Alexander Julian was born and raised in Chapel Hill and entered UNC-Chapel Hill as a member of the Class of 1969. Venturing into design in the early 1970s, he is an autodidact who has personally designed over 130 different categories of products and the first time he went to design school was to teach.
Julian is the only Tar Heel to win USA Menswear Designer of the year six times and the only Tar Heel in the Fashion Hall of Fame, where he was inducted at age 33. He was awarded the Menswear Lifetime Achievement Award at age 40 and is the only fashion designer to win the Pinnacle Award for furniture design.
His textile design is included in the Smithsonian’s National Design Museum’s Permanent Collection. He was also awarded International Color Marketing’s top honor, as well as The Pantone Color Award, and was voted to the International Best Dressed List nine times.
He was given the World Design Award for Humanitarian Endeavors, the Young Audiences Award for Arts Education for Children, the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art’s Award for distinguished service and impact on the arts, and the Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award.
Julian was a director on the executive board of The Council of Fashion Designers of America and helped create The CFDA Awards with Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, and Donna Karen. He was also a director of The International Design Conference of Aspen and chaired their conference “Design and the Human Body.”
He was a director of Americans for the Arts and chaired the congressional breakfast for National Arts Day along with Harry Belafonte and Jane Alexander. Julian founded the Alexander Julian Foundation for Aesthetic Understanding and Appreciation, which fostered ways to teach creativity to children.
As the first professional fashion designer to design pro and college sports uniforms, he designed his friend Paul Newman’s race car team’s driver’s suits, pit crew uniforms and car colors and won the Motorsports Designer of the Year award. He created the Charlotte Hornets multi-pinstriped teal and purple uniforms and warm-ups; the Charlotte Knights baseball uniforms; the AIA Awarded multi-colored seating scheme and banners for the Knight’s Castle Stadium; and the Bouncing Bulldogs precision jump rope team uniforms, and the basketball uniforms for High Point University.
In 1991, at the request of Coach Dean Smith, Alex pro bono re-designed the Men’s basketball uniforms and warm-ups, introducing the now famous icon, the Argyle, which he donated to Carolina. In 1995, he pro bono re-designed Women’s basketball uniforms. He is currently working pro bono on redesigning the UNC-Chapel Hill Band and cheerleader’s uniforms.
At his beloved Carolina in 1980, he created the Alexander Julian Award for artistic excellence. In 1981, Julian pro bono designed the Official Chancellor’s Club tie, the first 60 of which “sold” for $37,000 each in today’s money. In 1985, he established the Mary and Maurice Julian Scholarships for undergraduates with financial needs. He was awarded the UNC Distinguished Alumni Award in 1988. He was Chairman of the Chancellor’s Club for Chancellor Paul Hardin from 1990-‘95.
In 2009, Julian pro bono designed the bow ties and cummerbunds for the Clefhangers acapella group. In 2012 at the request of Chancellor Thorp, he pro bono designed the “Alexander Moolian” cow for Cow Parade.
In 2011, Julian pro bono redesigned the Carolina Graduation Gowns, changed them back to true Carolina Blue, and changed the fabric to North Carolina-produced 100% post-consumer recycled poly, saving tens of millions of plastic bottles from the dump.
He has lectured to the undergraduate entrepreneur class on two occasions, the Di Phi Society on Argyle and Carolina Blue, as well as graduating seniors on dressing for corporate life. He was initiated into The Order of The Golden Fleece Society in 2014. In 2014, he also pro bono designed the ties and scarves for The Order of The Bell Tower student volunteers.
In 2016 he was made an Honorary Dialectic Literary Society member. In 2019 he pro bono designed the 50th Reunion Golden Anniversary Parade Ribbons for the 50th Anniversary celebrants.
He has seven children, four of whom are Carolina graduates, and recently moved back to Chapel Hill after almost 50 years in New York and Connecticut.