Behind the Brand with Agnes B.
Behind the Brand with Agnes B.
Timeless and restrained. Effortlessly stylish and quintessentially French. agnès B is a designer who needs no introduction. Today, agnès b. continues to design each collection that bears her name, including accessories, watches, jewelry, and sunglasses. The company has more than three hundred shops throughout the world and we're proud to welcome them to THE TENTS for the first season.
Read on for how she got her start, creating cult classic pieces, her iconic marketing strategies and her foray into menswear in this exclusive interview with agnès b..
BEHIND THE BRAND: AGNES B
Prior to starting your eponymous line, you were an editor at Elle Magazine. What inspired you to take the leap and launch your own line?
At the time, I found fashion too complicated. I wanted to start from scratch, taking work clothes as a basis. I brought a new take on painters’ trousers, the waiter’s jacket, the builder’s overalls. I opened my first store at 3, rue du Jour in the Les Halles area of Paris, a former butcher’s shop, which is today the agnès b. menswear flagship store.
agnès b. is all about the signature, simple pieces. Wardrobe staples that can be worn for a lifetime. Tell us a little bit about the Striped T and the Snap Cardigan and the inspiration behind them.
It was a long time ago that I designed the snap cardigan for myself. I wanted a sweatshirt that opens at the front, with snap buttons, made to resemble clothing from the 18th century. An item that could be worn by everyone - kids, women or men.
The snap cardigan has been called a “cult object” and an “emblem of Parisian chic, brilliant in its simplicity.” Different versions of the snap cardigan are offered in each agnès b. collection, in cotton fleece, jersey, cashmere, even leather.
The striped t-shirt appeared in the first agnès b. store in Paris in 1976. Made from fabric normally used in rugby uniforms, agnès designed the striped t-shirt in both thick and thin stripes, in many different colorways. The striped shirt has been a part of the agnès b. collection every since.
What inspired agnès to foray into menswear?
Because I love to dress men! I started a long time ago, in the 80s, with block color shirts, jackets and workwear-inspired pieces. I love to dress my male friends, artists, musicians...the band Interpol, Harvey Keitel, David Lynch, and David Bowie would visit the store by himself to pick out new things. I still have fun when I am designing the men’s collections which I show twice a year in Paris during Men’s Fashion Week. My collections for men have a feminine aspect – the tweed jackets are soft, the materials are light, the lines hug the form… touch is very important.
Since it's launch in 1975 agnès b. has grown into a global lifestyle brand that includes men's, women's, children's, accessories and cosmetics. How has the brand evolved over the years, both in terms of aesthetic and as a business?
I keep everything simple, manageable, and not becoming too big. With my team and the atelier, I design clothes that you can play, clothes that can be worn day and night, dress up or dress down. I’ve always kept the same aesthetics, not changing too much, when designing my collections for men and women. My clothing can be considered “timeless” – you can grow up wearing my clothing.
Tell us a little bit about the Fall '16 men's collection and it's inspiration.
For Fall 2016, agnès b. has revived the strong codes of the brand. Several themes are conveyed in this collection - Sportswear, Urban Man, Evening, and 18th Century.
For sportswear, graphic prints parkas are modern and contemporary and mixed with checks and tweed. All the silhouettes are accessorized with wool beanies or leather hats. Lots of outerwear options are proposed for the Urban Man. Long, straight-cut, single-breasted or double breasted, belted, shown in warm and rich fabrics like - flannel and tweed.
Colors for fall 2016 includes dark grey, black, navy blue, and beige mixed with peacock blue, orange, red and emerald green.
For evening, there is a elegant selection of suits and tuxedos. Mostly in lightweight black wool, but also a few touches of windowpane checks and tweed, paired with thick turtleneck sweaters, and t-shirts with photoprints of photographs taken by myself! Another inspiration for Fall 2016 collection is the 18th century, and here the tone changes. A short peacock blue jacket modernized in linen, velvet redingotes, and lace collar shirts evoke this historical period that is very precious in my eyes.
agnès b. always includes “les permanents” - iconic pieces of the brand - in the collection, pieces that are available each season, that includes classic white shirts, slim cut black suits, skinny ties, lightweight cardigans, straight–cut jeans and round neck t-shirts.
The brand famously lacks advertising, what does agnès b. do to promote? What other promotional channels have proven important / successful to the brand and how do you utilize them?
I have never advertised in the traditional method, which I see as manipulation. Instead, I have supported things I love - film projects, art exhibitions, book launches, young artists, musicians…many things. I am also the main supporter of Tara, a French research boat that began a 2-year voyage to study coral reefs in the oceans in May. Tara will arrive in Miami in June and continue on to the Pacific Ocean, after the Polynesia Islands. Tara is a fantastic story that began in 2004. Today, young people have become more environmentally aware because of Tara and its expeditions.
Anything exciting coming down the pipeline for the brand?
2016 is the 40-year anniversary of the agnès b. brand. A number of events have been planned worldwide to celebrate the 40-year anniversary. In June, agnès b. will re-issue 26 of the most iconic t-shirts from the Artists T-shirts collection, including designs by Futura, Gilbert & George, Harmony Korine, Kenneth Anger, Dash Snow, and Jean Michel Basquiat. A 40-year retrospective book is also in the works. Set to be published in France in fall 2016, the book will include images from 1976 through today.
Images courtesy of agnès b.