Against the advice of marketing and branding experts, John Targon and Scott Studenberg chose Baja East for their label, which, two seasons in, proved to be an astute move. It’s a well-suited moniker that expresses their sartorial ideal of “loose luxury,” which has already been picked up by influential stores like Barneys New York; Ikram in Chicago; Maxfield in Los Angeles; A’Maree’s in Newport Beach, Calif.; The Webster in Miami, and Hirschleifers in Manhasset, N.Y.
“Baja East is the idea of West Coast relaxed cool mixed with aggressive, street, East Side,” says Studenberg. “We are based in New York but love traveling to L.A., Cabo, Tulum, Marrakesh, the Far East.”
The designers’ energy is contagious, and extends to their fine-tuned sales pitch, which is rooted in their pre-Baja career experience. Studenberg was Lanvin’s sales director of North and South America. Targon was Burberry’s director of wholesale for men’s wear and men’s accessories, and prior to that spent four years as Céline’s sales director of North America.
They expect first-year sales of $2.1 million. “We always had an obsession with fashion, which goes to the heart of it all,” Targon says. “We thought, OK, we gained all this knowledge from our jobs, what can we now do for ourselves? We always had that entrepreneurial spirit and thought, maybe it’s a good time to go out and do it on our own.”
Having spent much time talking to store executives as well as customers, they decided to focus on that idea of loose luxury. Nothing is fitted, necklines are low, shoulders dropped, and all is rendered in ultrafine, comfortable materials. The designs also often blur gender lines—or, as they put it, they’re “ambisex.”
For fall, they impressively developed their concept with silk ikat tunics and beach-ready cashmere sweaters, as well as a cool leopard pony hair print used for an anorak, a sleeveless tunic and drawstring pants.
Their fashion week presentation was as charming as the clothes, as the duo talked the audience through each piece with an earnest conviction.
“We thought it was important that we didn’t simply do a presentation with models just standing around, or a runway show where they just walked,” Studenberg recalls. “We wanted to talk about the fabrics that we use, because we think that’s also really important.”
Adds Targon, “Our background is in sales. This is how we got people excited about our product in the stores, and this is how we like to communicate our message.”
Last year, lightning struck twice for young French designer Julien Dossena.
First, he was appointed creative director of Paco Rabanne, swiftly turning out two critically acclaimed collections, which left observers upbeat about the ailing brand’s future.
Second, he brought to life his own refreshingly nonchalant brand, named Atto, which he presents off the official Paris calendar, casually, if not accurately, calling it “just clothes on the racks.”
Looking at Dossena’s history, it seems like every step he made was carefully calculated for rapid ascent.
A graduate of La Cambre in Brussels—which shaped Olivier Theyskens, Anthony Vaccarello and others—Dossena scooped the jury prize in Hyères in 2008 along with the festival’s 1.2.3. prize sponsored by Etam, which led to a stint at the French group’s clothing brand while he was still in school.
“Designing for the mass market was a great way to get a foot in the door,” says Dossena, 31.
Shortly after, Balenciaga hired him to work on its ready-to-wear collection under the house’s former creative director Nicolas Ghesquière. It was here that Dossena experienced firsthand how to translate the historic codes of a venerable fashion brand into a contemporary lingua franca spoken by today’s fashion faithful.
Ghesquière’s departure in November 2012 opened the door to new adventures.
“We were all kind of jobless when Nicolas left,” he says, “so I decided to launch my own.”
Atto, which he established with another Balenciaga alum, Lion Blau, as junior designer, is conceived as a must for the multitasking woman, with a certain taste for luxury but no time to change on her way from the office to the kids’ playground.
After scouting for a niche to fill, the duo quickly realized that fancy design was in abundance, but finding a “good-quality white shirt or gabardine skirt” proved a challenge. “I wanted to create garments that are easy and supernormal, but of very high quality. It’s maybe a bit ambitious, but I have always been a big admirer of A.P.C. I want Atto to be a luxury version of that,” he says.
The concept worked. In just its second season, Atto’s sales points rose to 23 doors globally, and Dossena was short-listed for LVMH’s Young Fashion Designer Prize.
Meanwhile, at Paco Rabanne, he has found a playground for visual experiments, showing his ease with mesh tops and houndstooth-patterned tailoring alike.
And on that front, there is more to come. “The Paco Rabanne girl has always been a little radical,” he says. “I want to build on that respectfully, but fast-forward to the 21st century.”
In honor the @CFDA’s announcement of @iamnaomicampbell receiving the Fashion Icon Award at the 2018 #CFDAAwards, which will take place on June 4, here’s a #tbt of the supermodel on @michaelkors’ runway in 1991. #wwdfashion #wwdarchive (📷: George Chinsee)
“I was making the guacamole when my scout saw me,” says model @stuckinteenage on being discovered just six months ago while working at @chipotlemexicangrill. Since then Williams has signed with @dnamodels, walked in her first show at @calvinklein and landed on the cover of @vogueitalia – a high point of any model’s career. To read @lisajlockwood’s full interview with the model on her experiences thus far, head to WWD.com – link in bio. (📷: George Chinsee)
“I love the idea of dialogue, period. It’s where I’ve always gotten my inspiration from: hearing other women speak, their journeys and their paths,” said @hereisgina, who delivered the keynote speech during @sxsw for @createcultivate in partnership with @fossil. For her two panels, Rodriguez chose female empowering, female-led and female entrepreneurs to focus on. Head to WWD.com to read more about her thoughts on Time’s Up, growing up in a family of women and why we “need a girls’ club.” #wwdeye #sxsw (📷: @jgreenery)
Leading luxury brand are shaking things up to keep up with streetwear. Case in point: the arrival of @mrkimjones as artistic director of @diorhomme. Jones, who succeeds @Kris_Van_Assche, is seen as one of the handful of designers who can actually straddle the luxury and streetwear worlds — which could lead to even more changes at established brands. What could this mean for the rest of the menswear landscape? Head to WWD.com to find out what experts predict #wwdfashion (📷: @franckmura)
“It’s like buying groceries. You’re going to buy the best mango, the best mozzarella, the best things. You have to, or others are going to take it all,” said @gabrielahearst on why she uses only the finest fabrics. Last week, Hearst received her first @cfda nomination for Womenswear Designer of the Year, and earlier this month she opened a permanent showroom in Paris. To read @jessiredale’s interview with the designer and find out why this is shaping up to be a big year for her, head to WWD.com. #wwdfashion (📷: @francoisgoize)
“It’s an interesting thing, playing a younger version of your mother. It’s an interesting concept. I adore my mom and love her in every capacity, but it was just something that had never crossed my mind,” says @anniemstarke on playing a young Joan Castleman in “The Wife.” The same role will be played by her mother Glenn Close. Read more about her growing up in the film industry as the daughter of producer John H. Starke and Close and what she has planned for the future #wwdeye (📷: @nataliamantini)
@asics is launching a new streetwear sneaker inspired by its latest ambassador, @steveaoki. The Hyper-Kenzen x Aoki, which will launch at @footlocker stores exclusively tomorrow, is a slip-on style that incorporates the brand’s proprietary Gel technology through beads integrated into the midsole for comfort and endurance. Read the full story on WWD.com.