Barbara Bui: The FWO Interview
Romy Schnieder and Alain Delon on the Côte d’Azur. A trip on the Orient Express from Istanbul to Calais. These are all backdrops that come to mind when looking at the spot-on international elegance that Barbara Bui is famous for.
In advance of Fall / Winter 2016 Paris Fashion Week, our Paris editor Hannah Leverson had a chance to ask Barbara some questions about what makes Barbara Bui … Barbara Bui.
Q: Before becoming a fashion designer, you performed stand-up comedy. Was comedy something you pursued professionally, or just for fun? Did you have any comedy heroes, and how do you think sense of humor affects you as a designer (if at all)?
I wanted to do stand-up comedy to express my sensitivity but I finally preferred to be author and creator than performer.
I loved Romy Schneider but also Vanessa Paradis’ sensitivity. When I express myself in fashion, I would like to express my emotions when being a woman. It’s almost the same as in music and in movies; it’s just another way of expression.
I would like to express my emotions when being a woman.
Q: You’ve mixed Buddhist monks and hip-hop, masculine with feminine … even combined rough animal textures with glamorous sparkle. Do you think this sense of playfulness and juxtaposition comes from comedy, or perhaps other parts of your background or education?
That comes from my background.
I am half French and half Vietnamese, and that influences my designs. This double culture is a treasure for me. I like talking about opposition, gaps and contradictions. As a woman, I like to emphasize this duality; strength and weakness mixed.
I like talking about opposition, gaps and contradictions.
Q: You titled your first boutique in Paris “Kabuki.” What about the art form of kabuki appeals to you, or resonates with your aesthetic?
Kabuki was originally a play on my Asian backgrounds. As a Parisian-born, it was a way of showing my difference.
Q: Flashback to your first fashion show in 1987. Why do you think that show was so well-received?
Because at that time, designers designed an executive woman or a sexy woman, and that was far from what I wanted for women. It was my point of view of woman for women.
Q: Your brand entered the stock market in the late 1990s after taking off in Paris, after which point it developed in the international market. How integral do you think developing an international market is to reaching success as a brand?
For a high luxury brand like ours, it is essential to be international.
We are sold worldwide, but it is important to me to have eponymous stores in capitals of the world where the clients can find a more complete collection than in multi-label stores.
Q: You’re known for your use of leather and skin in strategic ways. What attracts you to leather in particular?
Leather is a noble, but also rock and sensual. It’s the strength of my collections for day and night; flippancy and also a form of protection.
Leather is a noble, but also rock and sensual.
Q: As you were growing up — before you were designing clothing for a living — did you design clothing in your mind?
When I was a child I wanted to write books. I transformed my desire to tell and share into fashion. It is my way of writing. The most important being the desire to create.
Fashion is my way of writing.
Q: What — and who — do you look to for fashion inspiration?
Books of photographers like Newton, Bayley, Sieff. But also books on travel, cultures, and forgotten ethnic groups.
I am inspired by all the musical movements like rock, pop, punk, hip-hop, trip-hop, and the attitudes that result.