The La Perla Creative Director travels two to three weeks out of the month, receives five phone calls before 5 a.m., and designs between 2,000 and 4,000 pieces of lingerie a season. Here’s how she gets it done.
On her morning routine:
Generally I’m up between 5 and 6 a.m. because if I’m in New York, it’s already 11 a.m. Italy time. By 5 a.m. I’m getting phone calls. Very often what I end up doing is drawing or working or reading in my pajamas first before going to the office. I’ll draw for 45 minutes and then I’ll take a break and do 15 minutes of stretching, or some yoga or exercise and then around nine o’clock I’ll get dressed and leave.
On getting ready:
I take my shower, do La Mer body lotion, and then get dressed. It takes five minutes — I’m super fast; I have no patience. My whole thing with La Perla is comfort, comfort, comfort. The clothes have to be sexy and beautiful, but they have to be comfortable. I’m a big fan of one-piece dressing. I love jumpsuits, rompers. I design built-in bras in my clothes — no layers, no worrying about whether your bra is going to show, it’s part of your clothes. Makeup is like, a thing of mascara and either a BB cream or a tinted SPF. I am obsessed with sunscreen — I sunscreen myself all over, head to toe, every day.
On her shoe wardrobe and the virtues of comfort:
I’m tiny — I’m vertically challenged, so I always wear giant, mega-high heels generally reaching the five- and six-inch range. With me it’s either sandals or boots. You either zip the boots on or you slip your foot in the sandal and you’re off. We have all of our [La Perla] patent technology — I changed the arch of the shoe so that the pressure points are evenly distributed, and since we make our own molds I put a layer of gel inside the shoes. I wear them 14 hours a day, so it’s got to be comfortable. I don’t think you have to suffer to be beautiful. I’m trying to simplify women’s lives while still enabling them to feel beautiful, sexy, confident. One without the other is not enough. I test everything we make; it’s a part of the job I love. I think that’s one of the big benefits of being a female creative director. I’m not just concerned about how beautiful a woman is going to look, I’m concerned about whether or not it’s comfortable to wear. And we don’t make a shoe that I don’t first test and wander around in.
On her commute and morning elixir:
I have a driver, which is great because I don’t have to worry about parking, which is impossible in the city. Generally I have my first coffee when I’m going towards work — scalding-hot cappuccino. I literally tell them “burn-your-tongue-off hot,” because I like to sip it slowly through the morning. So, that’s my breakfast. If I have time, I’ll sit down and slowly sip my cappuccino, but generally it’s in a to-go cup. And when I’m in New York, after my coffee, I have something called a Hot C from Juicy Cube, which is a lifesaver in the mornings when I’ve had three or four hours of sleep. It’s orange juice and ginger and cayenne pepper and green tea and turmeric. I also ask for it scalding hot. It will change your morning — it gives you an immunity boost and it makes you feel more energetic. And I always take my vitamins.
On a day in the life:
Last Tuesday, for example, we went through the spring/summer pre-collection — I presented the collection to internal people, explained what my concept was, and then we went through item by item and went over what makes everything so extraordinary. We’ve been using a lot of different materials now and I want to educate everybody on what unique feature these clothes are going to have.
On her power lunch:
Around one, I close my door, have my lunch, and enjoy the quiet. I usually do a salad or soup — sometimes from Chop’t, sometimes from Le Pain [Quotidien], and then there’s By Chloe. I’m a big believer in calorie counting; watching what you put in your body. You only got one; you might as well take good care of it. I do lunch in the office because I can look through articles or read the paper, and I generally like to eat by myself. So much of my day is spent surrounded by people and I’m an extroverted introvert, so I definitely need that moment. Often I read. I just read an amazing book about Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie. My favorite genre is biography and autobiography. And the sub-category of that is definitely strong, kick-ass women, especially if they lived during a time when women didn’t have power. There’s this amazing book about Cleopatra, who was a brilliant leader. It gives me inspiration and strength and when people tell me, “You can’t do this,” which I hear probably once a month, I just go to those women for inspiration.
On her office:
We just moved to a new office, so we’re in the middle of decorating it. It’s really cool — a lot of leather and metal. I wanted something that was very elemental to keep things grounded, but then I have cheery things to brighten it up; I have flowers, and I’ll start doing the artwork for a pop of color. On my desk I have scissors, highlighter, my computer, and my iPad, that’s it. I’m not a big fan of clutter. If you give me things, I just lose them anyway.
On her afternoon:
After lunch, we went back to reviewing the collection — we have lingerie and beachwear, ready-to-wear, haute couture, and men’s. For example, this last season I had 250 ready-to-wear pieces, but then I had probably 3,000 or 4,000 lingerie pieces, and probably a couple hundred beachwear pieces. So you do the math … It’s standing up again for another five hours and going through the collection piece by piece. That basically took until five o’clock. And then I went back to my office and started working on Fall/Winter ’18. Research is one of my favorite parts of the job. I have an idea in my head, I take thousands of pictures, I go to museums and art exhibits all over the world, and then I have to bring it all together.
On emails and communication:
I get a couple hundred emails daily, but I try not to spend more than an hour doing nonemergency ones because otherwise your whole life is email. I have 20,624 to sort through right now — it’s impossible. Basically what I do is have the people that I work with on an everyday basis in my “favorites” so I get pinged when they email me. Otherwise … it is what it is.
I think texting is a miraculous thing — I’m always reachable by text. With my kids, obviously I like to talk to them, but it’s really great to have that option. I would rather have someone text me than email me any day of the week! I always tell people, “If you really need something, do not email me.” But I’m super-conscientious about responding to texts.
