It’s not every day that a new label bursts on the scene and gets picked up by the likes of Barneys, Kirna Zabete and Maxfield in its first season. But such was the case for Baja East, which showed its second-ever collection during this past New York Fashion Week, just as its debut collection was hitting stores.
The label is the lovechild of John Targon and Scott Studenberg, who previously worked in sales for Céline and Lanvin, respectively, and decided to combine their business savvy and distinct aesthetic to create a brand. Their concept is a direct reflection of the boys’ personal style and revolves around the idea of “loose luxury.” The relaxed silhouettes are designed to shift with ease between East Coast and West Coast, and also between genders, as every single piece in the collection is unisex, or “ambisex,” as the boys prefer to call it. Meanwhile, top quality fabrics like python, pony hair, lambskin and cashmere elevate the pieces into ever-so-subtle statement-makers.
During NYFW, Studenberg and Targon did more than present their wares, they stood up front with the models and talked through each look. They commented on details like fabric and styling (at one point they had the male and female models switch looks to illustrate the ambisex aspect), which showcased both a passion for the brand and the depth of consideration that went into each garment.
“We had such a strong vision for what these designs would look like and what the attitude would be,” explains Targon. “At the same time, we always saying, 'What are the checklists to make this a success?' It was about how we were going to enter into this luxury market and how we were going to play in it.”
The extreme attention to what will sell and where and to whom is what separates Baja East from so many up-and-coming labels. The decision to avoid department stores and focus exclusively on specialty retailers is at the core of the business plan.
“For us, the specialty stores allow us to be more of a showcase brand. At department stores, we can’t compete with the three-wall shops that the larger, more established luxury brands can afford to build,” says Targon. “Smaller brands can get lost on the floor. Meanwhile, specialty retailers are able to really nurture and develop young talent.”
The designers consider Barneys to fall into the specialty sector and do not plan on expanding much further than the 17 stores that already support them, though they hope to launch in Boston, San Francisco and a handful of European stores for fall.
While they shy away from using the word "commercial," it’s clear that the aim is for these pieces to sell -- it’s just that the designers want to control how. The core price point is between $695 to $895, with some pieces going up to nearly $3,000. So far, the cashmere sweaters and printed crepe pieces are major sellers.
But, as Studenberg notes, it’s never just about business: “Yes, our product and customer are important, but it’s also about creating more than just a Baja. It’s really about creating this lifestyle and feeling.”
Click through to see the full fall 2014 collection.