Recently Parisian designer Barbara Bui made her first visit to Los Angeles. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down with her and discuss everything from fashion to furniture design. Here’s the result of our conversation.
Tod Hallman: We’re sitting here in your beautiful Beverly Hills boutique surrounded by pieces from your S/S 2013 collection. Can you tell me about your inspiration?
Barbara Bui: Part of my S/S collection is very tailored and for that part I used very light materials in a masculine way like organza, linen, and cotton. I used colors like pale blues and nudes where I mixed the femininity with the masculine tailoring. The other part of the collection was inspired by travel to South America where I used bright multi-colored pieces that represent all those sunny countries.
Hallman: Can you give me some insight into what we’ll see for fall 2013?
Bui: Again fall is filled with strong tailored silhouettes but this time I used a lot of black in different textured fabrics, some matte opaque heavier weights and transparent fabrics, allowing you to feel the light that exists in the color. Also, I designed a very masculine boot; it’s very much something you would find in Portobello road in London, but at the same time very chic. I wanted to transform the high heel silhouette into another proportion making it more cool, more relaxed but also still elegant at the same time.
Hallman: You use a lot of suede and leather pieces in your collections. What is it about suede and leather that attracts you as a designer?
Bui: When I first began I wanted to use leather in a different way then it had been used before. I loved using it even for couture pieces. For me I find suede and leather just as beautiful as silk. I love using it for my more rock-n-roll pieces, but I also love using it for dresses and my more feminine pieces that you’re not accustomed to see being made in this materials. I find them both to be very luxurious.
Hallman: Your collections are also known for beautiful sleek tailoring as well as a mix of embroidery. How do you work embroidery into the collections?
Bui: I design my embroidery to have a more sensible feel; more human and not really in such an old couture way. It’s not about using it to display wealth or opulence but more to be used in an artistic way. I love using it in my designs as a way to reference other cultures. I don’t like it when it looks too shiny or new but more like a piece that you’ve had for some time, like a collectible piece of art.
Hallman: You started you business in the mid 80’s and fashion has experienced a lot of ups and downs over the years. What do you think has been your staying power as a designer?
Bui: I’ve been very coherent with my work since the very beginning of my company. I don’t like to focus my attention on the negative. I think it’s very important to be sincere and authentic to my brand. I think my customers that know my work understand this and love it and thus have become loyal followers of my brand.
Hallman: You’re collaborated with LA based brand Frends on a line of luxury headphones that have been exclusively designed for women. Can you tell me about the partnership?
Bui: Well, first it was very natural for me to be part of the partnership. My work has always had a strong connection to music. Designing the headphones allowed me to work in a matter that I already do as a designer. I got to work with leather and studs; it was like making jewels for the head to listen to music through. It was a perfect collaboration for me.
Hallman: Also, all profits from the sales of the headphones will go to local charities?
Bui: Yes. This was an important part for me in deciding to enter into the collaboration.
Hallman: Brand partnerships are everywhere in fashion today. Would you consider doing a partnership with H&M, Uniqlo or Target?
Bui: Maybe one day. Of course is would depend on whether I would feel the partnership is right for me. I would want to make sure that the quality is consistent with my brand. But I think if someone asked me to design an affordable collection and all the elements seemed right, that it would be nice to do.
Hallman: What’s the possibility of seeing a Barbara Bui couture collection in the future?
Bui: Actually, now I do incorporate couture pieces in my shows. But while I enjoy doing the couture pieces I still want my collections to have life. I don’t want to only create a single silhouette. I prefer to give my customers clothing to wear that allows them to be free spirits and express their own personality. I want my customers to be able to wear my clothing whether it’s day or evening.
Hallman: Are there any plans for a Barbara Bui menswear collection in the future?
Bui: You know a long time ago I did a very small collection of men’s and I still have customers asking me when I’m going to do it again. I think on some level it was a little ahead of its time because it was very edgy. But today I think times have changed and men have a better understanding of fantasy fashion and trends today. I don’t think that the separation is as big today as it once was between classic and fashion for men.
Hallman: Finally your silhouettes have a very strong architectural design aesthetic. Could we one day see a Barbara Bui home collection.
Bui: It could happen one day. But I think if I did a furniture or home collection it would probably be a collection with very pure clean lines.
For more info or to locate a Barbara Bui boutique near you go to: www.barbarabui.com