Scott Sternberg is keen to keep his outsider status.
The designer behind cult men's label Band of Outsiders is preparing the launch of a capsule women's wear offshoot labeled Boy. by Band of Outsiders, but hopes to maintain the same low-key status even as he expands.
The capsule collection of women's pieces comes with the same sartorial wit of Sternberg's men's wear, and the launch season, created for Barneys New York and Opening Ceremony, is inspired by English schoolboy uniforms, with shrunken jackets, slim-cut suits and washed and overdyed Oxford cloth or silk shirts.
Sternberg, 32, is the first to admit he considers himself an outsider on more than one level. For one, his own look with small, wiry frames is more like a Brooklyn hipster than the health-crazed and gym-buffed stereotype his adopted hometown of Los Angeles is often identified with. The one connection to fashion he had in his Dayton, Ohio, youth was watching CNN's "Style With Elsa Klensch," only to come to the same conclusion with each runway snippet. "Fashion was such an abstract thing to me then, and I never saw myself doing it one day," he said.
After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in economics, Sternberg moved to Hollywood to get a foot in the movie business, where he landed at Creative Artists Agency.
"My job as an agent was pretty diverse in nature," he recalled. "One day I'd be working with an actor to develop a video game property, the next talking to Coca-Cola about what film and TV properties were going to be relevant to their brand 18 months out, the next on tour with Jay-Z and Talib Kweli on behalf of the Sprite brand. While I respect the company, I just thought of myself as more of a client than an agent, more of a creator than a facilitator, so I was ultimately never satisfied with the work."
In early 2004, Sternberg left CAA to join Emily and Tom Scott — Emily is the daughter of J. Crew founder Arthur Cinader — who were launching a media- and marketing-driven company, which ultimately became Plum TV.
"Plum was not something that I wanted to be a part of, but in the process of exploring different directions for the company, I was exposed to some apparel-related projects and immediately caught the bug," he recalled. "Emily in particular noticed both my enthusiasm for, and what I guess was a predisposition toward, the creative process behind building a collection, and strongly encouraged me to start my own company."And so Band of Outsiders was born, named after Jean Luc Godard's 1964 cult movie "Bande à part."
"I had the notion of a brand and clothes with an approach that was quiet, in the same way I approached Los Angeles," said Sternberg, who lives and works in a downtown Hollywood studio, steps away from Hollywood Boulevard with views of downtown L.A. "It's a world of insiders, with people finding their way into information. It's a guy who's totally on the inside and surrounded by the madness, but keeps himself or herself grounded."
Under the moniker, Sternberg started making slim-fitting shirts and ties in washed and overdyed Oxford cloth, sourcing fabrics locally at stores like International Silks and Woolens in Los Angeles. "I wasn't able to meet minimums required when you buy directly from mills, so found myself using vintage deadstock fabric that had been around since the Fifties or even earlier in some cases," he said.
The line was immediately picked up by Ron Herman, Barneys New York and Jeffrey. He has since expanded the collection to include tailored suits with shrunken jackets and slim pants, which are manufactured by venerable Brooklyn tailor Martin Greenfield in Bushwick. Sources estimate the collection's current wholesale volume at $1 million.
Sternberg found a lot of women would buy the shirts because they were cut so small, and stores encouraged him to expand into women's wear.
"When we went into the fall market, and saw all these little shrunken jackets with the pant and boy shirt from different designers, the lightbulb went off and I thought, 'Let me call Scott and see if he was interested in doing Band of Outsiders for women,'" recalled Terence Bogan, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for Barneys New York's Co-op, where the women's line will be sold in the fall. "It's quirky and in that respect, very Barneys. It has taste, luxury and humor. Everyone needs a jacket to go to work, but this is just something that isn't your everyday thing. It will be a little different. And [Scott], coming from entertainment, and not being so affected by it, is refreshing."
Opening Ceremony will carry Boy in its New York and Los Angeles boutiques. Humberto Leon, co-owner, called the collection "a great alternative to a lot that's out there.""It's a smart-looking women's line," he said. "I like that it's very reminiscent of the men's line. There are no frills, no darts, it is what it is. His line overall does really well in our store. They know the fit, and I think the women's collection will have the same reaction."
Boy's first season, for fall, has an English schoolboy influence, and Sternberg worked with red, white and blue as key color tones, using Oxford dinner shirting fabrics and worsted wools. Wholesale prices range from $85 to $175 for shirts and $500 to $850 on average for suits. Key looks in the 25-piece collection include a shrunken flannel schoolboy blazer, at $500 wholesale, a plain weave wool waistcoat, at $166 wholesale, and a washed silk Bengal-striped shirt with cropped sleeves, at $158 wholesale.
"I always had the notion of a women's line called Boy," Sternberg said. "Boy evokes a sense of nostalgia, naïveté and youth — and certainly irony in this context — all tenets of the Band of Outsiders' approach and brand. And, of course, it directly implies the notion of taking men's wear — a fabric, shape, detail or just a feeling or mood — and reinterpreting it for women."
Sternberg added the capsule was intended only for Barneys New York and Opening Ceremony, which have been key supporters of the men's line, though he hopes to expand the distribution in future seasons.
"I want to grow it slowly and deliberately take it one step at a time," said Sternberg, who wouldn't give sales projections. "I think there's a huge potential if I take it slowly. Band was so much about a quiet attitude and it's not available everywhere."
Albeit a quieter approach, Sternberg's men's clothes have already gathered a following among celebrities like Josh Hartnett and Justin Timberlake, who wears his waistcoats and ties on tour. Sternberg, however, shrugged when the notion of his clothes on young Hollywood starlets was brought to him. "It's the band of outsiders, darling, not the band of insiders," he said.
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