Bel-Air designer Julie Harrah awards-ready frocks have taken H’wood by storm—one billowing caftan at a time.
Celeb-loved designer Julie Harrah
It’s a good omen when Reese Witherspoon is the first person in Hollywood to wear your new line. Even better when, through word of mouth, the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Molly Sims, Jessica Seinfeld and Hillary Duff follow suit. Better still when it’s all a happy accident.
JH an “it” line of bespoke and RTW resortwear, modern-day hostess attire and red-carpetworthy caftans, began when Julie Harrah, 49, felt unhappy with her cover-ups on a family trip in Mexico. Back home in Bel-Air, an abstract, vibrant, soft cotton-silk voile became her perfect beach kimono. Then, in 2014, at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, the woman responsible for its boutique—along with one at Fred Segal and in several other Four Seasons—spotted Harrah wearing it and asked to order some to sell. Harrah’s dry cleaner produced three samples on demand: “It was a ‘fake it till you make it’ approach, but suddenly I had a brand!” she recalls.
Now, famous faces and well-heeled women visit her by-appointment Bel-Air studio to step outside their comfort zones, going from, “Oh, I could never wear that” to a print or style that ultimately makes them feel incredibly beautiful. They drool with Harrah over fabric. “I can spend a week, from sunup to sundown, buried in fabric rolls and still wish I could stay longer,” she says of decadent motifs sourced from LA to Italy. “It’s more important to me to make one special dress than mass produce with a print that doesn’t speak to me.”
The Roper jumpsuit in Pink Daisy, $1,825
The other genius of Harrah’s collection is its versatility: floaty and fabulous on the beach and the red carpet. Producer Nicole Avant (wife of Netflix’s Ted Sarandos) wears JH to all awards shows, including this year’s Oscars, and texts Harrah the compliments she receives—“once even from Lady Gaga!” Additionally, a secretive interior clasp allows billowier designs to have sleeker and slimmer silhouettes.
With fall and the five-year birthday comes a more tailored— yet still relaxed—aesthetic via ’70s-inspired jumpsuits and new collaborations, one featuring African prints with India Hicks and another with Natalie Bloomingdale’s The SIL, comprising a few prized dresses that speak to their shared passion for one-of-a-kind gems. “When I am in my own designs, I love that I stand out in a crowd while feeling completely at ease,” says Harrah. “There is a je ne sais quoi about wearing something different from everyone else in the room.” D’accord!
Photography by: PORTRAIT BY LINDSAY SMITH DIXON; PRODUCT PHOTO BY RICHARD HARRAH