Imagine you are 21 years old, living in Switzerland, and wearing cropped wide-leg jeans that you made them yourself from deadstock fabric found in Italy. You wore them in a digital look book that won you a spot on the V Files runway. And now—after a few emails from someone named Mel Ottenberg whom you’ve never met—you’re being asked to take your pants and hand them over to Rihanna.
You do it, right?
Julia Seemans did. She sent the jeans—along with her sustainable denim jacket and a shaggy turquoise top—to the pop superstar’s stylist. Two hours later, Rihanna wore the whole look to Kanye West’s YEEZY show, where Queen Ri and her ‘fit were photographed next to Beyoncé, Kim K, and Alexander Wang.
“And then,” says Seemann, “things got crazy.”
The designer was flooded with orders, Instagram comments, and interview requests. “It was very hard at first to take my label from an idea to an actual thing,” she explains. “I had to find people who knew about production. I had to figure out what ‘public relations’ was, because I had no idea. I think I had to be as creative with making the clothes and getting them out there as I did with designing them at all.”
Enter Mercedes-Benz Fashion Talents. Designed to springboard emerging designers into a global marketplace, the initiative sponsors travel, fashion shows, industry events, and even mentorships that feed smaller labels into bigger arenas. For a participant like Seemanns, that’s meant exposure in Asia and America, along with a runway show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Berlin. “It helped me take the label to the next level,” she explains. “By putting it on an official Fashion Week calendar, it gave us a chance to show we’ve grown enough to present full collections.”
Seven of them, to be exact, plus partnerships with Swarovski and Eastpak. “In terms of style, I think I found my own language, which is really difficult when you’re just coming out of school,” Seemann says. (She trained at the Fashion Institute of Basel, which—contrary to some of her fans’ ideas—is in Switzerland, not Miami.)
This year, Seemanns moves her entire business from her hometown of Zurich to Berlin—a direct result of the industry contacts she met during her fashion show. But despite her expansion, she still plans to stick with sustainable options like deadstock and handmade materials whenever possible. “I’m really into crochet right now,” she says. “Doing something by hand instead of machine, it gives you different kind of connection to your work.”
This season, that work’s been partly inspired by Seemans’ road trip to California with her boyfriend Flavio, who runs the global music collective Body Sensations. “I can’t drive, though,” she laughs. “I made him do everything. I mean, I drive my designs forward, but actually driving? It’s not my thing.”