Today we’d like to introduce you to Julia Layton.
Julia, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a major in chemical engineering and minor in studio art in 2014. Despite my love for science, I always felt this indescribable, burning desire to explore what art and fashion had in store for me. I had taken art classes in college and loved them, but I wasn’t planning on pursuing it as a career at the time. However, this changed while I was working at a business consulting company in 2016.
I realized that I enjoyed the creative side of business planning. I was working at a firm that served as a liaison between Japanese and American businesses, and I realized that I enjoyed and excelled at pinpointing target clients and using the correct language to attract customers. At this point, I was beginning to feel antsy in my career and in my life – I wanted to start something myself and have more responsibility. I bought a book titled The $100 Startup and decided that this was my chance.
I knew I wanted to do something related to fashion and art, but I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. Because I didn’t have a lot of garment construction experience at this point, I decided to make something with materials I was familiar with, and that didn’t require a lot of pattern alterations. For example, while at UCSD, I designed my own ballroom costumes using stretch lycra material, inspiring me later to design swimsuits made from a similar material. I realized that I was able to dramatically change the look of a swimsuit just by interchanging the fabric and embellishments. Despite my initial lack of experience in garment design, I was able to use my creativity and skillset to adapt and figure out how.
After constructing about 50 pieces of swimwear myself, I opened a booth at the Palos Verdes Street Fair in June 2016, where I received positive feedback. It was a great way to gain exposure and connect with enthusiastic customers, and it really made me feel like I belonged in the fashion industry.
In August 2016, I enrolled in fashion classes at Los Angeles Trade Technical College in order to learn how to make more complex clothing for my business. About three months into my program, I found an amazing study abroad opportunity at Central Saint Martins in London which I really wanted to participate in. The class I wanted to join was Advanced Fashion, which was reserved for experienced students and professionals, but I made a portfolio and applied anyway. I was accepted and went through the most transformative experience of my life. I learned how to gather inspiration and experiment in order to form new ideas that could be applied to clothing.
During this time, I started to add painted denim jackets as a product in my Etsy store. It started out as a fun side painting project, but I received so much positive feedback that I decided to add it to my store.
In April 2017, my Etsy store was discovered by Victoria’s Secret, and I was invited to their Coachella event to paint angel wings onto denim jackets for celebrity guests. This was one of the most rewarding events I have ever participated in.
In spring 2018, I had begun to build my fashion portfolio using the knowledge I gained in London over the past summer. I distanced myself from social media, spent more time in nature, and utilized this space to discover what I wanted to communicate to the world as a designer and artist. After reflecting on my life experiences and values, I realized that I wanted to capture the impressions of a utopian universe by reminiscing on memories, dreams, and the bittersweet feelings of nostalgia. Throughout many experiments focusing on form and textiles, I began to understand that I could also apply this expansion to my artwork. I discovered that I could successfully merge fashion and art, and I created what is now my J. Y. LAYTON brand.
In May 2018, I completed my program in LA, where I graduated with a first place in the final fashion show in the day dress category. In August 2018, my work was on display and for sale at Luz Art Gallery in West Hollywood, and in February 2019, my fashion work was photographed by Sienna Benton and was published on Photo Vogue Italia. I currently work full time as a handbag painter at a luxury luggage company while expanding both of my brands.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Not at all! I’ve had many obstacles throughout my journey, including both external and internal struggles. Some of my external struggles have included logistical issues that required hours of problem solving. It feels like for every success I have, there are a number of things that end up not working out. However, most of these challenges have been solved by perseverance and patience, so I firmly believe that there is an answer to every problem (and maybe this is the engineer in me). There’s always a way!
Some of my internal struggles have been dealing with discouraging comments, as well as maintaining confidence during difficult times. Since I’m pursuing something completely out of the ordinary, I’ve learned that it is natural to have to face critics who are doubtful of my choices and are skeptical if I would succeed. My favorite way of tackling this is to be so absorbed in my work and being so in tune with my life mission, that I radiate confidence and genuinely forget to listen to the negative comments. With that said, I think it’s incredibly important to be surrounded by positive people who have similar mindsets.
Since I spent most of my life preparing for a career in STEM, jumping into fashion was a huge change and very scary risk. Of course, during this time, my head was filled with “what if” questions about the worst – what if I fail? What if I’m not good at all? I have actually written pages of doubtful thoughts in my journal, but I honestly wish I could go back in time and tell myself that everything will be okay! At the end of the day, if you don’t believe in yourself, who will? I’ve learned that the first step to succeeding is to grasp how to visualize your successes and having a firm vision. Once that foundation is established, the rest of the work becomes a lot more simple.
J. Y. LAYTON – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I’m a designer under the name J. Y. LAYTON, and I currently make custom garments and art pieces for individual clients, galleries, and photoshoots. I’m also continuing my Etsy store called Julia Yuki, where I make clothes and painted jackets. I chose to use my initials as my brand instead of my full name because I wanted it to be personal, but I wanted it to be its own entity, separate from who I am as a person. I currently work from my studio and I specialize in making custom garments and art pieces and painting custom pieces for events. I am hoping to expand and start manufacturing my clothing soon, and my goal is to build a series of brands that cater to different target audiences.
My vision for the future includes integrating engineering into J. Y LAYTON. I have a unique background so I want to utilize the things I’m good at and build something around it. My next goal is to make an appearance at LA Fashion Week and the Beverly Hills Art Show, and my dream is to eventually open up a shop in Paris and have J. Y. LAYTON be a brand that’s recognized on the Vogue Runway app.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
My proudest moment was seeing my name next to my fashion display at Luz Art gallery. It was a surreal moment, finally seeing a tangible result of my hard work in such a prominent part of the city. The gallery had a few events where my friends came out to support, and that was probably one of the most fulfilling moments of my life.
- $300-$400 for a painted jacket
- Custom garments and paintings priced individually
- Website: jylayton.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @j.y.layton, @shopjuliayuki
Vogue photos taken by Sienna Benton, modeled by Nora Rosenberg