What’s the recipe to building a successful international business? For starters, don’t think of it as one. Secondly, grab your childhood best friend and do it together. Finally, travel around the world to find your inspiration. Before you know it, L Capital, the investment arm of LVMH, will come calling and propose to expand the brand globally. In fact, it is precisely international expansion that brings Barbara Boccara and Sharon Krief of lust-have label ba&sh (the brand takes the first two letters of their names) from their native Paris into the steamy mid June heat of Hong Kong.
It is immediately apparent that the two women are paragons of the fabled French je ne sais quoi. Krief is dressed in a summery green maxi dress and Boccara in a belted monochrome patterned number that skims the floor. Born and raised in the City of Lights, they seem to have breezed through life hand in hand. “We met in school. We passed our final exams together. We do very important things together so we studied together only separating at university,” Krief shares. “She studied PR, I studied law. We didn’t like it so much so we got married, we got children, and then we got bored. That was when we decided to do something together.”
Nodding, Boccara adds, “We make what we want to wear. We didn’t make a brand; we didn’t start with a business. It’s a very nice story because when we started designing the first collection, we didn’t say okay, let’s do it like this or that. We just made what we wanted to wear. We created this brand as consumers and that was it.”
To build a brand based on their own wants and needs was a savvy decision, given that when the label was founded in 2003 the retail market in Paris consisted of two polarities: affordable mass brands or luxury super brands. “We decided to create our own line of things for working women, who like nice quality and nice fabric but don’t want to spend so much for one season or so cheap. That’s literally how affordable brands began at that time. We and some other brands created brands for this market,” Boccara explains. “We decided to create a brand we like and we decided to sell it where we would like to buy it, and it was hard at first to convince buyers because we would go into these luxury multi-brand stores and they did not want to at first, but little by little it worked.”
The clothes are as bohemian and contemporary as the women who design them. When it was just the two of them, Boccara and Krief would to fly to exotic locales in India, Ibiza and Marrakesh for inspiration. These days, the team has expanded but the method remains the same. According to Krief, “Every season we take all our team (and we now have a big team) out of the office to create. No phones, nothing. Only creation. Sometimes it’s outside Paris, sometimes India, sometimes Ibiza for one week. Everybody brings pictures, fabric and everything we like and we mix it all together during that week and then the collection starts!”
The label has a clear focus on comfort and ease, which Krief is at pains to share, “We have never been fashion addicts, not even now. Ba&sh is not a fashion-addicted brand, it’s trendy and wearable. We are very sensitive to this day about the fabrics we like. All our factories tell us that ours is the ba&sh washing. There is a lot of washing because we want it to be soft, if we try something and it itches or doesn’t feel nice, we don’t accept it.” With five children between them, of which three are daughters between the ages of nineteen and twenty-two, the brand dresses the entire gang, perfect for parties along the coast of Ibiza where dinners and dancing late into the night demand chic comfort.
No longer a Parisian insider’s secret treasure trove, with Hong Kong outposts in IFC, Times Square, Harbour City, and boutiques in London, Dubai and America, the two friends are ecstatic to be sharing their wares. Boccara says, “It’s an easy brand to expand everywhere because this kind of affordable luxury suits everyone. I think girls like these kinds of brands because you get quality at a fair price that’s easy to wear and feminine.” Krief chimes in to confirm that the ba&sh girl transcends borders, “We feel the girls from Paris, Hong Kong, New York and London are the same. She’s feminine, enjoys life, self-confident, works, likes to party, to go out at night with friends and kids. She loves life!” With aims of expanding throughout mainland China in the near future, girls from Ibiza to Beijing can expect to have a blast in ba&sh in no time.