All On The Line S1E8: Julia Alarcon

Posted on May 20, 2011

Better late than never, darlings. A series of unplanned adventures prevented us from getting to this before now.

Meet Julia Alarcon. Julia is our hero because she went back to school at 40 to learn fashion design and started a line with her sister. Eventually the sister moved on, but Julia still had a dream, even if the initial positive reception to her work faded. Now she’s $300,000 in debt and needs the services of Dr. Joe to help her turn her dream around.

We liked her immediately. Unlike a lot of people on reality TV, she came across grounded, low-key and intelligent. Additionally, her work is gorgeous:

The problem? That old devil, “price point,” which is one of the biggest obstacles facing struggling designers. How do you put together a line that’s chic and expensive-looking without pricing yourself out of the market? Joe was shocked to find out these hot pants were priced at $500.

The problem with Julia – and with a lot of struggling designers – is that they see someone like, say, Marc Jacobs, who actually can sell a $500 pair of hot pants, and they think they can do the same thing right out of the gate. There’s a type of customer out there who will pay that kind of money, but not for a designer no one’s heard of. That sounds shallow, but that’s the way of it.

Joe wanted her to narrow her focus and do a line of chic work wear. He took her to a real estate office in Manhattan so she could chat with working women and get some idea of what the so-called average gal is looking for and how much she’s willing to pay for it. Julia nodded her head at the points the ladies made, and then apparently hit the internal “delete” button because she retained none of it.

This included the information that working women don’t generally want to pay $700 for an outfit and don’t generally walk around in tight dresses or perforated leather blouses all day. Once Joe was gone, she went right back to insisting on the most expensive designs she could come up with and none of them really sounded like work wear to us.

Joe’s sassy friend Antonio couldn’t even get her to re-think some of her techniques and materials. Even the grounded, level-headed ones are too stubborn to listen when a bunch of experts try to help her. She kept saying she didn’t want to “sell out,” which sounds kind of silly when you’re talking about things like seaming and buttons.

Loretta Soffe, Nordstrom Exec. VP of Women’s Apparel, stepped in once again as a favor for Joe and despite Julia’s talent, we half-covered our eyes during the presentation because we were afraid it was going to be a disaster.

It’s a beautiful, if slightly overdesigned dress. We love the fabric, but we can’t imagine anyone sitting at a desk all day in something this fussy.

Her seaming really is stunning. We can understand why she defended it so strongly. We’re not entirely sold on the lace panel, but we love the neckline and the sleeves. Still doesn’t look like work wear for anyone who isn’t a fashion editor.

Finally, something that looks practical as well as chic. Perfect.

If we squint, we can sort of see this as office wear. It’s gorgeous. Love the proportions.

Everyone seemed to love that jacket but us. We thought it looked heavy. Great design, but we just weren’t in love with the material.

This outfit is very sharp and chic, but it was a total needlescratch on the idea that she was showing a work wear collection. Come on, honey. The collection was beautiful – possibly the best so far on the show – but she might as well have just taken pieces from her previous collections and re-presented them.

Not only did she wander to far away from the work wear concept, she also didn’t listen to everyone’s pleading to get her price point down. These were, of course, the exact criticisms she got from the buyer and the reason why none of the pieces sold.

But talent will out in the end, because Loretta from Nordstrom was almost literally breathless at the sight of the pieces. You could tell she wasn’t just being polite; she really loved them. When she said she was willing to work with Julia to get the price down and get them on a Nordstrom rack, we believed her. We hope Julia learns that there’s a difference between selling out and finding a market.

[Screencaps: tomandlorenzo.com]

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