On staying organized:
My phone is my lifeline. Google Calendar, Notes, Reminders — and of course I have an assistant who is my memory, thank god. My phone yells at me on a regular basis, “Julia, it’s time to do this; in five minutes it’s that.” It’s funny because I am super-organized about work, and completely unorganized about everything else. Like, at work — everything is in a folder, everything is labeled. I do copious amounts of research. I have thousands of books — I also hunt for antique books everywhere I go — but I know where everything is. When it comes to my personal life, I lose everything. Give me a pair of gloves, and I will lose it. Give me sunglasses, any piece of paper that’s not work-related — it’s gone. I stopped wearing jewelry. I only wear earrings or necklaces every once in a while when it’s a huge event. Otherwise, no. Because I play with it and I leave it somewhere, so at this point, I’ve given up. Work I can keep track of, my four children I can keep track of (three are in college), but not jewelry or small items.
On remaining fueled:
The last couple months I’ve cut down on my Diet Coke intake tremendously. I’m very proud of that. I used to just drink like 12 cans a day, and now I’m down to like, two. I switched to water and at first it was really difficult, but now I’ve gotten so accustomed to it. I have a little refrigerator in my office and I just drink water all day long. I love sour and spicy things, so generally, hidden somewhere in my office, I’ve got a bag of Hot Tamales and a tiny bag of Lemonheads if I need a sugar pick-me-up. I can eat two and feel like I’ve fed that sugar need. If I need a second coffee, it’s after lunch. I never ever drink coffee after 5 p.m. Because then I won’t be asleep until two in the morning. Especially when I’m in Italy — Italian coffee is so strong. If you drink it after five, you’re not going to bed. If it’s a super stressful day, I’ll have a Diet Coke in the morning and one at 3 or 4 p.m. If it’s not a super stressful day, I’ll just do the one in the afternoon.
On her evening:
On Tuesday I stayed at work until seven because Monday was the Met Gala [for which La Perla dressed Kendall Jenner and Mary J. Blige] so by seven I was just so tired. I had crab legs and raw seafood for dinner and took a really nice, long bath. I then did some paperwork, answered emails and then finally around 1, 1:30 in the morning, I went to sleep.
On constant travel:
I pretty much travel two weeks out of every month, sometimes three. My packing strategy is to pack everything except for the kitchen sink. I do not believe in traveling light. Very frequently what ends up happening is I’m in two climate zones over one trip. For example, I have to go to London and Dubai. So it’s completely different clothing, completely different shoes. And if I’m going for two to three weeks, and then there’s events and you have to speak publicly, you have to bring clothing for that and you have to bring work clothes, and then at least ten pairs of shoes because of course, each outfit needs a different shoe. I travel with all of my makeup. I’m very light with the makeup, but I’m a huge proponent of skin care — the masks, serums, moisturizers, eye creams. Being on the airplane, and going through so many different climates, if you don’t take good care of your skin, you pay for it. The only thing I have learned that I cannot live without is La Mer. It’s my desert-island product. The body cream and the moisturizer keep my skin completely hydrated. If I’ve gotten three hours of sleep for five nights in a row and I’ve been on two planes for 13 hours, it saves my skin.
On sleeping … or not:
I’m not a big sleeper. Even before I became creative director, I’ve always been concerned that there are 9 million things that I should be doing, and I don’t want to be wasting time by sleeping. I actually find that the best sleep I get is on the airplane. I know that sounds crazy, but my body feels like: “Okay, yeah you’re sleeping, but you’re doing something, you’re traveling to a destination.” My best sleeps are on planes. Like, people hate 12-hour flights? I love them! People always say, “How do you not get jet lagged?” And I say, “Hey, if you don’t sleep in any country, you don’t get jet lagged.” That’s the secret.
On fitting in fitness:
I don’t get as much time as I’d like to exercise, so in the summer I try to do something intensive. Through the year wherever I am I try to fit in a little stretching.
Some months it’s a disaster, and some months I’m more regimented. The last summer I did boot camp; they made drawings for me so I could remember stretches, a few yoga moves, and a few Pilates moves so I can do them in whatever hotel room I’m in. I also take walks. Whatever city I’m in, if it’s not freezing rain, sleet, or hail, I’m walking every day.
On the power of stress:
I have to tell you that I love stress. I think it’s the greatest driving force in my life. I need it. It keeps me focused. I find that there’s two kinds of stress — there’s the debilitating kind and the energizing kind. Mine tends to lean towards the energizing kind — it keeps me moving. When I’m not stressed, I get nervous.
On relaxation and hobbies:
I’m a big fan of baths. I’m obsessed with the tub and do a lot of my best thinking there. Everywhere I go I’ll ask if the hotel room has a tub. I find it the most relaxing thing. And sometimes I read when I can’t sleep — I’m a voracious reader. When I have time I take a dance class, which in the past six months has been nonexistent. But I love to dance. I find it’s super relaxing and freeing. Your mind clears and you don’t think about anything … you just let your body do what it does best. Whenever I’m feeling down or alone, I go to a museum. You just look at all these people who lived before you, who spent their lives creating and sharing their art with the world and you just feel connected to them.
On her favorite thing about the job:
As much as I like designing, my favorite part of my job is when I see women wearing my clothes. That’s the best. I was in Manhattan on Wednesday, and there was a woman walking down the street wearing my bomber jacket and tears came to my eyes. Because it’s not just something that was in my mind; I know how how amazing it feels and I kind of feel like I made that woman’s day a little bit better, a little bit more comfortable, a little bit nicer. That is for sure my most favorite part.