We caught up with Brendon Babenzien to talk about growth, summer and the idea of collaboration
After passing the torch as creative director at Supreme, Brendon Babenzien embarked on his own personal journey with his revived brand, Noah. Over the past year, Noah has made waves with its outspoken clothing and has become synonymous with quality and style. Like many of our favourite brands, Noah carries a message and often it has a lot to say. From commenting on the Black Lives Matter movement to refining their packaging to help the environment, Noah has earned our respect through its honest products and conscious decisions.
This season, Dover Street Market will be stocking a selection of Noah goods here in the UK. Ahead of their arrival, we caught up with Brendon Babenzien to talk about growth, summer and the idea of collaboration.
Noah needs little introduction at this stage as the brand seems to go from strength to strength. From your point of view, how do you feel about the continued growth? Are you happy with the success so far?
I’m incredibly happy. I was not sure how people would respond to what we wanted to do. But so far the support has been incredible from both the public, and the factories and suppliers that we work with.
Have you found the brand has resonated well worldwide then, outside of New York and the USA?
It’s hard for me to say how well it is resonating. It seems like people are connecting with what we are doing and saying, but it is so early I wouldn’t dare come out and say we’ve touched on something. I would rather be thankful for anyone who has connected with us for any reason and I hope to become a bit better each season so we continue to earn support.
You seem to work tirelessly when it comes to sourcing fabrics from around the world. Is where a fabric comes from important to you? Do you use many suppliers in the UK and the EU?
Fabrics are everything to me. I love high quality fabrics because it makes all the difference in a garment. It basically determines how long a garment will last. A ripped seam can be re sewn but if a fabric tears or wears through it is a bit more difficult to repair properly. We source fabrics mainly from Italy, the UK and Japan. Occasionally a few come from other European countries as well. Basically we’re just trying to find the best things for a particular item. I’ll buy it wherever it’s from as long as it’s the right thing.
I know the collab with Greats was pretty organic and a real family affair but what do you normally look for in a collaborator?
Collaborations are tricky for me. What began as a way to just produce something great with a company that may do something incredibly well has become mostly marketing. A few companies are still collaborating for the right reasons and producing amazing things. Most however are just trying to make noise. To be honest we will collaborate when it makes sense but we are not actively seeking them out. If they come along and it is something we can’t do ourselves than we will do it. Otherwise I’m happy to focus on our own stuff.
The aesthetics don’t restrict the brand at all and a variety of people seem to pick it up, but do you design with a particular lifestyle in mind? For me it seems like a more mature line.
We don’t think about a particular lifestyle in the traditional sense that the fashion industry does. We think that today’s customer is much more complex than saying this person is just a surfer or skater or this person is only into fashion or this person is conservative. It’s bananas to think that way. Today’s customer is so much more informed and deserves to be treated with a bit more respect. They have many interests. We touch the things we know about and are not trying to be everything to everybody — but because of who we are, we can touch a lot of different topics with honesty. Luckily, by default, it allows us to have a wide audience.
A lot of your products and social media output contain a strong message. Is it important as a brand to stand up and speak for something when there’s so much we need to change?
It’s important to us to speak out. It’s how it all began for me. When I was young I gravitated towards brands that were talking about what was going on. Pervert was definitely a bit of social commentary. Another brand that was one of my favourites as a kid was Zero Sophisto. It was Andy Howell I think who was a skater and did a lot – or maybe all of – the graphics for New Deal. It wasn’t around long but I loved the concept. Zero Sophisto was a baby born into a world of chaos and pollution. Pretty prophetic really. We have the advantage of social media now so we can bring attention to issues if we want. If we don’t say things or use the business to create some type of change, then we’re just part of the corporate culture which exists purely for profit.
Noah is definitely one of the most well curated lifestyle brands around. Which elements of the arts and culture are the strongest inspirations?
Very simply, music. Besides that, it’s really about activity more than the arts. We’re happy to see people engaged in life and doing things. Not just using fashion or purchasing as a hobby.
The store looks awesome and really well put together. Do you think it’s important for retail spaces to have that warm and friendly atmosphere?
The warmth of the store is thanks to my wife Estelle. She handles all of the interiors for us and really knows what we want. It was incredibly important to me that the store was an extension of our real life. It’s really not just a store – it’s a second home for us. The idea is that if you have to spend 5 days a week 8 hours a day somewhere, it should be comfortable and warm. The people that work with me are my extended family and the workplace needs to be a place they like to go to. We actually have a lot of work to do in that area though – I’m happy with the store, but look forward to the day I can create a better work space for the rest of my team. That’s a big goal that the public will not really see.
It seems family life as well as sport and outdoor activity is also a big part of the Noah lifestyle. What is your favourite thing to get out and do on a weekend? Have you and your family found way more time to enjoy together now you are your own boss?
We basically try to go to the beach as often as possible. We had a lucky summer where we really only missed 3 weekends at the beach. We’ll go every opportunity we get. We want our daughter to see animals and sea creatures on the regular and be comfortable out of the city so nature is not a novelty for her.
When you’re not wearing Noah, are there any other brands that make it into your day to day rotation? Is it all about consuming less but better?
I’m not really a brand guy. I buy clothes in a very specific way. I don’t really buy any fashion, I buy things mostly based on purpose. If I need a country jacket, I’m grabbing a Barbour for instance. Style plays a large role for me. It’s less about the latest and the greatest and more about a steady approach to dressing that evolves slowly based on the times, but is simply rooted in the past.
Finally, and back to the brand: what should we be looking forward to in the near future?
The future for Noah is pretty simple. We want to continue to improve in every way. We’ll be opening in DSM London this coming month. Besides that we just want to make better products and satisfy the needs of our customers while internally improving our environmental and social positions. Not easy to do all at once so we’re willing to take it very slow.
Words by Daniel Eaton.
Edited by Daniel Hawksworth.