Local designer launches her third exclusive collection with Pick n Pay Clothing

Julia Buchanan started her side hustle JULIA, a swimwear brand, in the early months of 2014 while studying. She has now launched her third limited edition collection with Pick n Pay Clothing. Since sliding onto the racks at the retailer, she has expanded her brand into apparel and accessories as well as showcased her garments on the runway for the first time.

Buchanan was the first designer to join Pick n Pay Clothing’s collaboration initiative called Futurewear. In partnership with designer Gavin Rajah, the programme nurtures and develops talent to think innovatively, but in a commercial environment. It aims to foster growth in the local clothing industry while providing customers with greater access to affordable designer collections.

A creative at heart, Buchanan completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2014 and has worked in local art museums and galleries, most notably Norval Foundation, where she formed part of the starting team. An energetic entrepreneur and designer, Buchanan enjoys exploring creativity through various forms – including fashion, art and culinary experiences – and her JULIA brand was created to bridge the gap between art and fashion, both for herself and fellow artists.

Through this collaboration, Buchanan says she has had the opportunity to share her designs with new, and wider, audiences and helped developed a following of strong women looking for interesting pieces of clothing.

She adds that creating a commercial range has been a learning experience though, but invaluable. “I feel more comfortable working in the commercial space and have learnt a great deal about flexibility and designing for a wider audience. Every year I learn more about our approach to structure and design, and it has helped grow my brand.”

The 2022 Pick n Pay Clothing x JULIA collection seeks to deliver something fresh and unique for customers and sustainability is a key priority.

The collection has been produced locally again to support the local fashion ecosystem, but this year it is made from recycled fabric. It also incorporates very particular imagery, and brighter, bolder colours.

Encapsulating the essence of the collab initiative, Julia worked with local artist and architect, Sarah Allderman from Sarch Designs, to create the print for her 2022 collection.

“The imagery used is very noticeably Capetonian, inspired by the city’s iconic natural elements namely Lion’s Head, the Atlantic Coastline and palm trees. The bright and bold green used is a global colour trend, but it is also symbolic of growth and renewal after two years of a pandemic,” Buchanan says describing the range.

Allderman is known for featuring many of Cape Town’s most iconic scenes in her much-loved illustrations, which can be found in homes all around the world, says Buchanan. “We are childhood friends, and for many years we have worked together producing music, art and clothing. I wanted to extend this partnership into a more commercial sphere in the hope that it would bring light to the power of sisterhood and collaboration.”

Now in its third year, the Futurewear collaboration project has been overwhelmingly successful, and every year young designers can apply to design the next collection for Pick n Pay Clothing. “Our initial collaboration with Julia highlighted the huge need to foster a network of creatives who, while extremely good at what they do, lack the commercial or brand building skills to realise their dreams,” says Hazel Pillay, General Manager: Pick n Pay Clothing.

Buchanan says she has learnt how powerful collaboration and mentorship are. “It has been a privilege to be part of the Futurewear initiative and I think that if more major organisations focused on providing a platform for young creatives to flourish, we could tap into the bursting amount of talent available in South Africa and wider Africa.”

In 2020, she started her own series of collaborations with local artists, called Creatives’ Collection, which sees her working with individuals to create unique, limited-edition pieces. She plans to expand this series in the coming year by collaborating with artists from other parts of the continent, while also scaling her brand to include more physical spaces. “For a long time, we have been operating online with many requests for a space for users to try on the garments.”

Remaining fiercely passionate about creating access for artists and aspiring art professionals to refine their practice and reach wider audiences, Buchanan will also soon launch a new web-based arts education platform called Art School Africa. This was inspired by her In Conversation Series, also started in 2020, which consisted of a series of live Instagram conversations that she hosted with creatives from various parts of Africa.