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'The first to bring preppy to the South': Honoring three generations at Julian's

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From left, Alexander Julian, Missy Julian-Fox and Bart Fox pose inside their formalwear store, Julian's, on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Tuesday, March 7, 2023.

"The dean of Franklin Street."

That's what former UNC Chancellor Paul Hardin called Maurice Julian on the 50th anniversary of the opening of Julian’s College Shop. 

The traditional preppy clothing store has been owned and operated by the Julian family for the past 80 years — since Maurice Julian opened the original in 1942. 

Currently, the store is owned by his son and international award-winning designer Alexander Julian. It is managed by Bart Fox, Maurice Julian's grandson. 

A box of Julian's shirt cuffs on display inside the formalwear store, Julian's, on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Tuesday, March 7, 2023.

Maurice Julian's daughter and Fox's mother Missy Julian Fox also owned the store for a 15-year period after her father passed away in 1993. 

She said he opened Julian's to cater to the clothing requirements of cadets arriving at the United States Navy Pre-Flight School on the UNC campus in 1942. The school was established in February 1942 as a part of the University's contributions to the war effort during World War II.

Maurice Julian rented space where 1922 by Carolina Coffee Shop currently is on Franklin Street, and the store remained in the location for 65 years. In 2007, Alexander Julian took ownership of the store and moved it to its current location. 

Julian Fox said her father was a first-generation student at UNC. He fell in love with his wife, Mary, who was from Chatham County. Julian Fox said that, because of their family's religious differences, the couple eloped. 

“They are credited with really (being) the first to bring preppy to the South. Dad being from up north, mom loving color and then sort of merging those two,” she said. 

She said her father was legendary in the clothing industry. He designed many of the store’s best-sellers, a practice that was continued by his son, Alexander Julian. 

Alexander Julian is credited with creating and donating the argyle pattern to UNC. He has designed the iconic UNC men's and women's basketball team uniforms and, along with his wife, designed the UNC graduation gowns. 

“Because of my unmitigated love for the University and my undying love for the craft, combining the two is a fabulous kick,” he said. 

Although unreleased to the public, Alexander Julian said UNC is awarding him an honorary doctorate of the arts in May. 

Alexander Julian said growing up in Julian’s was formative to his career. He pursued an English degree from UNC and, while he didn’t graduate, he said it helped him communicate his ideas during the design process.

Alexander Julian dropped out of school at 19 to open his own boutique: Alexander's Ambition — something he did while his family was in New York on a month-long trip in 1969.

Alexander Julian kisses his sister Missy Julian-Fox on the cheek at their formalwear store, Julian's, on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. Alexander and Missy are the children of the original founders of the store.

“It was a legendary place for meeting people, getting a date, getting outfitted — it was really fashion-forward,” Julian Fox said about Alexander's Ambition.

Alexander Julian said that while it was a brazen decision, the store was a key stepping stone in his career. 

“There was a new thing happening," he said. "It was a new merger between American traditional and a worldwide sense of style."

Shortly after, in 1975, he took a leap of faith to move to New York City where he continued his success as a designer. 

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He said the ultimate gratification is when someone enjoys something he has worked on because he intends his designs to be worn. 

“My favorite part of the store is a mirror, which is to watch the faces of customers, male and female, smile when they see themselves looking better than they’ve ever looked before,” Alexander Julian said. 

Fox, the men’s manager of Julian’s, said he works with Alexander Julian to decide what is sold in the men's section. He said the inventory is a blend of Alexander Julian's designs with vendors that have partnered with the store for over 50 years. 

Fox also noted that he and his uncle have to balance the business and family aspects of their relationship.

“It allows us to — for lack of a better term — butt heads a little bit more than the average business relationship would kind of entail. But at the end of the day, we’re just looking to bring in the best of the best and work off of each other,” Fox said. 

Fox was raised in the store, similarly to the previous generation of Julian's. Julian Fox said her son used to play with the shirt tags that dangled over his head when he was a baby. 

“The store was our home and our playground, and so the suit boxes became forts, the swatches were matching games,” she said. 

Alexander Julian said he is proud to be the only top award-winning designer to design for his own store in a college town. 

“I’ve been able to elevate the level of fan apparel, to design all sorts of special stuff for men and women at a quality level that has never been done before for things that are in Carolina blue and white,” he said. 

Julian Fox said UNC students were employed at the store during her father's ownership and that is a tradition that has been carried on.

“That connection to University has always felt important and it is the community of Tar Heels that has kept us here for all these years,” she said. 

@ZoeWerner356

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 

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