Mexican-American Influencer Julie Sariñana Talks Personal Style, The Evolution of Activewear & More

Courtesy of Bandier

We’re outside! Beginning to be at least… and, for many, that raises the question of “what do I wear?” With a largely work-from-home lifestyle and increased attention to mental and physical wellbeing over the past year, many people have gravitated towards comfier clothing. With the tease of a post-pandemic normalcy that coincides with our warmer summer months, many in the fashion industry have wondered what new spring styles will look like. Will people stick to the athleisure, activewear and loungewear looks that have become even more popularized during our stay at home orders?

Many clothing companies have explored ways to solidify their standing in that space by developing enhanced performance clothing, widening the scope of diversity in their marketing and outreach and expanding their designs. Today, activewear brand Bandier has introduced a “fashion meets fitness” line created in collaboration with well-established lifestyle influencer Julie Sariñana (Sincerely Jules).

In 2009, while attending the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) to study fashion design, Sariñana got her start in the blogging sphere. She then continued to expand her fashion influencer and lifestyle brand through Instagram which catapulted her into one of the most followed social media personalities on the platform. According to Feedspot’s Top Lifestyle Instagram Influencers, with 5.8 million followers, Sariñana is ranked as the second most followed lifestyle Instagram influencer in 2021. She built her brand guided by her motto, “dream, believe, achieve,” and created a welcoming, down-to-earth platform for her audience, inspiring them with her beauty lifestyle tips, travels and eclectic sense of style. With an eye for all things effortlessly cool and chic, this Mexican-American influencer has been at the forefront of branding through social media and now has many collabs under her belt.

In building her Bandier collection, Sariñana drew inspiration from her California up-bringing and sought to transform the way activewear is usually presented—from earth tone colors with the occasional neon accent to floral and gingham patterns. She hopes to expand the ways athleisure can merge style and comfort with pieces that can be incorporated into everyday outfits.

We caught up with Sariñana ahead of the launch to discuss the collection’s design, her upbringing, tips for building a brand through social media and more.

This interview has been lightly edited & condensed for clarity purposes.

It seems like your family were a big inspiration for you, how have they influenced you and your approach to fashion?

My dad was a tailor and it was fascinating to see him work on clothes. I also have two older sisters and an older brother [and] we’re all super creative… my brother is an artist and my two sisters work as creative director and senior designer for Mattel Barbie. Ever since my mom was 14 years old in Mexico she worked at a local thrift store, so since I was little it was all around me: Clothes, fashion, art, it’s really all I knew… I loved to be creative and I wanted to incorporate that into my career somehow. My older siblings were so sweet to help guide me and my parents were always very supportive and instilled the values of a hard work ethic. For all of us, that was really inspiring because they were so encouraging and would say “yeah if you want to do that, do it!” They were never the type to be like “no, you need to be a doctor or you need to be this” they were just happy to let us be and, because of that, we were all able to blossom into who we are now which is so special to me.

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Being born in Durango, Mexico and growing up in East L.A., how did the fashion in either of those places inspire your style and what are some specific fashion styles you remember from your upbringing that have stuck with you? 

Well I was born in Mexico but for the most part, I grew up in East LA. In second grade I remember my mom wanting to dress me and put my outfits together and I was very like “I don’t like that, let me pick out my own outfits.” I was very hands on at an early age with what I wanted to wear and very particular about my hair. I always wanted to have bangs and a slick ponytail and as I got older starting in middle school and high school, I got even more into fashion. I wasn’t into big heels or anything like that and preferred to wear sneakers and boots, so I was always trying to get the latest shoes whether they were Saucony, Air Force 1s, Jordans, or Vans. I wore denim skirts, Abercrombie, Hollister, FUBU, Juicy Couture, JLo, etc. It was like a huge mix of things so definitely urban mixed with sporty with a touch of girly and tomboy vibe. It was fun dressing up in all of those different styles back in the day.

