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Julie Maurence: an eye for flavour

She almost sounded surprised when we called. “I don't really work in fashion anymore,” she said, with a note of astonishment. And yet, Julie Maurence's path is paradoxically charming in its harmony, with passion and sincerity throughout. What also stands out is the Esmod alumna's emotional intelligence, which she has used to connect the dots between her different callings. Having found the perfect melting point between her love for fashion design and artistic direction, and her natural ability to highlight the pleasures of food, Julie Maurence has become a major specialist of food styling. She now collaborates with the great maisons that captured her imagination as a child. She tells us about her path, full of life lessons and flavours, in an interview that's good enough to eat!

Planet Esmod: On your website, you mention that your family was very involved in the world of gastronomy. It's one of your passions too. Coming from such a specific world, how did you develop a fascination for the world of fashion, to the point of wanting to dedicate your studies to it?

Julie Maurence: As a daughter of a restaurant owner, I had to learn very early on to keep myself entertained. Drawing was my first escape. A few of the regular customers at my mother's restaurant had quite high up jobs in fashion, and that meant we could get in to the biggest brands’ private sales. I can now confess that I used to love sneakily pulling off fabric scraps pinned on prototypes to make aprons for my Barbies. Later, I had the opportunity to infiltrate my first couture fashion show for Jean Paul Gaultier. It was a day of complete awe - everything was so beautiful, so intense. My head was spinning, and from then on, I really wanted to work in fashion.

What made you choose Esmod?

The first thing that drew me to Esmod was its high ranking internationally and of course its prestigious reputation, with quite a few big names in fashion having gone there. The location also meant that I could do my studies in Bordeaux, not far from my family.

What memories do you have of your studies? Looking back, what did you learn that you now feel was essential?

Overall, I have good memories of Esmod, despite the many all-nighters spent doing, undoing and redoing meticulous stitching. Pattern-making wasn't my cup of tea. And I remember making thousands of technical reports to get my diploma! The school allowed me to meet some amazing people and helped affirm my personality and sense of style. My only big regret is not having been able to do an internship earlier to dive into the professional world. I often think to myself that I would have loved to do a work-study program. I would have seen the reality of this milieu more quickly, and shed some of my ideals faster.

You then pursued a career in food styling. “A melting point between your two passions.” This melting point is design. Are there common points, a shared philosophy or approach between fashion design, accessory design and food styling?

Absolutely, food styling requires a high level of rigour and respects a creative process, which, like in fashion, follows trends to a certain extent. We talk about seasons and key moments in the same way when we are creating a plan for a collection. Everything is based around a calendar. For each photo shoot, we consider things carefully, depending on the client's requests, and create moodboards or even mock-ups. In my case, I set a huge amount of importance on choosing colours, and especially on sourcing accessories that will help to enhance a product. My biggest inspiration comes from mid-20th century design and architecture, which I think you could already see in my creations when I was an accessory designer.

Do you think that your studies have been useful in your current profession?

Definitely! Both artistically and in terms of marketing vision, which is fundamental in my profession. I am constantly in contact with project managers who themselves work as a link between the artistic direction and the set design, which is my side of things. Esmod gave me this twofold vision.

Nowadays, you work freelance. You are able to build your clients’ brand image with strong visuals - what is your signature? And for you, what is good food styling?

I have been working freelance for four years. But I find it hard to talk about a signature. I have always been inspired by pop influences that evoke 70s design of all kinds. I am drawn to colourful worlds, with a touch of irony coming through. Of course, no request is the same, and sometimes you have to learn to put your own preferences to one side. That said, I always try to immerse myself in the history of each brand and respect it as faithfully as possible. A good visual has to have meaning and carry a message, beyond its creative power. Good styling also relies on sound advice from the photographer. It's certainly a team effort!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start working in this field?

For me, it's a field where emotions are transmitted as much through our eyes as our stomach. If you don't love food, it's not for you. It's essential to have a passion not only for the world of tableware and set design, but also for the world of patisserie (though I might not be very objective about that!) You need a solid knowledge base for food styling. And of course, you need to not be scared of making the impossible possible, for example, running all over Paris in search of an apricot in the depths of December! In short, you need to really be passionate about beautiful, delicious things.

Have you been able to bring fashion design and food styling together? Or are the two specialities too different to coincide in the same project?

I wouldn't say that the two specialities are so different, I still am called to work on fashion styling projects. But to be completely transparent, my enthusiasm for this milieu is no longer what it once was, I got a bit tired of it. Nowadays, I feel much more comfortable next to my beloved Kitchen Aid!

Don't you regret having left fashion? Do you think you could go back to it one day?

Not at all! I would never go back, the choice to change careers was the best thing that ever happened to me professionally. Everything makes sense now and I am happy to be able to work for some of the famous maisons that were a fond part of my childhood.

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