Changes are afoot at Herve Leger. Designer Christian Juul Nielsen has been at the brand for almost a year now and the first of his designs are finally starting to hit stores. The Daily caught up with him at Herve’s resort 2020 preview to find out how things are going and what he’s doing to bring the brand up to date.
What is your goal with Herve? What are you trying to accomplish?
I’m really focused on how I can make Herve Leger look fresh again — make it something people want to look at again. I look a lot at the archives; specifically the ’90s archives. For this season, I met with some friends of Hervé Leroux [Herve Leger’s founder] who told me that his favorite supermodel was Karen Mulder, so I decided to base the collection on her. I watched YouTube videos of her. She was quite a flirty character even though she had this super chic look.
The Herve Leger brand is synonymous with bandage dresses. It’s all bandage all the time. Is it ever difficult working within such rigid house codes?
I actually think it helps. Whatever I do, I can get away with it as long as it has that bandage reference somewhere.
Fringe is also one of the classic [codes] of the house, which I’m always trying to push to make it feel new. This new fringe [see photo below] is actually two tones of blue, which [blends] into a wine color. All this fringe is hand-embroidered, one by one, so it is like an embroidered cocktail dress, but with a special effect when it moves.
We are moving into tailoring as well with this jacket — something easy to just pop on. This is very new for the brand.
I’m noticing more separates on the racks here than I remember seeing when the Azrias were in charge.
I definitely want lots of separates in the collection. It just seems more modern. A lot of it sells easier when it is a matching top and bottom, but I really want this to feel like a full day’s wardrobe, so there is stuff you can wear during the day or to the office, and stuff you can wear to a cocktail party or a wedding.
What were you doing before you came to Herve?
I was at Dior for eight years, first with Galliano and then for three years with Raf Simons. Before that, I was at Nina Ricci for three or four years under Lars Nilsson. I came to New York around the same time Raf did. I worked at Oscar de la Renta for a short period and then I started freelancing. I’ve worked at J. Mendel, where we did super high-end, beautiful gowns.
So why did you decide to join Herve?
When they first approached me, I was hesitant because I’ve done more woven fabric and I’ve worked in couture a lot — lots of huge volumes and draped cocktail dresses — but they told me I would have a great team who knew what they were doing and that I’d be given a lot of freedom. They really wanted it updated and I said, “If I can come in and really do what I feel could be right for it, then I’m open to it.”
How’s it going?
I think it looks more modern and updated. It’s been cleaned up. That’s the first thing people said to me. There were a lot of details on the dresses that I don’t think were very relevant anymore.
The Azrias loved beads! These pieces are definitely much cleaner.
I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback — not from customers yet, because only one collection has really come out so far — but in general, people have responded really positively to the image. It’s a new kind of girl. A little easier. More approachable. More like a real girl.