"Clothing, for me, is a common thread that weaves through all of us as humans."
A philosophy major turned into fashion stylist and creative consultant - Julie Ragolia's path to the top of the industry is everything but conventional. Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Ragolia discovered her passion for art, and found "a way forward" from her modest upbringing. The desire to understand her own life story is what perhaps led Ragolia towards the direction of philosophy, however, her developing interest in identity and how clothing can "define, enhance or recreate one's self" is what took Ragolia's career to the next level.
"My career began while in college, doing little shoots here and there for my roommate. I was a philosophy major, on a very academic path." Since then, Ragolia has worked on countless editorial stories, fashion shows, advertising campaigns and red carpet appearances. "I never expected to have an eventual life in fashion. In fact, I was quite critical of fashion in my early days, but through exploring that which I don’t necessarily understand, I came to view it as an art form; as a creative way to discuss humanity and its nuances." Ragolia's approach is rooted in documentary and observation, and could be described as "strikingly modern". She has worked with photographers such as Craig McDean, Collier Schorr, Josh Olins, Campbell Eddy, Eddie Wrey; with magazines such as WSJ, various international Vogues, L'uomo Vogue; and with brands such as Zegna.
THE Qu & A
What are 3 relevant problems that you wish to solve through your work?
Clothing, for me, is a common thread that weaves through all of us as humans. The conversations and qualities change according to our diverse stories. At times, they’re as controversial as they are mesmerising and inspiring. That discord is a dynamic field of inquiry, and finding ways for people to see themselves through it is of particular interest to me.
In addition, I suppose I am always trying to find a point of view that feels like home to me. I didn’t have the easiest of upbringings and, yet, found myself on a path that some consider only for a privileged few. I hope my being vocal about my background helps those who wish to take a similar path feel like they can. It’s not an easy one. I had to work very hard to be seen in the manner of my goals, but it is feasible, I feel lucky to say today.
Lastly, I try to blur gender lines in my work. I find traditional notions of male and female outdated as fashion norms. Encouraging people to dress as freely as they wish, to me, is an open window to larger forms of expressions. Fashion is very political to me, in that sense. We can challenge discourse by what we put on our backs, and I take that responsibility seriously. In fact, I find a lot of joy in it creatively. It’s an immense source of inspiration.
What are 3 values that you wish to mediate through your work?
It’s similar to what I said above. I guess I don’t see them as problems, per se, as much as I do a creative expression of my values. I’m lucky to have an outlet to express my viewpoints about the world in ways that are also aesthetically interesting. It’s a visual pursuit of my academic interests, I suppose.
What is the downside of being a Creative that no one talks about?
It’s a lot of work, and not all of it is glamorous. It’s eternally humbling for that reason, even if social media appearances might project otherwise.
What are ways to disrupt the Creative Industry? Is it necessary in order to get the attention of the audience? Please tell us about your experiences and how you achieved to be seen and respected as a Creative.
The best way to be disruptive, or to garner attention, is to always have integrity; to always work from a place of pure curiosity and commitment to craft. I feel like I took a long time to be noticed because I didn’t take a traditional path, but I feel understood for my style and viewpoint now, and never had to compromise who I am or apologise for my decisions. I’m proud of that, and grateful daily.
Short Reflection by Julie Ragolia
Challenging situations are all what we make of them. We can choose to view challenging situations as a negative, or we can choose to take them on as lessons for improvement. I choose the latter, so the silver lining is knowing that there is always opportunity to grow.
This interview contributes to a new media format, where Creatives are in full control of their narratives. By exploring alternatives to narrative journalism, GAHSP starts unconventional conversations, emphasizing values and problems that shape our lives collectively.
Written and Edited by Julia Horvath
Image Courtesy of Julie Ragolia