Tom Julian On The Spot

For two decades, Tom Julian has honed his expertise in how fashion, beauty and entertainment trends intersect, parlaying those insights into a career in advertising, journalism and TV commentary. The 43-year-old Pittsburgh native was a trend analyst for Fallon for 11 years, before joining McCann Erickson in New York this month as its first such analyst. On March 5, he’ll be in Los Angeles for the Academy Awards as the red-carpet commentator for, a gig he landed in 1995. The Pittsburgh native also writes a column for and for the trade magazine Beauty Launchpad.

Q: First off, I’d like you to talk a little bit about Fashion Week and what you’ve observed there earlier this month.

A: The industry realizes that ornamentation and embellishment is truly over and, as a result, there is a renewed interest in quality fabrics, constructed clothing pieces and meticulous tailoring. We kept hearing low-rise and novelty pants are waning and no longer appropriate, but we have truly seen trousers for women that are higher on the waist, fully tailored, intricately fit and pleated and cuffed so that there’s some sense of volume and shape.

What inspired you to get into advertising?

When I realized that the fashion industry was starting to think differently about their image, the way that they market apparel and the way that the designer personality was changing back in the early ’90s.

What’s the smartest business decision you have ever made?

Realizing that the world of marketing had so many opportunities no matter what world one walked in. The decision to embrace a partner and a company like McCann, to see that it has so much potential and so much global reach and so much infrastructure.

What’s the dumbest one you ever made?

In 1991, letting a board of directors at the Men’s Fashion Association poo-poo me into [the idea that] casualization will never affect the tailored clothing business. Being a young, inexperienced business executive, I kind of crumbled in a corner. Then again, today casualization has been probably the biggest landscape shift in the men’s world apparel industry in the last 50 years.

Give me three words to describe yourself.

Connector, workaholic and voyeur.

Voyeur? Why is that?

I think you have to have good eyes to understand the world of trends. It’s about looking deeper than just what someone is wearing. A lot of people say they will shop the mall. Well, most people don’t watch the bags that people carry, the food that they eat, the way they interact, the sales associates, the way they walk to work. When I shop in an environment, I will revisit each store in the morning and in the afternoon because there’s a total different pattern shift and then all of a sudden, I’ll start to see certain consumers. Again, it is voyeurism.

How about three words of how other people might describe you?

The fashion guy.

What would you say is your personal motto?

Show me, don’t tell me.

What is your biggest accomplishment so far?

Being able to take my marketing education from a city like Pittsburgh, being able to embrace a big city like New York and truly call it my work, my home life and my center of the universe, and still keep the world very small and connected to me.

Now we’re going to talk about What has been your most surprising or interesting red-carpet experience at the Oscars?

My moment of the entire 12 years of being on the red carpet was my Sophia Loren moment. There is nothing like a classy individual who truly represents style, elegance, distinction and personality and does it with such grace and aplomb. Everyone thinks it’s very glamorous. You’re literally standing in a 2-by-2 square with photographers hitting you over the head, behind a fence where you’re trying to talk to someone and you can’t hear them. There’s just those [Sophia Loren] moments when it’s really worth it.

The media have seemed to characterize the nominations being about small films with a particular political point of view. I’m wondering if you see that as a trend in filmmaking.

I definitely see it as a big shift from the big blockbuster to the artistic independent. I don’t know that I actually see it as a political statement. I think what is being said from a different industry standpoint is that it’s OK to have a voice … OK to go against the grain.

With the idea that in the future movies will be released in cinemas and downloaded on DVD simultaneously, do you see that as impacting forever the box-office experience?

Ultimately, I believe the movie industry will be challenged and shift just like the music industry is shifting. Not challenged, but redistributing as a result of downloadable music.

But do you think people will still go to the cinema to see films?

People will still embrace the idea of going to the cinema for socialization, experience and escapism.

What’s your biggest fear?

Never being able to extract from a marketplace strong observations in less than 36 hours.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I enjoy sitting on a bench and reading nothing related to the world of culture, watching the harbor go by.