Early 90s LA-esque alt babe Julia Cumming talks Saint Laurent, showmanship and her scuzz-punk band, Sunflower Bean.
Taken from the 10th Birthday Issue.
Black wool twisted dress with embroidery and mesh fishnet tights by SAINT LAURENT BY HEDI SLIMANE
Julia Cumming is effortlessly cool. At the age of just 19, her credentials – model, musician and Hedi Slimane’s new muse – declare her a true talent.When Cumming’s not stomping the Saint Laurent runway kitted out in bondage-style leather, laddered tights and killer boots, she’s singing alongside Nick Kivlen and Jacob Faber in her scuzz-punk band Sunflower Bean.
Cumming grew up in Manhattan, in a spot where Alphabet City meets the East Village. “I was able to go to a lot of shows and be exposed to a lot of art really early in my life and that’s definitely had a huge affect on me,” she says. “New York also forces you to be independent, I had to learn how to take the trains by myself and be kinda tough walking around alone. I think it gave me some confidence.” These days Cumming lives in a loft apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn with Kivlen and Faber. Her parents, having met in a band themselves, are fully supportive of her career. “I think they just want me to be safe and happy,” says Cumming. “I don’t know if that’s always possible in the worlds of music or art, but you can hope!”
Red tulle satin LULU dress with black fishnet overlay and brass and silver oxide and crystal spider pin by SAINT LAURENT BY HEDI SLIMANE
WONDERLAND: So Julia, how was it walking in the Saint Laurent show?
JULIA: It was different to anything I had ever experienced. They are a very unique fashion house with a super-high level of artistry in everything they do. I feel lucky to be around that level of dedication. Just like in any industry, there are things about the world of fashion that I don’t love, but it would be difficult for me to be involved heavily in something I didn’t care about or feel connected to. The work that Saint Laurent does with musicians, especially unknown musicians, is very special. And the way they focus on the model as an individual, their imperfections, their character, that speaks to me a lot.
W: It must be pretty surreal seeing yourself on billboards in the campaigns.
J: Definitely! It’s hard to gauge how it feels when it’s you, you know? I almost can’t wrap my head around it.
W: So what music did you grow up listening to?
J: I was always really influenced by the music my parents listened to, they kind of gave me the foundation of my music taste. I’m also a huge glam-rock fan. I love T-Rex and Gary Glitter
– I know I’m not supposed to like Gary Glitter, he’s evil. But sometimes it seems like almost every dude in rock n’ roll is kinda evil and pedophile-y, you know?
W: I know.
J: I’m a little disenchanted sometimes. But I still love Glam Rock and what it stands for as an art form. I was always really influenced by The Beach Boys on some of their lesser known records, like “Smiley Smile”, “Wild Honey” and “Sunflower”. The sadness, the weirdness, the failure Brian Wilson felt after not being able to release Smile. I think a lot of that influence will be heard on the record we’re working on now, which comes out in the spring.
W: So, Sunflower Bean… how did you all meet?
J: Through the music scene, my old band [Supercute!] and Nick and Jacob’s old band [Turnip King] played a show together, and we all vaguely stayed in touch. I was working on my solo music when I reconnected with Nick and Jacob, and they told me they were looking for a bass player. I thought it would be a good way to keep working on bass and a fun, different project to join. But as soon as we started, that changed. The band is so much of all of us, all of our different influences and writing styles coming together. It’s super-collaborative. Both Nick and Jacob are really incredible musicians, and it’s really exciting to play with them. They inspire me a lot.
W: Your output is amazing.When did you first pick up the bass guitar?
J: I started playing bass probably around the time I started playing guitar, so maybe when I was 13. I learned to play just so I could write bass parts in songs that I was writing in my old band (because I was playing guitar in that band). It was when I joined Sunflower Bean, that I first started playing bass in a project. It’s such a special instrument. It’s my favourite part of listening to music. A good bassline or bass player is the secret ingredient to every good song.
W: Speaking of songs, what’s on your recently-played playlist right now?
J: Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Multi-Love is my current favourite new record. Ruban Nielson is so good, he’s one of the few musicians who keeps making really amazing work, album after album.
W: If you had to pick between music or modelling, which would you choose?
J: Music will be what I’m doing forever, until the day I die. I’m gonna be making records until I can’t physically make them anymore. There are so many things I want to do, though! I’m
not sure I know all of them yet. I just want to make good music and art. If I can achieve that, I’ll be satisfied. I want to be the best musician I can be. I want to push boundaries for myself, and for other women in music and even fashion, too. I want women in music to be normalised. I don’t even want to say,“women in music” anymore. It’s a big topic, you know? I think we are on the right path, and I’m excited to be a part of the future.
Black and white asymmetric dress with bow detail and black fishnet tights by SAINT LAURENT BY HEDI SLIMANE
Black wool military jacket, black skater skirt in lambs feather and
silk, black hat in horsehair, crystal and oxide serpent pin and black leather fetish boots with side zip detail by by SAINT LAURENT BY HEDI SLIMANE, Black and white asymmetric dress with bow detail and black fishnet tights by SAINT LAURENT BY HEDI SLIMANE, red tulle satin LULU dress with black fishnet overlay and brass and silver oxide and crystal spider pin by SAINT LAURENT BY HEDI SLIMANE and black and white wool mac, 2 tone dress in black lambs leather with mesh detail, black fishnet tights as before and black leather boots as before by SAINT LAURENT BY HEDI SLIMANE
Black and white asymmetric dress with bow detail and black fishnet tights by SAINT LAURENT
BY HEDI SLIMANE, black silk georgette dress with teardrop crystal embroidery by SAINT LAURENT BY HEDI SLIMANE, black and white asymmetric dress with bow detail and black fishnet tights by SAINT LAURENT BY HEDI SLIMANE and black wool twisted dress with embroidery and mesh fishnet tights by SAINT LAURENT BY HEDI SLIMANE
Photographer: Ben Rayner
Fashion: Lauren Blane
Makeup: Tracy Alfajora
Hair: Martin-Christopher Harper at Platform using ORIBE
Photographer’s assistant: Kyle Cook
Words: Brooke McCord