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Special thanks to:

Julieanne Mijares for
sharing so much time,
and her personal archive,
for this article.

And of course, our
gratitude to T-Boz, Chilli
and Left-Eye -- TLC --
for their support.

No doubt most of you have had the pleasure of seeing TLC in one of their videos, or in a guest appearance on TV. Perhaps you've caught TLC performing, or presenting at music award shows, or in concert. Have you noticed that they are always in the most extraordinary, most unique, most beautiful, and most imaginative costumes you have seen?


Left to right on the set of Dear Lie, Chilli, Julieanne, and video director Bille Woodruff.

The person behind these wondrous visions is a young costume designer based in LA named Julieanne Mijares. Open, friendly, warm, vivacious, pretty, slim, and fabulously groomed and put together, Julieanne juggles an enormous amount of work, and a schedule that would kill most people. AND she makes it look easy. Top that all off with the fact that she is one of the greatest costume designers working today. Her interior life, her boundless imagination, provides her with limitless ideas for three extremely talented and beautiful young women performers. It is a sheer joy to see TLC in Julieanneís designs, to see the creations realized, to see the outfits individually and as a whole, to see how she balances fantasy and practicality.


Julieanne with T-Boz in her sound stage dressing room.

Fashion Finds was lucky enough to have the pleasure of having several conversations with Julieanne; to talk about her beginning, present, and future. We also had the good fortune to visit Julieanne on the set of TLCís new video Dear Lie, which was being filmed here in New York. Throughout our conversation, you will have a chance to see the latest designs Julieanne has created for TLC.


FF: Iíd love to know about your childhood and growing up.

Julieanne Mijares: I had a great upbringing in Southern Florida. After I graduated high school, I attended one semester of college, and then I was off and running.

I really didnít know what I wanted to do. I was involved in acting, and I thought I wanted to be a photographer for a while. But in the back of my mind, without ever truly realizing it, I was always into fashion. Although I never even considered going into it as a career.

FF: But you decided to go to California. What was the dream you were pursuing when you decided to move to Los Angeles?

Julieanne Mijares: I had no idea. Iím Aquarius, and every time I read about Aquarians, theyíre described as brilliant people, who just go with their dreams. They donít think about what theyíre doing. Theyíre free spirits. And thatís pretty much the way it went. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I loved traveling, and I had become accustomed to travel my whole life, because my father was in the airline industry. So when I dropped out of college, I went to Europe for a few months. When I came back, I decided to go to California and visit friends. And I ended up really feeling that this was a good place for me.

FF: And what was it about LA that caught your fancy?

Julieanne Mijares: It wasnít humid like Miami! I was born and raised in Miami; I never got used to the humidity. I used to run from the house to the car, and it was agonizing. And the first thing I noticed when I came out here was that it wasnít humid.

FF: Thatís very funny.

Julieanne Mijares: And then I started working in retail stores. And for some reason, unbeknownst to me, when I was working at Guess, I started acquiring a celebrity clientele. And they would come in, and I would put outfits together for them to wear for special functions. Then they started asking me to do things outside of where I worked. And one thing led to another. Eventually, I had to leave Guess, because I was getting all these requests to do things outside.

Iím trying to remember who my first person was -- I think it was Johnny Gill (a member of the multi-platinum group, New Edition ĖGina). That was a long time ago.

FF: And so they liked the way you would put together outfits for them.

Julieanne Mijares: Exactly.

FF: And had you known you had a flair for doing that?

Julieanne Mijares: Not at all. Not at all. When I started working as a sales person in a retail store, they told me I was the best sales person theyíd ever had in the history of the store! Although to me it was more like a regular job, like a person whoís an accountant, just a regular person who knows they have to produce every day.

And I donít think of it as being talented, or of having something that someone else doesnít have. To me, it was my job, and okay, I have to go to work, and I have to either sell more, or make these people really like what they have on, and try harder, and make sure Iím doing my job. And basically thatís the way Iíve approached everything.

FF: So you really started out being a stylist, because you were choosing other peopleís clothes.

Julieanne Mijares: Absolutely, yes.

FF: And then how did the change occur from styling to producing clothes for people -- clothes that were your own designs?

Julieanne Mijares: What started happening was, once I began styling full time, I would get booked on assignments to create images for new music groups, or for an artist who was just coming onto the scene.


A page from Julieanne's datebook, with Polaroids
from the filming of a L'il Kim video. Julianne is
crouching in the top picture; in the center of the
bottom picture.

The first thing I would always ask them was, can you please send me the music, can you send me a script? Whatever it was they were doing. And more times than not, I would start seeing things in my mind that werenít available in stores. For that particular person, or for that type of music. What it made me feel.

And I would ask them, do you mind if I have something made? Because what I was thinking about, when all this was just beginning, could simply have been that the color was out of season.

And little by little, it just grew, and pretty soon I was doing it all the time.

A lot of hip hop artists were calling me to either create images for their videos, or their album photo shoots, things like that. And I kept thinking, why are they calling me?

FF: The word was spreading.

Julieanne Mijares: But especially for that genre, you know what I mean?

FF: Yes. And when you began creating and making your own designs, were you working alone at that point? Or had you already gotten some people, some assistants, or a seamstress -- someone who executed the designs for you?

Julieanne Mijares: I always went to other people, because I felt that I wasnít a great seamstress. I wasnít a great illustrator. I was always pressing myself to do everything the best. And I didnít want to bring something to someone that was anything less.

So I always felt, well, you canít draw, and you canít really sew that well. And the quality wouldnít be what you would want it to be, to present to someone. So I kept going around, finding people who were much more experienced seamstresses than I, or someone who could draw better, and I asked them to do everything that was in my mind.


TLC in Julieanne's costumes at the
1996 American Music Awards.

FF: So then you developed quite a interesting group of people -- either people who had fabrics, or key elements for whatever detailing you imagined, or seamstresses, or illustrators Ė people that you would draw from to have your ideas realized.

Julieanne Mijares: Exactly. And through the years, Iíve been so fortunate to be with people that were so great at what they do. People who could understand what my vision was, and to just create it. And it would just appear. I would say "Wow! Thatís exactly what I wanted!"

But, of course, along the way you change your mind; you see something and it doesnít look the way you thought it would, so you change it. And it could be something completely different by the time youíre done.

FF: So you would listen to the music, or youíd read the script. But, at what point during the process would you discuss your ideas with the particular individual you were designing a costume for?

Julieanne Mijares: Before the first meeting, I would ask whoever booked me for the job for any pictures they might have of the artist, or the entertainer, and any music, along with any videos, or any footage of that person. So I could get a feel for them. Then I would ask them if I could spend time with the person, which I guess is an unorthodox way of doing things in my field.

But I always like to see what their personality is like. I think quite often designers put people in clothing, or create images for them, that arenít really them, and it doesnít really enhance their true personality, and who they really are.


TLC filming the Diggin' On You video in 1996.

So I started wanting to really spend time with the artists, to try to feel them out, and see what they were really about. And then get inspired from that.

So I would ask for a meeting with them, and try to spend some time alone with them, a lunch or something. And then do another meeting, and come back and tell them what I did.

FF: And so how do you manage it -- even more so now that youíre so successful -- because you have so many things going on at once? How do you take your quiet time, the time when you donít worry about all the details, and let your incredible imagination take off, and visualize the costumes? How do you manage to do that, with so much going on?

 

Just ahead, designing for TLC, and more exclusive photos, including the making of the Dear Lie video!