My 1 On 1 With Designer Barbara Bui

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.

Barbara Bui Spring 2013
Barbara Bui Spring 2013

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.

Barbara Bui Fall 2013
Barbara Bui Fall 2013

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.

Barbara Bui Resort 2014
Barbara Bui Resort 2014

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.

Barbara Bui for Frends Headphones
Barbara Bui for Frends Headphones

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.

Barbara Bui and Tod Hallman
Barbara Bui with Tod Hallman

For more info or to locate a Barbara Bui boutique near you go to: www.barbarabui.com

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