Friday, 14 May 2010

An interview with Barnabé Hardy, the former menswear designer at Balenciaga

for the first ever interview series for the blog, i am deeply honored to be able to interview barnabé hardy. i've probably said it too many times: i am a massive fan of balenciaga menswear and knowing that it was barnabé who was at the helm made it all the more exciting for me. while hard at work on my full time desk bound non fashion related job, i pondered on the interview format, and the questions that i would like to pose to him. should the title be "An exclusive interview with Barnabé Hardy, the former menswear designer at Balenciaga", or should it just be "An exclusive interview with Barnabé Hardy". if i had that on my resume i would use it to my advantage, hence i kept the referencing title. i knew i would go overboard with the balenciaga overkill, so i was conscious to keep questions on that to a minimal. i wanted to find out more about him, his decisions making process, his collections. what followed was then a series of email dialogues, my 16 questions for monsieur hardy.

i wanted to pick up the phone and say hello, and conduct the interview that way, but i feared some of the ideas, and the non professional journalist in me might lose that in translation. monsieur hardy very kindly obliged the interview in english, which made me all the more ashamed that i do not know another european language.

long intro aside, i hope you guys will enjoy this very personal and exclusive transcript.

[00o00] for readers who might not be familiar with your work, can you tell us briefly where you worked at previously prior to starting your own label?
BH: i started my career as the menswear designer for a sportswear and casual collection for a french label. then i went and work with nicolas ghesquiere for callaghan in italy. i was freelancing at that time, and worked on the balenciaga shows. i was also the assistant for marie amélie sauvé for vogue & numero magazines.

on the side, i also created and developed my first brand “minets par barnabé”, a collection of embroidered sweat shirts for men.

how was it like working with nicolas ghesquiere at balenciaga? did you have full control of the menswear design functions when you were there?
BH: working with nicolas was a very good school. every season the challenge was to create a new attractive and contemporary collection, with a constant attention on precise design and high quality definitions. the balenciaga menswear was created because we wanted a collection that we could wear ourselves. of course i was working under the artistic direction of nicolas, but with a complete freedom. making those collections also felt very personal.

can you tell us the reasons for you leaving balenciaga?
BH: i started to work for balenciaga when i was 24, after 8 years i was ready to express myself in my own collection. it is something that you feel, that you need, it was the perfect time for me to do the big jump.

when you started the menswear line at balenciaga in 1999, there was no history or archives to reference back as cristobal only did womenswear. what challenges did you face, and did you face the same issues when you decide to launch your own label?

BH: i started work in the studio for the woman’s line so i knew the spirit of the house. then for the men’s line the inspiration was a bit selfish and we designed clothes that we couldn’t find for ourselves. but we tried to keep the same spirit as that of the womenswear collections. for my own label, everything was very clear because i had that project for many years. i knew exactly the concept of my collection and how i wanted to create it.

then one day you just realise, it’s time to do it.

you launched your range of high end leather jackets in 2009, right when the economy went into recession. that seemed like a very brave thing to do, did you encounter any problems or issues?
BH: when i started my collection and my business, i did not think about the world economic situation. starting your own business is always a challenge especially in france. on the other hand, medias and buyers have been very receptive to a new brand with a new proposal. i also had the chance to develop a high end luxury brand that was less affected by the crisis. i think that our customers want something more personal and exclusive.

your collections are largely focused on outerwear. is there a reason why, are you fascinated by silhouettes for menswear?

BH: creating men’s outwear is like designing an object. the silhouette is important but you also have to pay attention to the exterior and interior details, as well as the functionality, comfort and resistance. men like all those details, like in high-speed cars or expensive watches. they like objects that they can keep for years and will be even more seductive with time. creating with leather or fur is also another dimension of protection.

can you talk us through the theme or inspiration behind your fall winter 2010 collection?
BH: i found my inspiration during my holidays in an amazing game farm in south africa. it is why this collection has more of an "animal effect" (fur placement, shearling, fur collar etc). and i still wanted to continue my work around "a protective shell", using my "codes" on the patchwork / origami jacket, the military jacket or the biker’s jacket. i used the same "codes" and details for my first knitwear collection, the same way of creation.

as compared to your previous designs, there were more luxurious elements in your fall winter 2010 collection: shearling (the above brown shearling biker jacket is my absolute favourite!), racoon and fox fur, intricate designs on the lambs leather. when you designed the collection, did you envisage that the economy will recover and buyers will purchase more luxurious pieces? or was it a natural progression for you to move on from classic leather jackets?

can you describe to us who is the "barnabé hardy" man?

