Julie does it all, she is a stylist, editor, and director of City magazine.  Julie is known for her carefree street style.  Her street style caught the attention of photographer Scott Schuman "The Sartorialist."

 Recently City magazine has had a magazine makeover, with a more eye catching cover titled "Transformed", and captivating fashion spreads. 

Exclusively Fashion Magazine: Can you tell me a little about your journey as a fashion stylist from when you began until now?

Julie Ragolia:  I never intended to be a stylist. In fact, I always expected to be an academic. I was a philosophy major in college. I wrote poetry and theoretical essays for fun. But I always loved clothes, and was fascinated by the photographic process. I had a roommate in college who was a budding fashion photographer, and he would ask me to help him out with shoots. I did it purely for the money ($100 in cash was a lot to me as a student), but I enjoyed putting so many of the art and literary references I was so immersed into working form on the body. Though I didn’t believe so at first, there really was a strong connection, and a legitimate means to storytelling with clothes. And, I guess, you can say that fashion became my outlet for expressing some of the theoretical and aesthetic ideas I had previously been exploring with words.

Shortly thereafter I did this photo shoot for a now defunct magazine for budding fashion talent, Tear Sheet. It was the most ridiculous shoot ever: men in underwear and trench coats, chasing chickens in the middle of Times Square. Pure hilarity. However, someone at MTV had seen it and thought it amazing. I had interviewed at MTV about a week prior. In looking for my first official staff job as a stylist, MTV made the most sense to me, simply because I loved music. I still hadn’t considered working for magazines then. Anyway, the person who had seen my chickens’ editorial had just so happened to show it to the head stylist, with whom I had just interviewed and, per their conversation, I was hired a week later.

MTV was a mind blowing entry into the extremes of the fashion world, if not a metaphor for life in general. I could barely afford to get on the subway, but at the same time sat front row at every fashion show. I remember pinning a piece of sequined fabric on Jesse Camp to make a vest about 2 minutes before air time, all the while scared to death that it would unravel on live television. It was fascinating and so high-paced. But as I started to feel my way through being a “real” stylist, I felt print as my stronger medium, so I utilized some of my new fashion connections for testing, shooting with various photographers, etc. to grow my portfolio.

Shortly thereafter I started to show my portfolio to agents. There’s a really reputable agency in NY, Streeters, that I dropped my book off to on the idea of “Streeters. I’m kinda streety...I’ll go there”, not realizing the degree of talent they represented, which included W Magazine’s Fashion Director, Alex White. Her agent called me back saying that she was looking for a new assistant, if I would be interested. I met with Alex and started working with her for W and freelance campaigns. I was on shoots with Craig McDean, Carter Smith, Pat McGrath, Eugene Souleiman....some of the most incredible image makers and behind the scene talent in this industry. I didn’t work with Alex for that long, but I learned so much from her. It’s funny, because a few people over the years have compared my style to hers, not knowing that I ever worked for her. I can’t imagine a larger compliment as an editor.

After W, the rest was freelancing, assisting, testing, growing....trucking forward until it stuck and I developed my own niche. I’m really lucky to have had some great stepping stones to get me where I am now: talented photographers who pushed me to find my voice; The Fader magazine, which was my first real entry into being an editor, and pursuing my true creative voice via sheer instinct; and the wonderful and talented designers I’ve gotten to know along the way....

EFM: You are also a fashion director, for CITY Magazine; can you tell me how you became the fashion director?

JR: My former creative director at Fader, Eddie Brannan, who I hadn’t spoken to in quite a while, suddenly sent me a text message to say that he was going on board to CITY as creative director, and asked if I would want to join him as fashion director. I responded to say that we should probably meet for lunch. We did, I met John McDonald (CITY’s owner), and by the end of my salad it was good to go. It was interesting, because I hadn’t done much editorial since the Fader days, but had really begun to miss it. I guess it’s true that what you put out in the universe really does come back to you, because it couldn’t have come along at a better time.

