The cardinal rule when starting a fashion line? Know your customer.
John Targon and Scott Studenberg certainly know theirs. Having spent the better part of the past decade in sales for ultra luxe brands—Studenberg at Lanvin and Targon at Céline followed by Burberry—the pair accumulated hours of on-the-ground research about exactly what men and women want in their closets.
And throughout their careers, no matter their whereabouts, friends, colleagues and the many fashionable ladies in their lives admired not only the clothes they were selling but also the clothes they were wearing—often pieces collected from their exotic travels, reconstructed into one-of-a-kind garments.
Feeling the love, Studenberg and Targon decided to take the leap and launch Baja East, a unisex line named for one of their own fashion staples—the classic Mexican baja. The line is at once urban, beachy and bohemian, crafted from only the finest of materials (think signature cashmere jacquards, buttery calfskin and handwoven Balinese blankets) and embodying what the designers call “loose luxury.”
We sat down with Studenberg and Targon and quizzed them about all things Baja.
Tell me about the inspiration behind starting your own line.
Scott Studenberg: We spent all this time on the floor in our sales jobs. At Barneys clinics, the staff would be like, “Oh my god, I love those shorts!” And they would be shorts I made from a trip in Bali. So when we developed the collection we were making pieces that we wanted to wear. And then our girlfriends were like, “I wanna wear that!” and we realized that this doesn’t have to be just for guys. So now the collection is unisex, sized 0-4, and all the shapes translate within that loose luxury. That is our entire concept—beautiful fabrication and easy shapes.
Tell me about the name, Baja East.
John Targon: It is about the baja and the warm weather beach vibe, but then also the east—the east as in New York and the far east as in Bali. And even East London. Cities on the east are often more edgy and urban, so it is that mix.
SS: John and I have lived in New York forever. New York is aggressive. And in the collection you will see this contrast. We use beautiful bohemian Ikat blankets from Bali, but they’re left with raw edges or they’re finished with industrial hardware. Our cashmere jacquards were initially inspired by those Ikat blankets and evolved into our signature Ikat graffiti. It’s like spray paint. So that’s the New York grit coming through in our designs.
Tell me more about the materials that you use and your production process?
JT: Our cashmeres and leather are all from Italy. We really look for the very best fabric. It is ultimately about how people feel when they are wearing it. If you don’t feel good you are less likely to have a good day.
SS: And then we combine these exquisite luxury textiles with fabrics from our travels. We make our bajas from antique tribal skirts from Bali. They are all one of a kind. One skirt makes one baja. And mixing that ancient textile with a really supple leather, it’s a special bohemian feel.
JT: We manufacture everything here in the U.S. We are New York boys and we are very proud. But also it is quality control—being able to manage and oversee every part of the process. We are a New York luxury brand that is on par with Italian production and construction. We are so excited to be part of the momentum and keep New York manufacturing going.
You guys have taken a lot of inspiration from your travels. What are a few of your favorite places?
SS: Marrakesh. It was there where we bought traditional garments that became huge inspirations for the collection. And L.A. is really special. The sun makes such a big difference. Even if there’s traffic, if it’s sunny, it’s fine! And Tulum. We’ve been going for the past couple years, chilling out and riding our bikes. That’s why we put zippers on our board shorts—so when we are riding on bikes in Tulum, our wallets don’t fall out! So we’re always going back to the sales question. Is it functional?
How do you see your brand evolving, next season and beyond?
JT: Well, everything goes back to this lifestyle and this story we are telling. We don’t want to come out and just have new fashion all the time. We want it to go back to the things you already bought. What a great a feeling to buy something from our summer season and know you will be able to wear it with the fall collection. We set out to do things in the luxury market, but they are things that you feel comfortable in, that you want to wear time and again and that you feel good in. We have our key favorites and most people do. We think that our pieces are your next favorite.