BH: the “barnabé hardy” man is active, trendy and urban, very in the real working time. he likes or has to travel around the world, he pays attention to fashion but is not a fashion victim. he likes nice fabrics, perfect fitting and is sensible to every visible or invisible details, which makes him exclusive and powerful like a “contemporary knight”.

is there anything in your career history that you regret doing or in hindsight would have done differently?
BH: this is the first time that i have to answer this question and to be honest, i never think about regrets. life is made up of experiences, positives and negatives. positive ones will give you satisfaction and happiness but negative ones will help you to improve yourself and go further.

how hands on are you with your own collections? do you have a big design/production team working for you?
BH: my team is very small. this coming season we will have a new show room for my sales and for my commercial relations, which is really important for me. i have the chance to work with factories that i have been working with for a long time. the relationships with my manufacturers are really precious. you can have great and amazing ideas, but without good manufacturers your ideas won’t go anywhere.

are you currently designing/consulting for any other fashion houses? is this something you like doing or consider in the future?

BH: yes, i continue to work for other houses. i like to work on different projects in different ways. every one gives me energies and opens my creativity, even if the schedule is sometimes very intense!

what do you think of designer and high street collaborations? is this something you would consider doing?
BH: i appreciate this kind of collaborations if there are bridges and consistency between them. i could easily consider doing it.

who is your favorite designer, can you tell us why?

BH: raf simons is one of my favorites. i follow his work from the beginning and have seen almost all his shows. for me, he is the first to work on the new idea of a men’s wardrobe, but he keeps and plays with well-defined and traditional codes.

can you describe your usual dressing style? do you have a favorite store or like wearing clothes from a certain designer? is there a piece of accessory or clothing you cannot live without?
BH: my usual dressing style is a mixed of preppy style, with colors, prints, vintage and designer’s garments. i am definitely not a "black-clothes person"! i am sensitive to fabrics and i prefer the natural ones. the fit and proportions are very important but clothes must remain comfortable. i don’t really have something that i never live with; i am not such a fetishist with objects.

the most important thing in life is perhaps to be surrounded by your good friends.

can you give us a hint how your spring 2011 collection will be like?
BH: it is too soon. the only thing i can tell is that it will be in the continuity of my previous collections. i am developing new lines but you need surprises, so see you in june!

in the first pic, barnabé wore the patchwork bomber jacket from his fall winter 2010 collection. the jacket will retail for about €1,400, and available from if you are interested in any other pieces from this collection, a special order can be made via, manufacture and delivery will take approximately four weeks.

many thanks to barnabé for obliging in this interview. i really enjoyed this, quite possibly the longest time i've spend on one blog post, but totally worth it.





  1. Nice one 00o00! Wouldn't have known for Barnabé if it weren't for this (or some of your previous) blog posts.

    Keep it up!

  2. Very interesting interview, and thank you for introducing him. That shearling jacket looks amazing! Would you know the retail price of that?

  3. nice work

  4. Thank you, Joe. Superb interview. Very perceptive questions, and this is entirely valid, as our interst is really piqued by the intellectual rigour behind the design decisions.

  5. this is very inspiring! he designs what he wants to wear, that's cool! also, i love the term "contemporary knight". he's such a talented designer. potential next marc jacobs ;)

  6. Excellent job Joe! Indeed you're the blogger authority in menswear.

    P.S. The brown shearling biker jacket gives me the goosebumps.

  7. such an insightful interview. he's left a great portfolio of work and design behind him for the brand!

  8. Great interview Joe!

  9. Great interview! I love both the questions and the answers. I look forward to seeing more interviews like this!

  10. Great interview with brilliant questions. Only gripe is your grammar and vocabulary as its annoying to see that you can't be bothered using any capital letters. Also the words "previously prior" sound stupid together.

  11. Love it.

    Joe u're very talented, after the financial analysis, now the interview? I'm gonna call Condé Nast, u shoul be in Vogue Hommes International.

    Keep blogging!!!

  12. Great interview. I did not know him & I am glad you made me discover his work. This bicker jacket is to die for. Pity I cannot afford it.

    I'll definitely subscribe to your blog from now on.

  13. learned a new thing 'bout BALENCIAGA. thank you so much! you are simply great! now, i have a new designer to look forward to. if you will ever write a book about everything BALENCIAGA, i'll buy it!

  14. That was great interview lovely to read and super interesting! Plus, I love the way you formatted the text and the pics.


what's he wearing?