I had such a fun time putting together this week’s interview. Justin is an incredibly talented photographer and illustrator whose work I adore. He is one of those people who you can tell just loves to create beauty, and surround themselves with it. Justin has an incredible eye for craftsmanship as you will soon see, and a deep rooted love of style and fashion. Enjoy meeting him!
Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?
My name is Justin. I am an illustrator and photographer from Vancouver BC, Canada. I was born and raised in Vancouver, but I spent a great deal of time in Hong Kong as a child. I am currently completing my BFA in Visual Arts at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. I also work part-time as a drawing and piano teacher.
I know that you first became interested in fashion through your mother. Can you share a little bit more about how she managed to influence you?
35 years ago, my mother was one of the first few women who brought Italian designer labels to Hong Kong. Back then she owned a boutique selling Italian womenswear, leather goods and costume jewelry. As a child, I loved accessorizing the mannequins in her shop. I remember getting in trouble every time I pinned heavy brooches onto delicate cashmere sweaters – I was quite the difficult child, haha. I think my mother’s taste influenced my style a lot; she wears a lot of black, grey and navy; if you look at my closet, it’s black, grey and navy. My mother taught me to appreciate simplicity and the importance of fit and quality. She might not agree with everything I wear today, but I definitely learned a lot from her over the years.
You love and collect Chanel. What originally drew you to the brand, and what keeps you around today?
It’s funny. I knew of the name ‘Chanel’ at a very young age because my mother’s store was directly across from a Chanel boutique. I remember questioning why ‘Chanel’ was spelled with one ‘N’. Of course I never knew what it meant until much later. I became interested in Chanel in 2004 when Nicole Kidman wore an icy blue Chanel Haute Couture dress to the Oscars. Then in 2005, there was the Chanel No.5 ‘film’, also starring Nicole Kidman – I will never forget that pink ostrich feather couture dress, it was an exquisite dress. I bought my first Chanel necklace that very same year. Seven years later, I still wear it, and I think that’s what keeps me around and in love with the brand, it really is timeless.
You collect Chanel men’s ready-to-wear (RTW)! Can you share some favorite pieces? Are men’s items hard to find?
As you probably noticed, Chanel rarely produces menswear, and when they do, I don’t always like it. Not all boutiques carry menswear, but I think Chanel’s male clientele is definitely growing, and there seems to be an increase in demand for Chanel menswear and accessories, at least in Vancouver, so the buyers are taking notice. Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to acquire a few RTW pieces. My first piece was a mohair ‘Penguin’ sweater from 2007. I have the ecru tweed jacket from 2011, the same one that male model Brad Kroenig wore on the runway with his son – super classic shape, a Chanel staple. My latest acquisition is a cashmere sweater with an embroidered lion crest.
You also collect Chanel jewelry. What are some of your favorite pieces, and what does your collection look like?
My costume jewelry collection consists mainly of brooches and several necklaces and rings. I also have two Chanel Fine Jewelry rings that I wear every day. My all time favorite piece would have to be the ‘Carousel’ necklace from 2008, it is so whimsical and perfectly Chanel, I love it so much that I don’t even wear it anymore, it’s tucked away in my safety deposit box because I’m afraid I’ll lose or break it. Dramatic, I know.
What is it about Chanel jewelry that draws you to it?
I might sound biased here, but truthfully, Chanel is definitely one of the leaders in the business when it comes to costume jewelry. Chanel makes six collections a year, and there is always an extensive selection of costume jewelry every time, inspired by all facets and codes of the house – be it pearls, camellias or byzantine crosses. Every two months, there is always something new and exciting, and the attention to detail and craftsmanship is always exquisite. Laetitia Crahay – director of accessories and jewelry at Chanel – is the talent behind all these lust worthy pieces. I am a huge fan of her work, and she is also one of my personal style icons. I think what a lot of people fail to realize is that Chanel is so much more than just dainty CC logo earrings (and matching CC logo pendants). Yes, they’re expensive for what it is, but each one of these pieces become like a collector’s item, it’s like collecting art!
What are some of your other favorite designers? Can you share some other cherished pieces?
For jewelry, Camille Miceli at Dior is another favorite, Joomi Lim, Aurélie Bidermann, Lanvin and Martin Margiela for unusual and quirky pieces. I adore Victoire de Castellane’s work for Dior Haute Joaillerie, I would love to own one of her pieces one day! It’s difficult for me to pick a favorite when it comes to clothing because I shop all over the place, but I wear a lot of Shades of Grey by Micah Cohen, Margiela, Marc by Marc Jacobs, and Burberry for outerwear (hands down the best).
What’s a piece of advice about shopping and style that you could to share? What percent of items do you pay full price for, versus sale?
Only buy things that you love and you know you can’t live without. I know it sounds kind of melodramatic, but when I see something that I really like (and I can’t live without), I will stop at nothing to get it. With Chanel, I always try plan my purchases six months in advance (every two months) so there are no surprises – NO IMPULSE BUYS! I also limit myself to no more than three pieces per collection. I tend to avoid sales, because that’s when you end up buying things you don’t particularly love or need.
You’re a very talented illustrator and photographer. What inspires you, and what is your dream job? Can you share some of your favorite personal photographs and illustrations?
Haha thank you for your kind words. I get inspiration from a lot of things, fashion, art, music, books etc. For me, it is very important to feel passionate about the subject matter, whether it’s an illustration or a photograph, because that’s when I produce my best work. I know this sounds very cliché, but I would love to be a fashion editor. Either that, or I’ll become a buyer like my mother.
What about some of your favorite photos/illustrations by other artists?
I love looking at fashion illustration and photography. My favorite illustrators are David Downton and George Wolf Plank, and my favorite fashion photographer would be Patrick Demarchelier.
What are some of your other passions and hobbies?
I love music, all kinds of music. I am currently obsessed with Tristesse Contemporaine and Gui Boratto. I’m also a classically trained pianist. I used to hate piano as a kid, but when I found out that I could make money from teaching piano, I stopped hating it. When I’m not busy finding things to buy, I cook! I love making desserts (and eating them afterwards). I also like collecting coffee table books, most of them I don’t even read, I just like to have them.
And finally – please share something surprising about yourself!
As much as I would love to work in fashion one day, if that doesn’t happen for me, I would love to open a patisserie of my own (wearing Chanel of course), and I would be just as happy!
Justin’s photographs and illustrations are so beautiful, and he’s inspired for me a much greater appreciation of Chanel jewelry (among many other things) than I ever had before. Thank you very much Justin, for sharing some of your collection and talent with us here today. If you ever open your patisserie, I’ll be there on opening day for sure!
For more of Justin’s photography and illustrations, visit here.