She’s the woman we’re all talking about. With her controversial Netflix show My Unorthodox Life making headlines and everyone having a view on her success and cleavage, Julia Haart is the kosher Kardashian –only she isn’t kosher any more.
Born Julia Leibov in the Soviet Union, her observant parents came to the United States in the 1970s, settling first in Austin, Texas, where Julia was the only Jew at her private school and then Monsey, outside of New York City where everyone was Orthodox.
One would have thought attending a seminary in Israel followed by a shidduch in the US would set Julia up for a “forever frum life”, but when her head was turned by secular literature, TV and a drive-in movie, a new world beckoned. A world in which Julia could wear what she liked and even design what she wore. Julia wanted to attract the kind of attention that was unacceptable in Monsey, so she left without her husband and initially only one of her four children, launched her eponymous shoe company and swapped the sheitel and long sleeves for real waves and low-cut couture.
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That she became the creative director at the luxury lingerie brand La Perla and then got the top job at talent management company Elite World Group is the stuff of fairy tales but, without the aid of a fairy godmother, she did marry the company’s Italian chairman, Silvio Scaglia Haart, who took her name.
With a net worth of $600 million (£433m), Julia can now buy any dress and wear it without disapproval. Even her estranged Orthodox ex-husband, Yosef Hendler, who is in the series, is good-natured about her visiting the former family home in skirts that would make a bubbe blush or reach for a tallit to cover her knish. As a retreating Orthodox woman myself, I can only stand back and admire the gusto of this once-modest maven who has become a secular sex bomb, so when she invited me to take a virtual walk through her own enviable walk-in wardrobe, I jumped at the chance.
Best of all, she brought along her daughters, Batsheva, 28, and Miriam, 21, who showcase more style in one episode than Paris does in an entire Fashion Week and have Insta followings into the thousands. In real life (which reality TV is not), the three women share a lot of clothes. “Yes! I love getting hand-me-downs from my mum and mixing and matching borrowed things from her closet with my own,” chirps Batsheva – and Miriam concurs. “Yup, the closet options never end, but I definitely prefer pants [British trousers] as I only wore skirts for 16 years of my life! I also love the occasional sexy dress.”
For those familiar with the show, Miriam’s penchant for clothing that purrs is no surprise, or that slipping on jeans is a perk for them all. “My favourite jean brands are Glassons, Agolde, MOTHER denim, Zara and & Other Stories,” says Batsheva, who prefers affordable fast fashion, although the proliferation of Gucci and Chanel on her person suggests she mixes it up. But I’ll let them tell you…
Naomi: Where do you like to shop?
Batsheva: “Actually, I shop all over. Most of my closet is from Zara, Shopbop, Netaporter and I love a good sale. I like fast fashion because it’s affordable but, of course, I wish designer was more accessible.”
Miriam: “I prefer ethical fashion!”
Julia “I think both are very useful and I love for people to have as many options as humanly possible.”
Naomi: What do you have planned for autumn/winter wear?
Julia: “I’m currently obsessed with bell bottom jeans.”
Batsheva: “Just some sweatshirts I keep in my closet all year round. I store my A/W clothing at my dad’s house to save space in my NYC apartment.”
Miriam: “I love buying funky socks that mean something to me. I buy for myself and those I love.”
Naomi: What will you all be wearing on Rosh Hashanah and how are you spending the High Holy Days?
Julia: “I love clothes that feel like pyjamas but look like you’re going to the Grammy’s. I’ll choose a chic and comfortable long-knit dress.”
Batsheva: “I like to keep it comfortable for the night meals and dress in layers for the day because it’s usually very cold in shul.”
Miriam: “I’ll be with my dad and soon-to-be step-mum, Aliza, who ensures the décor is always fun, since she’s a party planner. I’m really excited to be going to Teaneck, New Jersey, with my siblings and celebrating Rosh Hashanah with the blended family! Always good vibes.
Naomi: Who are your favourite designers?
Batsheva: “Dior, Fendi, LV.”
Miriam: “E1972 (my mum’s new fashion brand). I love Ruthie Davis platform sneakers. Totally my thing – my favourite is their Disney collection because it’s so funky. I’m also into Gucci because they make really comfortable silk sets.”
Naomi: Julia, I’m curious to know more about your new brand, which you design and is the first-ever fashion collection from the Elite World Group.
Julia: “It is inspired by our diverse global community of creatives and progressive thinkers.We challenge the traditional perception of ‘model life’ by viewing it through the lens of inclusivity, purpose and positive self-expression.
“In that spirit, e1972 blends luxury and ready-to-wear, capturing the unique contrast of daily life and inviting you to be your own icon.”
Naomi: Wow, that’s a lot to think about. I particularly love the glimmering green sequin mini-dress with e1972 emblazoned across the back. What is the significance of the name e1972?
