Looking to the Future with Bureau de Stil’s Ben Taverniti
Amidst the outbreak of Covid-19, few industries are facing complete overhaul like the fashion industry. For many, this is a daunting challenge. But, for others, this is a welcome time of reflection and the perfect time to test new ideas and strategies to affect change in a fairly antiquated system. One such visionary is designer Ben Taverniti. Taverniti debuted his brand new line, Bureau de Stil, at Paris Fashion Week in February, just days after Italy went into lockdown. A setback, yes. But not insurmountable. Taverniti is excited about his new line, the possibilities it brings, and the future of fashion as a whole.
“There’s a story in getting dress.” As a designer do you believe that? What story are you telling with this line?
Absolutely. Actually the transition from my old life to my new life was so I can control the narrative a little bit more. If you’re a brand,you have to tell a narrative. You need to invite people into your world. Clothing is emotional. It helps your mood, it helps your way of feeling. I want people to feel a sense of freedom. True luxury in the sense that you don’t have to wear a billboard to show how much money you have or how much your thing costs. And coming out of my last venture, and in the past 3 or 4 years, over consumption was everywhere, there was so much product. I felt like there’s no meaning behind anything because there is so much product. I wanted to backtrack and reestablish, first of all, my own story, and therefore, the future customer. That sense of freedom, timeless, true luxury.
Freedom is the biggest luxury you can give people. You don’t have to be put in boxes, don’t want to be profiled. I just want to be who I want.
You moved from Paris to LA in 2005. It’s been said that this line is a love letter to Los Angeles. How so? I’m clearly French but as long as I can remember I was blessed to have a family where I could jump on a plane and go to Los Angeles every couple years. It’s my first time, at six years old and I’m in LA, in the 80s; it was a pretty big deal. Since I can remember I’ve always said this is my city. And I was able to visit every couple years and in 2005 there was an opportunity to move here and I never left! So I’m deep rooted in Paris and I did my fashion school over there and worked with Jeremy Scott there and, while my first few years were over there, I wanted to give credit to the Los Angeles that helped me fully develop into who I am today. To link both cities is one of my passions. Los Angeles, especially now, it’s a place to make fantastic products, novelty products, luxury products and create an entire lifestyle. With Bureau it was important for me to go back to my roots, which really is Los Angeles.
What inspires you?
My inspiration, regardless of what I’m doing, is the streets. I was always pushing back against the streetwear label, many people have always characterized [my work] as a streetwear brand. But beyond the label, most importantly, I am inspired by and design for the street. That’s the most important. So really anything and everything can inspire me. The main thing is watching people. I love watching people . I love people sitting in the street, real life. I want the clothes to be easy to wear. I don’t want a stylist to have to come in and help you put it together. I always love, in my collections, to have the versatility, like you can put any of the pieces together and it just works. And I feel the street is that, that ease, that effortless feeling. And I don’t just mean in Paris or in LA, it’s really everywhere. I need the streets of the world; I need people.
Tell me a bit about the show. You debuted in Paris in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
So we kept the new brand quiet for a while. My last show with Unravel was last year, for spring. So we parted ways, but no big announcements. I still own part of the company. When we started telling people, the response was absolutely fantastic. We were getting feedback from our dream customer and,for a new brand, that is something. Starting a new brand is very difficult. But people reacted right away and it was very positive. The most important stores in the world were telling us yes, tell us when and we will be there. That was the beginning of February, so the virus was known but not huge at that time. I wasn’t planning on doing a show or presentation but I brought in Ritual Projects, so it was kind of a last minute thing. I had wanted to work with them for a while. So at the last minute we found a space and I wanted to find a space like we have in LA but in Paris. So we were looking for concrete Japanese architecture, something in the vibe. So the first thing I think of was the [French] communist party architecture. So we found an old parking lot building, and it really felt [like] the world and what the clothes are, a very raw organic feel. The day of the event was when everything broke loose. Attendance was probably half. Out of 500 rsvps I would say half showed. But the right people were there to support and whoever couldn’t come, we’ve stayed in touch with them. The results really were phenomenal.
So during this time of quarantine you have kept busy. You are producing masks as well as working on your men’s line.