Even now, I like mixing things. I think having personal style is about experimenting and not sticking to one particular style. That’s the beauty of style to be able to mix high and low and different eras, vintage and new. I think that’s cool and I feel like people in east LA do a lot of that.

Wellness and staying active was very cathartic for many people during the pandemic to cope with everything going on. What helped you cope and what were some of your wellness practices this past year?

This past year was crazy difficult for everyone. It really made us all stop and think about what is really important, what matters and to readjust certain things in our lives. I think we all kind of were forced to do that. Prior to the pandemic I was hardly ever home and constantly traveling, so my schedule was really up and down and not consistent. I was eating out almost everyday because I was in a different country and different city. This past year being at home felt really comforting and peaceful because I finally had a solid routine, which felt like a kind of normalcy that I hadn’t had. So despite the pandemic and everything horrible we were going through, to me it felt nice to take everything in and to appreciate those moments at home.

Having personal style is about experimenting.

I have always been into working out then I started to think about wellness as a whole rather than just fitness. Doing little things like meditating. As soon as I’d wake up I’d write in my journal and jot down what I was grateful for or things I wanted to do that day. Adding small stuff that I didn’t do before really helped my mental health. Having self love comes from within. Emphasizing those practices every morning, as well as eating better and being more consistent with working out has really helped overall.

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How did the Bandier collection come about and why did this collaboration feel like a good fit for you?

I’ve been a fan of the brand before anything happened between us (it sounds like a relationship) but I was! I loved what the brand was doing. It slowly evolved from being an influencer partnership and building that relationship by working together. After, it evolved into a real friendship and we respected and valued each other’s work and they saw that my followers also love seeing me in Bandier. I think, naturally, it was the right idea to work together and build this beautiful collection— it felt organic.

[Bandier] is at the forefront of athleisure and activewear in the industry and they’re very thoughtful when it comes to inclusivity, in regards to ethnicities, backgrounds and different body sizes. To me, all of those things add up and that’s just so valuable and important nowadays, so I definitely wanted to be a part of that. Plus their storytelling and how they do fitness is so beautiful and very fashion forward; I couldn’t have thought of a more perfect fit to do this with anyone other than them.

That’s important, often athleisure and activewear spaces are marketed towards a certain demographic, usually thin affluent white women, how do you feel like that that space can be more inclusive and inviting to Brown and Black communities? 

I think companies need to make the changes within and look at their teams as a whole. If there are no people of color, then there’s something wrong. It’s up to the company to make those changes and make sure there are people advocating for [say] Brown Black Latino and Asian people. That’s the first step. Then, I think it’s about creating a community where people can be involved, and everyone feels invited and welcomed whether you’re a size 0 or size 20. Everyone needs to be treated the same and even the language should be the same.

I’m brown, I’m Mexican & I’m an immigrant, so I want to represent that in an industry that is mainly dominated by white women.

I was on someone’s Instagram post the other day and they were asking their followers about how to help brands market curvier sizes and what messaging they’d like to see and it was interesting because the consensus in the comments was that there shouldn’t necessarily be a certain label that’s placed for people of certain sizes and that it should just always be reflected in the clothing and the people that are designing or helping to market and model that clothing. I think it’s important for brands to generate these kinds of dialogues within their own communities and among their own customers so that they can learn and do better.

I’m brown, I’m Mexican and I’m an immigrant, so I want to represent that in an industry that is mainly dominated by white women who might have more access to opportunities. I was very grateful that in working with Bandier, I was very hands on from every aspect of the design process, marketing process, campaign aspect and then when it came down to shooting for their website. I was very involved in choosing the models and making sure we had people with different body types and skin tones. Whatever I do whether with Bandier or something else, I always want to make sure to bring that to the table because small things like that are where it all starts.

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Can you take us through a bit of your process for designing your collection and the approach you took for developing the pieces? 

