For Baja East, a brand synonymous with cozy cashmere hoodies and sweats worn by Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Hailey Bieber and others, doing COVID-19-era, at-home chic is a no-brainer. But figuring out how to do business in a pandemic is hard.
For spring, Scott Studenberg leaned into his luxury lounge lifestyle core, tightening up his offering to best-selling tracksuits, sheer cotton caftans and soft silk suiting (some of it in leftover fabrics or with familiar glam touches like crystal drawstrings and fringe), and adding a bit of humor in the form of university-style sweats with an “LGBTQ” crest.
“I don’t think everything has to be brand new every season. It’s building. And I have to be a smart business person. I have to learn from my mistakes from the past, and one of those was spending too much on a collection. Last spring, I showed 50 looks, this spring, 20,” he said, explaining that he did resist the urge to design nothing but sweatpants.
“A lot of my retailers have closed, like All Too Human in Boston, who was a great partner, and Rent the Runway is not ordering for spring because people have paused their memberships,” Studenberg explained. “I had to figure out how to pay for samples and a shoot without a factor because you can’t get one when you don’t have big orders. I do have a performance wear collaboration coming out in February, so doing things like that is helping to fund my business. But it’s a balancing act.”
Quarantine had him hunkering down in Malibu with friends who could afford to hang out by the pool all day and have house parties with COVID-19 tests offered at the door (not bad if you can get it). So his SoCal inspiration turned from last season’s Joshua Tree to the haute beach, which prompted sand-and-surf-hued knits and wild-horses-in-the-waves prints.
It was his most hands-on collection yet. “My dyehouse shut down,” Studenberg said during a preview in his Laurel Canyon living room, showing off his makeshift back-porch tie-dye station, where he dip-dyed a chunky ocean-blue cashmere cardigan, watery sheer cotton caftans and blue-hued, glittery lame tracksuits.
“You still need to give people a fantasy,” he said of the sparkle on a white cashmere sweatshirt dress with crystal seams, double fringe on the hem, and the word “Opulence” spelled across the front. Studenberg also updated his soft silk suiting, offering a long black silk vest and pajama pants with crystal trim. Meanwhile, a liquid metallic jersey one-shouldered gown with a built in bandeau was inspired by stylish Malibu surfers. “I’d love to do an actual surf collaboration with PacSun or Stussy,” he said. Maybe that’s on the horizon.