Julia: “It’s a nod to Elite’s colourful past and optimistic future, combining the iconic ‘e’ from Elite with the year the company was founded. The collection is unapologetically avant-garde, with every piece made specifically for the customer. Women’s or men’s-styled looks. Faux fur and knits. It’s your choice. We empower you to dictate the conversation.”
Naomi: You all have your own very personal styles. Did you get keep any of your old, more modest clothes, or throw them away?
Batsheva: “I am still part of the Modern Orthodox community so keep items for when I go back to Monsey. I try to be respectful of my family there.”
Miriam: “I never took anything from my previous life into my new NYC home. All of those clothes are still in Monsey.”
Julia: “I got rid of absolutely every item of clothing.”
Naomi: Would you say your core styles have changed drastically?
Julia: “My internal style hasn’t changed …now I just get to share it with the world instead of dreaming about it and thinking it was evil to wear what I wanted. I love clothes with colour and drama! I think that definitely derives from my Russian roots.”
Batsheva: “My style is constantly evolving and that’s what I love about fashion.”
Miriam: “Definitely. As I became more comfortable expressing myself through fashion, I found styling not so easy.
“I started wearing more sets that match, which is convenient and cool.”
Naomi: What are your most loved pieces?
Julia: “My first pair of black leather Saint Laurent leggings and my first Kelly ba.g”
Batsheva: “Pair of comfy ripped jeans from MOTHER Denim. Dior oversized sweatshirt.”
Miriam: “One of my Gucci tracksuits that’s full of flowers.It is just so colourful and me. I honestly love wearing tank tops, at the same time smiling to my younger self who wasn’t able to. My former community considered it immodest.”
Naomi: What trends do you see coming back?
Batsheva: “The neutral colours we wore last winter.”
Miriam: “I’m trying to bring platforms back because they give you height and are easy to dance in! I’m happy that tie-dye is becoming a thing again, because I love all things colour!”
Julia: “I think comfort is key, athleisure is here to stay, and I think you will see some joy in the collections as everyone dusts off their entertaining skills that have lain dormant since the pandemic – people want some joy in their lives!”
Naomi: You all wear a lot of designer clothing. Do you have a budget limit?
Julia: “We kind of decide as we go.”
Batsheva: “Oh, I have a budget! I’ll splurge on something for an occasion…”
Miriam: “A little bit of both.”
Naomi: Are you ever seen in the same outfit twice?
Julia: “I tend to not publicly wear the same thing twice, but privately, of course I wear the same things frequently.”
Batsheva: “I definitely wear things twice! I try to restyle pieces so I re-wear in a new way if I’m posting them on my feed multiple times.”
Miriam: “Ask anyone in my family – if I love an outfit, I wear it all the time!”
Naomi: So if you had to choose one outfit to rescue in a fire…?
Julia: “Definitely my Saint Laurent leggings.”
Batsheva: “I would honestly save accessories over clothing, but I think the most sentimental item is the purple jumpsuit my mum designed.”
Miriam: “My rainbow 5-inch platforms.”
Naomi: Any style or beauty tips?
Julia: “Yes! Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen – and then more sunscreen!
And I’m obsessed with La Mer! My style tip is to wear aspirational clothes, meaning dress for your future stronger, confident, better self … dress that way and your clothes will inspire you.”
Batsheva: “Dress for your body! I am short so I like to wear high-waisted pants [trousers] and skirts to make my legs look longer. My skincare tip is to always take off your make-up and wash your face.”
Miriam: “Prioritise comfort. And free the ‘nip’ – I want to bring back nipple shapes and normalise them being visible underneath shirts! In terms of make-up, I love a tinted moisturiser. Also adding highlighter to eyelids is pretty cool.”
Naomi: Is La Perla the go-to lingerie for all of you?
Julia: “Yes. We just launched Haart & Lieu, a new category of revolutionary luxury shape wear, featuring fashion-forward pieces a woman can feel confident wearing under clothes or as clothes!”
Miriam: “Everything my mum designs is always so comfortable, so I do love La Perla. I’m also super pumped about Haart & Lieu shapewear – it’s so cute and comfortable.”
Batsheva: “Sorry, I’ve just got to take this call.”
Naomi: I have to ask you, Julia, if the flattering cuts of the new range are modelled by women of all shapes and sizes because of your past struggles with food and body image?
Julia: “I never had an eating disorder. I chose to starve myself as a way out, a way to commit suicide. I’m definitely not in that same miserable place now. I love my life and my family and I am on a mission.”
Naomi: So if your Unorthodox Life has a second season, can I have the scoop on what happens next?
Julia: “Sorry, that can’t be disclosed.”
Obviously there will be a second season because we’re all hooked, but our chat was over without an exchange of air kisses or mobile numbers.
Hopefully I’ll meet Julia when she comes to London next March to promote her book, Brazen: My Unorthodox Journey from Long Sleeves to Lingerie and that’s when she will give me the e1972 green sequin minidress. Well, a girl can dream. Just ask Julia.