Even before she revealed her debut collection to the world last year, Bonnie Young already had a cult following of women who loved the quality and design of her children’s line and were eagerly awaiting the grown-up version. Young began her career at Ralph Lauren, followed by a long stint as creative director at Donna Karan before launching the kids’ line and now By. Bonnie Young—a bold, feminine, and fresh collection that is the culmination of her rich experiences in travel, art, and design.
Below, we chat with the highly creative designer about her exciting debut collection.
The Window: Tell us about the path that lead you to launch your namesake label last year. Was it always in the pipeline?
Bonnie Young: My design background is in womenswear. When I started my children’s clothing line, I found that the mothers were buying just as much of it for themselves as they were for their children. At that time, I was also making clothes for my close friends and for myself, and my private client base became quite extensive. The launch of my women’s collection was not necessarily in the pipeline—it was more of an organic evolution that just made sense.
How would you describe the ethos of the brand?
For me, it’s effortless glamour. I design clothes that are easy to wear, that feel unique and glamorous. I want these pieces to live in a woman’s wardrobe forever and to have a life that spans beyond its collection’s season.
How have your world travels influenced your creative vision?
Traveling and living abroad has had a very significant influence on my creative outlook. The journeys have been an inspiration and have influenced my entire consciousness over many years.
What are your favorite places that have inspired you the most?
The places that inspire me the most are beautiful, both environmentally and culturally. Xishuangbanna is a region in the southeast of China and one of my favorite places on earth. It is home to more than 10 different ethnic groups who speak different languages, celebrate different traditions, come from different cultural backgrounds, and wear different (albeit all beautiful and uniquely adorned) attire. Tibet has also been a big influence. It’s one of those places where the aesthetic of the landscape perfectly match that of the people. Tibetan attire is completely influenced by the environmental conditions of the area. From the landscapes with turquoise lakes and emerald green forests, to the people in their long robes, layers of colorful cloth, and adornments in turquoise, corals, and metals—you feel like you’re in heaven in Tibet.
You’re a published author and photographer—how do you marry all your creative pursuits?
My photography and book, The Colors of the Vanishing Tribes, came out of my search for inspiration for design. One influences the other. It is holistic—all one.
Tell us about your creative process…
Each collection has its own story and inspiration. Anything can trigger it, and then the story sort of builds from there. My inspiration is never directly fashion- or style-related. Fabrics and colors really speak to me. That is where the process begins.
What was the inspiration for the Spring 2017 collection currently at Barneys? What would we find on your mood board?
The collection’s references are the dichotomy of the ‘70s freedom and liberation and the innocence and moral constraints of the Victorian era. The glamourous and dynamic women in the backdrop of Savannah’s willow trees and Victorian homes vs. the dreams of the women inside. My mood board was pinned with images of Savannah, willow tree-lined footpaths, Victorian homes, color-wheels, fabric swatches, and organically formed floral prints.
Do you design with a specific woman in mind?
Not a specific woman, but a specific type of woman. She is independent, a freethinker, and is most certainly not afraid to express herself. She is powerful but soulful.
What’s your favorite piece from Spring ’17?
The v-neck floral print silk maxi dress.