The road from ultra-Orthodox Jewish community member to wildly successful fashion executive, as personified by Julia Haart in Netflix's My Unorthodox Life, has made for some truly entertaining television (and will likely have the same effect when her memoir Brazen comes out next March).
An outspoken, no-BS businesswoman, the series sheds light on Haart's role as CEO of model and talent behemoth Elite World Group while juggling family dynamics and professional relationships. But it's her entrepreneurial spirit that really sets the tone for how her life unfolds — with no signs of slowing down on that front.
Her upcoming fashion endeavors include a new shapewear range, a line of customizable footwear and a relaunch of her e1972 line, which will kick off with model avatars. "I was in a pressure cooker for the first 43 years of my life," she says of her lofty ambitions. "I don't have three seconds to wait. I've lost 43 years of my life. I'm not losing another 43 seconds."
Read on, below, for more on what drives the fashion mogul, how she juggles it all, and what's the most important thing when it comes to business and fashion.
I know you want to disrupt the world of shapewear. What does that entail?
So it's called +Body by Haart+Lieu and what we have done is create the first-ever shapewear that doesn't even look remotely like shapewear. Now, what does that mean? You know how shapewear, like every shapewear, from Skims to Wolfords, Spanx, you name it, comes in three colors: Beige, black,and white. Period. No exceptions. There's a reason for that. It's not because people aren't creative, it's not because they don't take the time, it's from a pure logistical reason in that the color connected to fabric is dye. When you dye a material and then you stretch that material, what happens? When you have a colorful thing and you stretch it really far, you see those little white lines in-between. The reason shapewear is always beige, black and white is because if you try to put a pattern or color on it, the minute you put it on your body and it has to stretch, you get those nasty white lines and it looks disgusting and horrible. We figured out different ways of putting color into fabric and we have created something that we call "Power Bond." The material is actually infused with color.
You're also going back to your footwear roots. What makes this new venture different?
I wanted to do something playful, a price point that a larger audience could purchase, and I want something that focuses on my concepts of individual freedom and uniqueness. The idea was to create a shoe that I designed and you designed simultaneously. The shoes comprise of three pieces: There's a frame, a sole and the top. Each one of those click into the other. For example, all the soles and all the tops can fit into any frame, they're totally interchangeable. So you can buy three frames, 20 soles, two tops and you can make new shoes every day. You just go click click, and you can get hundreds of colors and patterns. It's your shoe, your way. It's about me giving you the tools to create your own style, because I want people to choose what they want to look like.
What's the status on Elite's in-house fashion brand e1972?
We launched it two weeks before the pandemic, and then we shut it because no one in their right mind is launching a brand during the pandemic, it seemed irresponsible. So we are relaunching it in February, with a virtual show with our virtual talent avatars. It will be a sizeless brand where you scan your body from the comfort of your bed, from your head to your waist. We will send a custom-made garment to your house, completely your size. There is no sizing in this company at all because I hate the idea of body shaming, making people feel that their body is not what it should be. I think everybody's body is beautiful, and we should celebrate it and honor it, and no one should ever feel bad. So this way, it's your size.
Where do you get that itch for being a fashion entrepreneur and making all of these ideas come to life?
If you lived inside of my head for two minutes, you'd understand why I'm an insomniac. My brain doesn't shut down. To me, if you think about it, there's one strand of connectivity. That connectivity is always about freedom, individuality and choice, whether it's the shoes, or the shapewear, or when I'm doing Elite World Group, transforming us into a media conglomerate, transforming our talent into networks and brands, it's always about freedom and individuality. In my head, I have all these things that I think need to be in the world. I love it, I need it. It's like breathing to me. I'm not happy if I'm not designing. But I also love business, and I learned that I'm really good at making money. If I can make 1000s or hundreds of 1000s, I mean who knows, we just got to keep going and work day by day. But the mission is to make financially independent, successful women who never have to ask for permission, who choose their own path in life, who decide and determine their destiny.
In the series we saw you go to Paris Fashion Week with your family. Live shows are expected to return in September after a year of hardly any runway events. Will you be traveling for Fashion Month again?
I'm going everywhere. I'm so excited to get back to traveling, and to do London, Milan and Paris Fashion Week. For me, it's really important because I have so many companies in each of those cities and I think to be on a mission, to have unity, it's so important for that personal contact and connection. I haven't been back to London since COVID started. Being able to go back to FashionWweek all over the world, meet with my talent, work with my companies, support our endeavors... Fingers crossed, no more variants come because I can't handle any more variants. Hopefully the world will reopen, and I can really get to travel and meet my team again.
Most people think of Elite as just a modeling agency, but you always say it's so much more than that. Can you expand on that a little bit?
This is really the crux of what I've done with Elite World Group. The reason I chose to take over the company, and I bought into the company and I now own half of it is because I realized that with the advent of social media, the talent has the audience. They're the new media. More people watch Jasmine Sanders trimming her rose bush in her garden than watch any show on NBC. That enables us to have a massive shift in the power dynamic, because it's now the creative directors and the casting agency chasing after the talent, because the talent bring the audience. So when I realized that, I realized we're not a modeling agency at all. We're a talent media conglomerate. I don't care what you do. If you have a passion, and you have an expertise, and you have an audience, I can monetize them for you and give you longevity and financial independence in your career because I will make you into a brand and utilize your social presence as an actual network.
Photos courtesy of Netflix
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