Brendon Babenzien wants to be there when skater kids grow up and start to get a taste for high-end duds.
The longtime creative director of Supreme left the 20-year-old cult brand a few weeks ago and is in the midst of creating a ready-to-wear collection for Noah, a brand he is launching for fall with an e-commerce site and a store in New York.
Babenzien dabbled with Noah about a decade ago, but ultimately returned to Supreme, where he started working in the late Nineties and which he returned to in 2006 after a short hiatus.
Now his focus is on Noah. He is in the process of raising $2 million to build the brand and is serious about putting together the right team to make a mark in the men’s wear market, targeting the grown-up version of the Supreme customer.
“If you’re a 20-year-old kid today who buys any number of cool brands, you aren’t in five years going to start wearing a suit and tie. They aren’t just gonna get stodgy overnight,” said the 43-year-old Babenzien, dressed in ripped jeans, a rugby shirt from a “real rugby brand” and a vintage, royal-blue suede jacket.
Supreme is famously press-shy and doesn’t follow any traditional fashion calendars, and Noah is being launched with some of the same elusiveness. But if that attitude works as well for Babenzien as it has for the streetwear label, Noah should be a hit with men who grew up with labels like Stüssy and Supreme and are looking to move on.
“Twenty years ago, skateboarders were outcasts and football players were cool. Now [the skateboarders are] at the top of the food chain,” Babenzien said. “They aren’t being addressed very well. If you want to spend a ton of money, you can buy great clothes. But can you balance that with an understanding of what’s happening socially at the moment and what kind of music people are listening to?”
Babenzien hopes to address all of these things at once for this consumer — likely in his late 20s to early 40s — while at the same time forging a real connection with this new, more informed shopper. Eighteen-year-old kids and 45-year-old men are listening to the same music and reading the same magazines, and Noah is being positioned to speak to both ends of the spectrum.
The inaugural fall collection will hit Babenzien’s site and store in the fall, speaking to his “buy-now-wear-now” philosophy. He doesn’t want consumers to be tired and bored of the apparel by the time it hits the stores, one of the downsides of the increasingly hyper-digital world.
“I like surprises,” he said. “People can see it a week before it comes out as opposed to, ‘I’ve been looking at it for six months already.’ I want that fun element to reign.”
While Noah’s design sensibility is classic, Babenzien is focusing primarily on fabrics, using them in atypical ways. For example, he is taking a superluxe Loro Piana waterproof fabric that would typically be used for a trenchcoat or overcoat and using it to construct a waterproof running jacket. Fabrics intended for double-faced camel hair coats will be used to make hoodies. Cashpad, a down replacement made from cashmere that is manufactured in Italy, will be key in outerwear. Casual drawstring pants might look like sweatpants, but they won’t be.
There will also be water-resistant corduroy running shorts — what the designer described as “really beautiful, plush shorts, except corduroy is a little warmer, a little more comfortable and a littler nicer. To me, it’s a running short, but I’d probably wear it in the summer after a surf in the evening when the sun is going down.”
Jackets will have an opening price point of $400 but most will range from $800 to $1,200. Tops and bottoms will start at $180, “sweatpants” from $180 to $380 and T-shirts will retail for about $48.