduation from the Istituto Europeo di Design in Madrid two years ago. In an industry that shifts its creative directors ever more rapidly, securing a long-term job when you are just starting out is no child’s play either. Following stints at Kenzo and Jacquemus, Linde’s latest switch has brought him to Céline as a leather goods design assistant. Facing any kind of drawback with even greater determination, Julen talked us through his path from fashion school to working at one of the most sought-after brands in the French capital.
Were your studies a good preparation for going into the industry?
No, I always felt a little left alone. For any of my internships in Paris my school didn’t really help me out. They don’t have any contacts at all which is what they tell you when you start. They also didn’t want to provide an internship agreement for me, so I had to go to other schools and do a postgraduate course just to get the agreement form. After these setbacks, how did you go about finding a job? Through connections. I knew a girl that worked at Kenzo and at the time we met she told me that there would be an open position in the leather goods and shoe department in six months. During that time, I was looking for internships like crazy but couldn’t get anything. When the position at Kenzo opened up, I applied and got the job because Kenzo is a very technical brand and I am well trained in Illustrator and Photoshop. It’s great to get an opportunity like that in Paris because it can be rather difficult when you don’t come from one of the major fashion schools.
After these setbacks, how did you go about finding a job?
Through connections. I knew a girl that worked at Kenzo and at the time we met she told me that there would be an open position in the leather goods and shoe department in six months. During that time, I was looking for internships like crazy but couldn’t get anything. When the position at Kenzo opened up, I applied and got the job because Kenzo is a very technical brand and I am well trained in Illustrator and Photoshop. It’s great to get an opportunity like that in Paris because it can be rather difficult when you don’t come from one of the major fashion schools.
After a five-month internship at Jacquemus, Céline approached me for the leather goods design assistant position. It took three interviews until I got the confirmation for the job — but only with a six-month contract, which is quite normal for high fashion brands. It’s easier to hire people on short-term contracts instead of long-term because after two short-term contracts they otherwise need to upgrade you and pay more.
Would you say working served as a better education than your time at Uni did?
Yes, absolutely. It’s amazing to learn how a fashion house works because I think a big part of the success of a brand comes from how they operate behind the scenes, so knowing how precise they are in everything made me realise “OK, that’s the reason why everything is working out.” And also I felt like I hadn’t learned that much at my school. Education now is like a business. All the designers have the same education so there is not going to be any difference between one or the other. Fashion has always been quite elitist. Designers may be looking more at your portfolio but for HR it is often very important where you studied and what you did before.
How did you experience the recent shift from Phoebe Philo to Hedi Slimane while working at Céline?
It was not very comfortable because I worked with Phoebe for Fall 18, for Winter 18 I worked with the studio and then by Spring 19 I was already working with Hedi. It definitely was a change. I really liked the senior designer for the show because she had been working there for five years but she left in December and nobody knew what was going to happen. At the end of the month when we were already on Christmas break, we received an email saying that Hedi is going to be the new creative director — that was quite an intense moment. And five minutes later it was already all over Instagram.
When thinking of their aesthetic, their approaches must also be quite different.
Yes, some people at Céline have been working with Phoebe for nine years, so everybody knew exactly what she wanted. And then everybody was going crazy because no one knew how to handle a new approach. When it was confirmed that Hedi was going to join, we started to work first on the hardware because these are the most iconic features that you can also very quickly change, to get a new identity across. There is a lot of work that goes into the final image everyone sees. And not everything is perfect, not everything is beautiful, there is a lot of crap happening in the fashion industry. So if you want to do this you really have to love it.
Photography NOEL QUINTELA
Taken from INDIE NO 59, THE WORK ISSUE – get your copy here.