So the last few months have just been, the reasons I launched Bureau and everything that Bureau stands for has just been accelerated. I wanted to go further. My goal was never to have Bureau in 3000 stores all over the world. I want the best stores, I want to give them a special brand for their special
store and keep it very special. I can’t say special enough! But it feels like today people can say organic or keywords but the reality has really gotten lost. So I want to go back to that. I want to think of what we have that other people don’t. We have a history with people who like us and they appreciate the work we’ve done and are supportive AND we are a new brand. It’s a great mix of things that most new designers don’t have. So knowing that we have support, what it allows me to do is, I don’t need to do 190 piece collection, I don’t have to do a showroom or anything because I don’t have to comp for last season or last year. So as bad as it is, it’s pretty good too. It allows us to be flexible, to test things and I think we have a good strategy because other brands are adopting the same strategy but our stakes are not as crazy. We got really creative as to how to approach the new world and how to design the new world.
And you were producing masks in LA?
Yes, we didn’t want to jump into a new thing right away but, this is my problem, I can never do something simple, And I didn’t want to just do it to do it because there’s a loss of sensitivity there. But I did my own mask and I was doing it for me so it was leather and suede and water snake and people said I need this, I want this. So we’re trying to figure out how many we can make now, it won’t be the typical mask. It will be a bit more pricey as you can imagine but it’s very elegant. I don’t want to just make them, I do want to be sensitive about it.
So I know you come from denim and, discussing sustainability and technology, I’m interested in hearing about your new and improved denim process.
I have a history in premium denim and we realized too late the damage that this industry can bring up. In the last 15 years, I know the ins and outs and I was in a good position to understand what we can do to make it better. So I started working with Candiani,it’s a multi-generational business, it goes from father and son, through four generations. When Alberto Candiani started in Los Angeles, we kind of started together, so today fast forward 15 years later, and he’s been pro pro pro sustainability before people even knew what it was. So they developed fabrics that are truly fantastic. Sustainable, organic cotton, basically no chemicals, minimal water. So, to take one step further, we opened this lab in Los Angeles with a counterpart in Milan and so we can develop within, he and I were able to go back and forth together and started developing washes we love in a sustainable way. And again, I don’t want sustainable to be a marketing stance, I just want to do things right. So for denim what does sustainable means? We have 100% organic cotton, we cut and sew, it’s not touching the water, we’re keeping the integrity and sustainability within the fabric. Then the washes, a portion is sustainable. It would be a lie to say it’s all sustainable, I don’t think that’s possible as of today. And I don’t want to compromise the washes. It has to be the right balance. We’re using less chemicals and products. We are reducing the water, using a closed circle system. The water is reused. We are using more laser machines, something we’ve been doing for 15 years, and the way I’m using the laser and have always done, reduces the amount of product. We still have a long way to go but we are doing our part. And we did it across the collection, by the way. Anywhere we can use the organic, sustainable or anything we did.
The collection was amazing. And it is truly just the way you do business. This was you natural progression, this is your natural thought process. It’s not about a buzz word. It was simply something you felt you could be doing better and you are ahead of the curve, especially in the way you are producing these quality, luxury pieces.
Your line is luxury. Really Investment pieces. How do you make a classic fresh?
It’s all in fit. Proportions, in the looks, fabrics. How do you identify times? I mean if you look at Jean Luc Goddard films in Paris, you know what time it is. Its so strong. So how do you evolve with your time and your generation? It’s really all in the looks. It’s everything, all together. That’s what is going to make you evolve in time. Modernity comes in the silhouettes, the volumes. Bureau has been nonstop fitting tests, playing with volume, playing with arm holes, playing with shoulders, playing with waists. And I was so happy to do this for my first collection because this is my first collection! And I was really craving, really wanted to create these monolithic, extremely feminine yet androgynous, sillohuetes . And I think we accomplished that. That’s how we create our basics but make it new.
What are you excited about in the coming months or year?
Everything! It’s scary, it’s worrisome but it’s exciting. We have the chance to push reset. So I’m excited about everything. We are launching the website in the coming weeks, we are launching the men’s line in a month. I just want to nonstop create in Los Angeles. I’m excited to have genuine relationships and friendships and support.