Representing the creative future

Jude Ferrari: “Planning a show is like doing a bar mitzvah, sweet sixteen and wedding at the same time”

Having lost her job and relocated to her parents’ house because of coronavirus, CSM graduate Jude Ferrari is pinning her hopes on building her own brand

When CSM graduate Jude Ferrari presented her final BA collection last June, it was a riotous mix of head-to-toe leopard prints, devilishly ruched cobalt jackets and Swarovski-embellished swimsuits featuring dad tattoos. The modified collection she showed in Paris a few months later had a similarly rich aesthetic, with the ironic addition of dinosaur costumes and leopard garden statues. 

Under lockdown, Jude’s life looks a lot less colourful. “I have been let go from my job,” she sighs. “So coronavirus has affected me a lot. Even before the quarantine hit Paris, all of the international magazines stopped requesting samples because of it.” To make the best of a bad situation, Jude is living in her parents’ house, helping them with groceries and working on her own brand, Maison J. Simone. But the increasing lockdown measures in France mean Jude is coming up against more barriers to creation. “I order all of my prints from the UK,” she explains. “Right now, France is only allowing essential deliveries so I cannot source material. I wanted to help sew hospital scrubs, but I don’t have enough fabric to do it.”

The shift in public understanding of ‘essential’ versus ‘nonessential’ jobs is something Jude is still grappling with. “At the end of the day, I just design clothes,” she continues. “I almost feel ashamed when I post anything on Instagram because I feel that my work is so much less valuable than other people’s work in this pandemic. But I think some people want distraction and escapism, so I guess they can still enjoy posts about clothes.” 

France is only allowing essential deliveries so I cannot source material. I wanted to help sew hospital scrubs, but I don’t have enough fabric to do it.”

Removed from her friends at CSM, Jude misses sharing her ideas with other creatives. “Sometimes, being at CSM felt like taking drugs even though I was sober; being around all those creative people was so inspiring. At CSM, you are in this insane bubble that seems removed from reality. It’s a bit like now, with everyone hiding at home because of the quarantine. A friend of mine who never wears make-up is suddenly experimenting with it and posting photos online. People are just being themselves for once, because it is allowed and you can hide behind this idea that everyone is going stir crazy at home. Especially in cities like Paris, which can be very judgemental, it’s incredible to see.”

I almost feel ashamed when I post anything on Instagram because I feel that my work is so much less valuable than other people’s work in this pandemic.”

While her friends at CSM gave Jude the inspiration to push boundaries and create without limits, her scholarships (from Inditex and Swarovski) afforded her the financial freedom to realise those ideas. “I am obsessed with rhinestones and sparkles and I wanted to do super big shapes,” she says. “Rhinestones are expensive and super big shapes with smocking require a lot of fabric. With the scholarship, I could do it all.” In the end, her clothes dripped with Swarovski crystals, cascading down sleeves and spilling onto chainmail trousers. Her biggest jacket was constructed from twenty-four metres of fabric.

Besides her classmates, Jude had far-reaching influences. She says that 80% of her final ideas came from making mistakes and running with them, but the core concept remained the same: “I don’t understand my own body, so I am just trying to reveal a new one. Like, why is the body shaped like a star? My final collection looks at the stories our bodies tell through scars and tattoos. It’s crazy how the body is constantly mutating and transforming like a Pokémon.” These mutations are articulated through silhouettes, with outlandishly large shoulders and dotty puffer jackets straight out of a Yayoi Kusama piece, all dangling with Swarovski chains. Jude wants her clothes to make people feel powerful. “It’s like when you wear Mugler,” she says. “You really feel empowered, because you can’t hide anything.”

My final collection looks at the stories our bodies tell through scars and tattoos. It’s crazy how the body is constantly mutating and transforming like a Pokémon.”

While her childhood memories of Catholic iconography and the contorted bodies of statuesque saints triggered the idea initially, her main inspiration was more mortal: her dad’s body. “My dad was in a car accident when he was 11,” she explains. “He had skin from his butt sewn onto his legs, so he has lots of scars and wrinkles and stuff. I wanted to take that brutal image and make it more refined.” The final iteration of this is outfits that are distorted and drooping. Playing with dimensions, Jude draped vast swathes of fabric, which pooled at the wrists and ankles. 

After the CSM show, Jude took her collection home to Paris, to organise her own show outside of the university sphere. By a stroke of luck (and a well-connected babysitting client), she was able to secure a gallery space in Paris where Acne and Stella McCartney have previously shown collections. “I managed to pay almost nothing,” she beams. “The only big cost was the giant monster truck – a tribute to my dad’s accident that inspired the whole collection.” Besides the venue, Jude found the process of staging a show quite complicated. “It was like planning a bar mitzvah, my sweet sixteen and my wedding at the same time,” she laughs. “I never thought I would have to consider so many things – the chairs, the set design, the lights, the sound, the models, the hair. It was so intense!”

After showing in Paris, Jude released a capsule collection of swimsuits on Depop — a marked departure from the usual path of emerging luxury brands. “Depop is a slick platform,” she says. “It seemed silly to make a whole website just for three styles of swimwear, and stores in Paris would sell them at triple the price, so I thought I would try it.” The collection sold out in just two weeks. “I always thought my customer would be in Japan,” Jude continues. “But a lot of the buyers were in New York and Los Angeles. Now that we are in quarantine, I hope the public continue to support small brands and buy from us or share what they like about us. It will give us the motivation and platform to continue.” 

“It seemed silly to make a whole website just for three styles of swimwear, and stores in Paris would sell them at triple the price, so I thought I would try Depop.”

Prior to lockdown, Jude’s designs had appeared in a slew of independent publications, as well as bigger titles like ELLE China. Now, she is struggling to maintain momentum. “My parents don’t think I am mature enough in my work to have my own company yet, but it’s hard for me not to create stuff. I am full of ideas and I want to make them. Before the lockdown, I could only work on weekends and at night, so now I am more focused on all the details because I have more time. I am hoping that the editorials I did before lockdown will help me get an investor so I can work on my brand properly later. I am hoping to produce small runs and limited collections after the pandemic. Hopefully, that will still be possible when this is over.”

1 Granary

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