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There are a few things that every article will mention about Scott Studenberg and John Targon. First, they'll mention that the two designers have cemented a new niche in the luxury market, coined "loose luxury," and its quickly expanding to encompass a lifestyle brand, with a newly launched line of baby clothes and home decor. Then, they'll list off the robust career paths of the two, which includes working for Lanvin, Céline, and Burberry collectively before launching their own successful label, Baja East, just over a year ago. Finally, they'll praise the two for what they've done with Baja East, because it's not every day that designers intend for their cashmere tunics to be worn by both men and women. And they do so successfully, with aplomb.
But there are a few things that you won't learn about the designers unless you meet them, as we did one sunny afternoon at At Ease On Sunset, one of South Miami's long-standing and local-approved boutiques, where the owners are quite chummy the boys, and can tell you all about their favorite shows, workout routines, and more.
Namely, you'll almost forget about what they're doing for the fashion industry minutes after a quick chat. They're humble, down to earth, and accessible; as customers walked in and out of At Ease- many who the designers knew on a first name basis- it felt like they were mingling with old friends, making sure their girls walked out with the right Japanese crepe harem pants or tribal graffiti cotton robe as their laughs (John has the cutest chuckle) echoed throughout the open-floored store.
We chatted the two up just before their Pre-Fall 2016 show on February 17, as we sorted through Baja East's deliciously soft cashmere robes, plaid graffiti tops, and lamé detailed tunics, which you'll soon find hanging on the racks at At Ease. Our conversation revolved around Miami, Scott's obsession with jugofresh, Barbie Dolls and what advice they could give people launching their own design labels and startups. Finally, though, we got to the bottom of their Instagram handles, @johnlovespinecones and @scottlovespalmtrees. (Spoiler alert: John doesn't actually like pinecones).
So you guys both grew up in the states, yet your entire aesthetic is laid-back, kind of ethnic. What influenced that?
Scott: It's this idea of these kind of Baja, West Coast, chill vibes mixed with city, gritty vibes. It's that mix. We'll wear a really beautiful silk chartreuse with a sneaker. That's why we use Nikes when we style our collections.
John: Even outside of upbringing, lot of it came to us because we traveled so much for work and we would always tack on going somewhere warm so we could take a break. So we were always inspired by our own travels and having to go to work and still be cool outside of that in places like Marakesh, Mexico, the Baja peninsula. It's the idea that you still want to look cool somewhere but there are things inspired by that.
What inspired your Pre-Fall 2015 collection?
John Targon: Pre-Fall has a stormier mood for us. It's a little bit darker, especially coming off of our very white, pure Spring 2015 collection... but all of our collections have very sporty components to them. We call our Spring 2015 collection 'Nomadic Athletica,' and Pre-Fall has a the same kind of vibe within it.
So if Spring 2015's name was 'Nomadic Athletica,' what would Pre-Fall be called?
Scott: The way we approached it, and the way we styled it, was a little bit more of what the red carpet would look like if we did it. We really played with the idea of shine.
John: There's also this layering component... We always think about our customers being able to pack five pieces of ours and wear multiple looks, from day to evening, from a museum to an opening. It's this idea of being very versatile. This idea of 'Nomadic Athletica' translates into something that's very sporty, but you can pack, travel, and go out with.
Was it weird transitioning from sales to being the CEOs, co-founders and designers of your own label?
John: I think it was actually a very natural extension because we had done so much work developing collection plans for the luxury houses that we worked for, these French houses and Italian brands. [Launching Baja East] was a natural extension and we knew who our customer was. This was a woman who needed clothes for the day. She had her day dress, her more fitted things, she had those options, but she needed a more casual element. It's the same for our guys.
Scott: We looked at the options there were for guys, especially men's cashmere for instance. The sweaters were all like, either grey or black. And we do an all black sweater, but we do it in a cool way. The fit is slightly different than what's in the market.
So it's not, like, your dad's sweater.
John: But your dad could wear it.
So what was that one "aha" moment that made you realize you wanted to go into fashion?
John: The one aha moment for me- when was that? Oh my gosh, I used to dress Barbies when I was, like, six. I would come up with all the outfits.
Scott: I made my sisters play Barbies.
John: I would make jewelry and clothes for Barbie.
Scott: We even had a handicapped Barbie because my dog ate its arm off.
John: We don't discriminate. I think it was in us both from a very young age.
So you pretty much wrapped up your first year a few months ago. What advice do you have for people looking to start their own companies.
John: Jump. Just go for it. Take the leap of faith and people will support you. That's the biggest thing. At Ease on Sunset is one of our biggest supporters as a retailer. People really catch you and they really help in all areas. I would also say be open to sharing information because a lot of people have been very open with us. That's been our biggest thing. We don't hide from other people doing their own thing or their own collection.
Scott: Help everyone you can help. Be aggressive. Don't accept no.
What's one of the struggles you faced in your first year?
Scott: If you know someone with money send them our way.
John: [Laughs] It's the financials of starting a business, so I'd say it's money. Surprisingly we thought there were going to be bigger challenges like production and shipping but we've really ironed that out.
What's it like working with each other, because collaborating can be tough.
Scott: Well we've known each other for a really long time. Our tastes are very, very different but we're also on the same wave length. So I think when we have disagreements they're good because they force us to think about the collections in a smarter way.
John: I think we've somehow come to this balance. We always set out thinking about the colors and the hand. So, often the way things feel really drives our initial mood each season and then we go into our ideas on prints and color.
How would you describe each other's style?
John: Scott would probably describe me as really boring [laughs].
Scott: I would never say something so rude!
John: I would say Scott's more adventurous. He's much more into accessories as well.
Scott: I would say I dress more based on my mood. You always dress the same.
John: I'm more clean overall. My mood is stable.
So what do you guys have planned here in Miami?
Scott: Jugofresh. I literally look forward to going there.
John: I often try to go to Barry's Bootcamp here, and we always spend a bunch of time at Soho House either on the beach or by the pool.
I've read before you're less interested in bring new, shocking things to each new collection, more on keeping the same aesthetic. Explain that.
Scott: One of the important things is, when we first started the collection, we were like, well we don't want to have just one thing one season and then it goes away... We wanted to create a language that kept speaking so we started creating and developing our own prints and jacquards. And then we just do new color ways, whatever the vibes are each season.
What do you two do to stay fit?
John: I do Barry's Bootcamp.
Scott: Right now I've been eating really clean. I've been doing no dairy, no meat. Basically vegan and fish, whatever the hell that means... And then I love yoga, the elliptical, the stair master, running.
What's your perfect day off?
Scott: Laying in the sun.
John: Mine would be on the couch watching TV with my boyfriend.
What about your perfect night out?
John: It could involve strippers...
Scott: Yours would be with your boyfriend. Alone in bed. Mine would be laughing with friends.
John: Mine would always surround some sort of good meal or food. That always grounds us.
And now, what everyone wants to know. What inspired your Instagram handles?Scott: Everyone's was so boring! They were like @ScottStudenberg.
John: And I'm very boring so my handle was [my name].
Scott: So one day we were in LA going to a haunted house thing to meet up with a friend of ours and someone ran up to John and was like, 'Oh my gosh you're Scott Loves Palm Trees!'
John: And I was like, 'No. I'm John Loves Pinecones."
Scott: Because we were like in a forrest with this big pine tree.
John: Then we changed it. I don't like pine cones for shit.
Scott: But I do love palm trees.