John Targon and Scott Studenberg founded Baja East at the end of 2013, and have since worked tirelessly from their New York apartment to grow the label. Together they have created a "loose luxury" and "ambisex" style, combining their experience at luxury brands Lanvin and Céline with their discovery of a fashion market niche: comfortable luxury clothing. PETRIe Features Editor, Katie Aske, speaks with the label’s founders to uncover what is behind their growing success.
Katie Aske: Tell me about yourselves… how did you meet?
John Targon: Scott and I have been best friends for over 13 years, and pretty much grew up in New York together. We spent our twenties and now our thirties energised by this great city. The funny story of how we met was that for one day I worked at a shop in the meatpacking district. Scott came in and tried on a pair of white 7 jeans, [which were] very cool at the time. From there we hit it off and started hanging out regularly. Even our career paths crossed; we both worked at Condé Nast - me for WWD and Scott for W, before venturing into luxury wholesale. In our wholesale jobs, with Scott at Lanvin and me at Céline, we travelled North and South America together and Paris four times a year.
KA: Have you always wanted to start your own brand? What inspired you to start Baja East?
JT: We have both always been obsessed with fashion and our travels, both for work and pleasure, and this became inspiration for starting Baja East together. We knew there was an opportunity to create comfortable luxury clothes for ourselves, and for our girl and guy friends - not to mention all the women we saw and spent tons of time with in the stores we sold our other brands too. We thought - let's do this, it might be a challenge but one worth taking on as a team. After years of working for other luxury companies, we became really excited by the idea of building a brand identity. And thus, Baja East was formed.
Scott Studenberg: We were inspired by our own love of travel and this idea that you could create a wardrobe that suited Malibu just as easily as London, or anywhere your travels will take you. We were also really inspired by the women in our lives that needed comfortable yet stylish clothes throughout their day: this sparked the idea of "loose luxury."
KA: What do you think makes a fashion brand stand out and become successful?
JT: Something that translates on an emotional level. People want to see themselves in your clothes or dream about themselves in them. It all has to create the desire to be a part of a lifestyle.
KA: What do you see as the problems of the fashion industry and how are you working to change this?
SS: One of the biggest challenges that we see people face is the way seasonal deliveries ship out of season - you have fur coats in stores in June. We have aimed to create a season-less collection where cashmere, silks and leathers are often perfect all year round.
KA: What makes Baja East unique?
SS: One unique thing about Baja East is that the collection is ambisex. Cashmere crews, tailored jackets, tunics and boxing pants mix into all the Baja East boys and babes' wardrobes effortlessly. We also have a love for creating prints. These prints are often inspired by vintage fabrics, art or our travels, but all are created by us.
KA: You do all your work from your apartment. What's that like? And what processes do you go through when designing? Do you always agree?
JT: Working from home makes having morning coffee easy because you don't have to leave. It also means we are always surrounded by our work and never not looking at fabrics or colour cards. That's were we start - with colours and fabric. When it comes to working together, all of our closest friends are shared so every part of our lives are intertwined and while we may not always agree 100 per cent, we use our differences to strengthen our brand and our relationship because we are going for the same dream - to create a luxury American brand and lifestyle that others want to join in on.
KA: If money were no object, would you be doing anything differently?
JT and SS: No. But maybe there would be a few more vacations.
KA: How do you see the brand moving forward? What's the ultimate goal for Baja East?
JT and SS: The ultimate goal is to grow Baja East into a household name, much like Nike.
Words: Katie Aske