Text: Valerie Stepanova
Julie Josephine Blystad is the creator behind the label Julie Josephine Essentials. After graduating from the University of Edinburgh business and finance program and working for companies like PwC for a few, she went back to Norway to venture out into the world of fashion and design. She is here to bring high-quality essentials to the market for the “classic woman with a tiny twist.”
As Julie has just gotten back from her honeymoon, we have spoken with her about her style inspirations, timeless wardrobe staples and the increasing need for consumer awareness in the fashion industry.
How did you get started in fashion and design?
After graduating from the University of Edinburgh with a master’s degree in business and finance, I started working in a consulting firm —long days, lots of numbers. My days were very similar and very boring.
While working in this consulting firm, I started looking for the perfect white t-shirt. For me, this was a piece I literally could not find anywhere. I started thinking about this business idea — creating perfect basics for the everyday woman. I could already envision the perfect white tee I was looking for: not too tight, not too oversized, cut perfectly on the arm and with that round nice neckline. The quality should not be too thin nor too thick; it had to be just right. I have always been over-average interested in fashion and finding good pieces to wear that I feel comfortable in for a whole day and loved transitional pieces that I can either wear on a Sunday stroll or out for dinner on a Saturday.
After a couple of years, I finally came to my senses and quit my job to pursue this idea I had been thinking about since literally the day I stepped foot at that consulting office. I teamed up with this amazing pattern designer who helped me create two pieces: the perfect white tee and the perfect white shirt. After lots of research trial and error, I launched Julie Josephine Essentials a year later, in 2015. This was sort of my beginning in the fashion and design world.
What was your relationship with clothing and fashion while growing up?
I have always been obsessed with what I wear and how I dress. Since I was a little girl, I could have these tantrums because I could not find anything to wear. I remember when I was seven, I asked my mom to pick me up from school because I hated my outfit and had to go home and change. This is why I started JJ (Julie Josephine). I love finding pieces that you can just throw on and feel comfortable in for a whole day.
My mother is a lawyer and my father works in shipping, so it hasn’t really been a topic at the dinner table. Us girls have just always been quite interested and fascinated with clothing — I am one of three sisters in our family and clothing and fashion between us sisters have been a big deal. We were quite critical about what we wore and how other people dressed. I, especially, was easily fascinated by people that had a nice style and pretty clothing. I wanted to be like them, I just loved it! I have never been the one that has known every single designer or brand, but things like clothing, what to wear, what not to wear have always been a fascination.
What are you aiming to do with your design that is different than the rest of the market?
First of all, my main goal for Julie Josephine is to create high-quality basics, with the perfect fit for women. We want to create pieces that you can throw on in the morning and feel great when you come home. I want each piece to be transitional, so when you buy a white shirt from us, it is something you can wear on the beach in Miami but also on a Saturday night in London.
Every single piece that I launch is well thought out, the quality has been wear-tested for months and the pattern of each garment has been fitted and tried on, on different body types. My dream for the brand is to be known as the place you go when you are really looking for the best quality basics. When you buy a product from us, you know you will have it for years.
I am really seeing a shift in the way the consumer (especially in Norway) is thinking before buying a product. They are so much more aware: is it sustainable? Where has the product been produced? Where do the fabrics come from? and so on. I want the consumer to understand that when they by a product from us, they will not only be getting something they will be able to wear for years but also that the product they are buying is produced under really good conditions, at every single stage.
How would you describe your typical customer?
Here in Norway, I see that we are really starting to reach a broad specter of customers. We see that we have that range from an eighteen-year-old girl who is looking for the cool white shirt she saw on Instagram to the hard-working fifty-five-year-old woman who is very conscious about quality and wants something that she feels good and comfortable in.
Where do you see androgyny or unisex clothing fitting into your brand, if at all?
Our brand is very “classic woman with a tiny twist” at the moment. This means that each piece is fitted quite specific towards the women’s body. However, we do have some shapes like the boyfriend tee and oversized long-sleeve that are “unisex”. This is for that cool, hip customer that likes a more oversized, androgyny look. But this is as far as it goes for the time being.
If you could have lunch with any creative or business person, who would it be and why?
I would love to have lunch with Diane von Furstenberg because I think she seems like a really cool woman who has really been able to create a successful brand for many, many years. Not something a lot of people have accomplished. I would have loved to hear her advice and key points on creating a long-lasting fashion brand!
I would also have loved to have lunch with Emily Weiss, the women behind Glossier, just because she is a young woman who seems like a strong, independent cool girl that has worked hard and built an incredible brand in a very short amount of time.
One last person, Nathalie Massenet. First of all, because I am incredibly impressed with what she has accomplished with Net-A-Porter and now Farfetch. And also because I would have loved to hear her insights on the shift that retail is experiencing these days regarding retail stores vs online shopping.
Who in your life has been your greatest style inspiration?
In the last years, I would say that Elin Kling, the Swedish influencer and founder of the brand Totême who has that amazing and simple Scandinavian style. She has always been true to herself and did not follow the fashion hypes.
If you asked me this question when I was sixteen, I would have said Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. My sister and I would literally study every single piece of clothing they wore and tried to copy it.
Outside of sales or numbers, how do you gauge the success of your brand?
I gauge the success of my brand through my incredibly talented team who actually wants to work for Julie Josephine. This I do not take for granted. I also do feel that I have accomplished success when I either see a woman on the streets wearing Julie Josephine or when she actually comes back to get another product. This is the ultimate feeling.