Going on at CITY was exciting, as Eddie and I were given the go to completely retool the magazine as we saw fit. It was pure creative freedom...what more could anyone ask for? Eddie and I share a similar aesthetic viewpoint, as well as the same commitment to fashion as part of an overall cultural context, from which you draw and deposit to make for a great, well-balanced magazine. CITY had a long history and was a great book, but our fresh eyes, along with those of the staff members that remained and joined us in the changes, were to make it even stronger and more relevant. The greatest thing, we felt, that had been missing prior were people. There weren’t a lot of people in CITY prior to us. There were a lot of objects. The fashion had lacked a certain overall viewpoint prior, I felt, and so I took my love of personalities, in the guise of sub-culture, art, music, etc. and created that as the thread that would run through the fashion well from issue to issue. It’s diverse, and ever-changing, but has a certain core communication at its base that has really come to register with a new audience for the magazine.

EFM: What is your typical day like?

JR: My typical day always begins with WWD. From there its market appointments to view collections, conversations with designers, regular interaction with my assistants and fellow staff members, and a lot of research. The most important thing, I feel, as an editor is cultural knowledge. The art world is where I get the bulk of my ideas, and it’s from the art world where I call out the future trends that we ultimately see on the runway, so I spend a lot of time in galleries and museums...and call that work! The majority of my focus at CITY is on the fashion well, so there are always a ton of clothes moving in and out of the office. I have a very tactile sensibility, so prefer to touch clothes, or see how they react to light, as opposed to pulling looks on the basis of seasonal trends. So, I spend a lot of time in the office staring at my clothing racks and touching things. Sounds silly, but it works.

EFM: Did you find it easy to break into the fashion industry?

JR: No, it’s not a career path for the faint of heart. But if it’s worth it enough, it’s the best struggle imaginable. I found myself in a lot of great situations, often out of sheer naivety (i.e. my Streeters outreach). But there was a ton of hard work and devotion between each step and I took nothing for granted. It’s easy these days for people to call themselves a stylist, or a photographer. There are a lot of outlets, a lot more than when I was starting out, but, at the end of the day,  it’s definitely a put up or shut up sort of industry.

EFM: What inspires you?

JR: Everything. Art, music, travel, literature. I remember when I went to the desert for the first time a few years ago, looking out the car window at the Grand Canyon thinking, “oh, so that’s how color works.” I live in Chinatown, and sometimes even the way the garbage falls on the street creates interesting color matching’s that I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

EFM: What accessory that you can’t live without?

JR: Hats! I love hats.

EFM: What do you do in your spare time?

JR: I have an art concept project that I recently co-founded with a good friend, photographer Zach Gold, called Playground. Playground explores and celebrates the experiential relationship between fashion and art through exhibition, installation, and custom artwork collections. So I currently have a few large-scale installation ideas that I’m looking for funding in order to complete, and am also working on a couple of curatorial projects for the end of the year.  I’ve also been quietly working on a series of collages using interesting materials. It’s a very personal project that I’m glad is starting to find its voice. I also recently started working with the Museum of Arts and Design, up at Columbus Circle. It’s an incredible institution, and it’s been great to get involved in some of their upcoming contemporary art galas and exhibitions. Other than that, I’m learning to play golf.

EFM: Are you organized; if so how do you keep organized?

JR: I am not organized at all. It’s a constant battle with myself to be neat. I’ve come to justify it as part of my creative process. Thank heavens I’m surrounded by organized people who keep me in check.

EFM: Do you think being a fashion stylist is self taught or do you have to have an ‘eye’ for fashion?

JR: It’s a mix of both. It’s something that can’t be taught in school, I feel. It has to begin with an eye for fashion, and then you teach yourself more and more everyday by paying attention.

EFM: In any career that an individual decides to choose you have to think business; do you think that applies to being a fashion stylist?

JR: Oh, yes. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my career in not taking the fact that I am, whether I like it or not, a businesswoman. Creativity is one thing, but if you don’t know how to manage yourself and your budgets, it can be very costly.

EFM: What advice (in details) can you give to an aspiring fashion stylist?

JR: Focus on the work. TV shows, blogs, and the straight up scene of NYC make it easy to play in this world. But, when you look at the stylists that really matter in this industry, they’re focused on the work, not their own personal image or status. Look at fashion magazines, but look at them for technique and attention to detail. Find your own voice from what aspect of this industry truly inspires you. Go to lectures, go to galleries...and trust your gut.


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Interview by Rochell “E” James


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