David Sarfati, founder and artistic director of 13 Bonaparte, is as deliberate and thoughtful about opening a new store as he is about choosing fabrics for his men’s collection of modern workwear.
The French brand is opening a permanent store in Los Angeles on Aug. 3, but not before launching a pop-up shop on April 19 on New York’s Rivington Street, which will help perfect the merchandising approach and work out any kinks. The pop-up will operate through May 1. Sarfati chose the location for its proximity to the New Museum and International Center of Photography.
The brand’s first U.S. location will bow at Row DTLA in downtown Los Angeles’ Art District. The 2 million-square-foot mixed-use center is spread across six turn-of-the-century buildings occupying 30 acres. “The neighborhood will keep the spirit of the brand,” Sarfati said, adding that the 1,000-square-foot space will include an office and showroom.
Maxwell Anderson will head the U.S. subsidiary of 13 Bonaparte as director. “I met David in the Paris store four years ago. I was in business school and we worked on a plan. The opportunity in L.A. came up and we took it.”
“I’ve seen the changes in L.A.,” Sarfati added. “It’s a lot more international and there’s a lot more culture outside of Hollywood.”
The company’s store in the Marais district of Paris is a sensory experience with scents of the house’s candles in geranium, bergamot orange, cedar leaf and black pepper wafting through the store; flowers such as renoncule, nutance and craspedia refreshed weekly; Sarfati’s favorite books, and the design, which features gray wood paneling, midcentury modern fixtures, and a design studio within full view.
Sarfati said 13 Bonaparte quickly reacts to customer preferences at the Marais store. “We see the adaptability of the store,” he said. “It’s a true lab.”
The brand was repositioned to a new strategy of launching two collections a year with new products introduced every six weeks. Collections are numbered. “Each represents a measured step forward and a deeper exploration of the shapes and colors,” said Sarfati, who keeps popular items in circulation. “We work on midseason pieces — things you can wear anytime in any part of the world. Every collection has a little spring-summer and a little fall-winter.”
The brand is launching a denim collection with a women’s component called Le Denim.
“Denim is growing in men’s wear,” Sarfati said. “People think of denim as something heavy. We can do so much with it.” Styles in a variety of washes include a stonewashed denim bathrobe, miniskirt with snaps, jumpsuit, short belted jacket and kimono dress. New York City Ballet soloists and friends Megan LeCrone and Harrison Ball were photographed for an ad campaign striking graceful poses and exuberantly tossing pieces over their heads.
Sarfati doesn’t plan to introduce a full women’s line. “We’re welcoming women to explore the brand without launching a full collection,” he said. “We’ll definitely expand into other categories such as shoes, accessories and design because we consider ourselves a lifestyle brand.”
The brand’s first design object, a plexiglass vase, will be available at the pop-up store. “We want to bring the brand to every type of category,” he said.
Sarfati worked in branding for cosmetics companies in New York and took classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology. He returned to Paris and worked at Galeries Lafayette before starting 13 Bonaparte. “I’m directing the brand,” he said. “I have a design staff and we develop the collection together. We’re taking measured steps toward expansion. There’s a lot of thoughtfulness. We’re taking a bit of a long-term view.