The idea came about like a year ago. We designed the whole collection throughout the pandemic. The Bandier team is based in New York and I’m based in Los Angeles which made it very interesting, a bit crazy, and different because we had to do everything over Zoom but, it was lots of fun and being that we were an all women team working on this collection was so beautiful, powerful and inspiring to do together.

I call it the “California wanderlust collection.” I really wanted to represent California and where I grew up because I have so much love for Los Angeles. I wanted to incorporate that vibe—pink sunsets, blue skies, hiking trails and the different scenery that we have here with the effortless style we embody in California.

Since it was for spring, I chose very soft and pastel-y colors because I’m very into yellows, pinks and purples and at the time, I was obsessed with gingham so I was like, “we have to have gingham in this collection.” In the end, even though it was during the pandemic and done through zoom it came together pretty smoothly. I think we did a hell of a job and I’m so proud of our team and Bandier for pulling it all together and for being such a great partner in all of this.

As people were working from home their style shifted towards clothing that has more comfort in mind. As we emerge from our homes in a “post-pandemic” environment, do you feel like those styles are here to stay or what do you feel like the trajectory of certain trends will be moving forward? 

I think for sure it’s going to stay, people found comfort in dressing in athleisure and incorporating athleisure into their wardrobe, which has definitely become a thing. Now there are so many ways to style [athleisure]. It’s not just for working out but also for going about your day. I love that so much because I love being comfortable first and foremost while still looking cool and fashion forward. With athleisure and activewear, there is room for it to expand even further. You don’t have to love working out to wear it and part of the inspiration behind our designs is not even having to be into fitness to be able to wear this collection but rather, being able to wear the pieces to brunch, or the flea market or wherever.

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Building a platform and brand through social media has become such a powerful tool for self-expression and marketing and you’ve navigated that so successfully. Can you share advice for anyone who might be interested in getting their start with that and how they might go about it or any tips to keep in mind?

For me, there’s no right or wrong way to be on social media. It all comes down to what you’re comfortable with and how you want to do it by building on your strengths. For example, I know I’m not great at talking in front of the camera and doing vlog style stories. That’s not me and that’s not what I feel comfortable doing because I’m actually really shy. So, usually I stay away from that. The beauty of social media is, you. It’s you however you feel comfortable doing it and sharing the parts of your life that feel good for you to do and sharing what you want.

Also, It’s a lot of hard work and you do need a great support system to help guide you. I thought I could do it all by myself and I never wanted to ask for help and that’s one thing I would tell others is “ask for help.” Ask family members or friends. I wish I had done that much earlier because a lot of times I was scared and embarrassed to ask, but it’s all part of the process.

It’s all about following your heart and gut instinct despite what’s trending.

At the end of the day I’ve been pretty good at staying true to who I am as a person and as an individual and not swaying from that or feeling pressured to be a certain way or persuaded to do things for other people. I’ve been doing this for a little over 12 years and when I started there was no social media. There was no Instagram. There were only blogs. Obviously when instagram launched it was so new and I didn’t know the power it could have. To start, you just have to take the plunge and try new things. It’s a bit of trial and error—test it out and see if it works. If it doesn’t then you say, “okay that didn’t work so let me tweak this part or do something else.“ It’s all about following your heart and gut instinct despite what’s trending.

What do you hope your followers and audience take away from your fashion and lifestyle posts, projects, design collaboration, etc.? 

From the start my goal for my blog Sincerely Jules is to inspire people. That was always the main thing I wanted to do whether that was through what I wrote, my beauty and lifestyle suggestions or my photography and content. Whatever it is, I always tried to make sure I instill my motto which is “Dream, Believe, Achieve.” I want everyone to leave feeling inspired to follow their own dreams.

Any future plans or hopes for more collections or collaborations? 

Hopefully If all goes [according] to plan, there’s something really huge and exciting coming at the end of the month. I can’t really reveal or say too much about it just yet, but I’ve been working on this the past year and I can’t wait to share it. There’s more to come with Bandier as well which we are excited to share and have people to be a part of, so definitely stay tuned!