Julia Haart, despite designing lingerie for Kim Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow’s bodies, was a late bloomer in the fashion world.
“The first orgasm I had was at age 35 — with a vibrator, after 16 years of marriage,” the 50-year-old told The Post. “I never heard of an orgasm, let alone a vibrator.”
Haart was not to blame for her lack of knowledge. Talia Leibov was born in Monsey, New York, and raised in a Haredi Jewish Orthodox community. She married when she was 19 years old and raised four children in the upstate enclave.
She left the “fundamentalist” community eight years ago and has had a meteoric rise in the fashion industry since then, rising from her own startup shoe line to running Elite World Group — and now she stars in her own Netflix reality series, “My Unorthodox Life,” which premieres July 14.
The contrast between her former and current lives couldn’t be more stark. “Where I lived, women were to be rarely seen and never heard. Our lives were governed by a web of modesty laws that required us to not only cover our bodies head-to-toe, but to behave comparatively, as well,” she said. “You grow up thinking you don’t matter at all.”
Haart finally summoned the courage to walk away from her community and her husband of 23 years, whom she said she “barely knew” when they married, in 2013, after years of snatching fashion magazines from the local 7-Eleven and sneaking “Sex and the City” on the side.
“The day came when I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t stay for one more second,” she said. “You’re trapped in a life that’s not yours. So it was stay and die, or walk out the door.”
She truly believed that death was her only option. She remembered finding “ways for me to commit suicide as politely as possible” in an old diary entry, either by hanging herself or obtaining pills or a gun.
“In the end, I decided the easiest way to kill myself would be to starve myself to death,” she said. “That way, people wouldn’t think I killed myself — they would just think I have an eating disorder, so my children would still be able to get shidduchim [matchmaking prospects for marriage].” She weighed 73 pounds the day she left.
Haart moved to New York City with her daughter Miriam, now 21, and a nest egg she had saved from selling insurance in her community. (At the time, her youngest son Aron, now 15, was still living in the community; her oldest son Shlomo, 25, was in Israel studying; and her oldest daughter Batsheva, now 28, was newly married.)
Her initial sense of intense liberation was quickly overshadowed by acute feelings of alienation. “It’s so jarring — you feel like an alien, like you don’t belong,” Haart said, comparing her transition to that of a “time traveler” who arrived 300 years in the future.
With a limited secular education, Haart devoured as much literature as she could, including Euripides, Spinoza, and Voltaire, and pursued a lifelong passion: fashion. “Within a week of leaving my previous life, I launched my own shoe company. I’d never studied fashion or designed a shoe, and I knew no one in the business. But I did have one advantage: I didn’t realize how ridiculous and impossible the task I set for myself was.”
Haart met La Perla’s owner Silvio Scaglia in 2015 after a Hong Kong-based board member noticed her comfortable heel designs and invited her in for a possible collaboration. Kendall Jenner’s famous thong-baring gown for the 2017 Met Gala was designed by the fiery brunette, who became the brand’s creative director in 2016. She married Scaglia in 2019 after divorcing her first husband.
She is now the CEO of Elite World Group, a talent management company with 48 global agencies representing over 5,400 celebrities and models, including Kendall Jenner and Irina Shayk.
It’s a dream that Haart, who was once sheltered, never imagined could come true. “I’ve been obsessed with fashion for as long as I can remember — which was very problematic in my world,” she said. “Clothing is meant to cover and hide — certainly not to evoke personality, uniqueness or to draw attention, or to show femininity or sexuality. It’s all about disappearing into the background.”
Haart, who lives in a palatial three-story, 10,000-square-foot Tribeca apartment, didn’t choose to expose herself and her four children — all of whom appear in the reality show — to the constant cameras. “I said to myself, ‘You have a reason.’ Maybe I can help other women, inspire someone.”