Fashion

An Interview With the Creative Director of Bib + Tuck

Fashion

An Interview With the Creative Director of Bib + Tuck

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Technically, Bib + Tuck is an online consignment store, but intuitively, it’s a brand — first conceived by Saris Azout and Bibliowicz in the late 1980s, when the two met in preschool in Colombia. After twenty years of sharing closets, and unwilling to pay money to replenish their exhausted wardrobes, Sari A and Sari B decided to make the world their closet. As with all successful online ventures, the key word is “curate” — a seamless integration of order and taste. For a generation of fashion kids raised on Tumblr and streetstyle blogs, Bib + Tuck is something special indeed. Posts on the Bib + Tuck blog, “Tucked-In,” include weekly roundups by Molly Soda, videos featuring the likes of the Idiosyncratic Fashionistas and Genevieve Belleveau, and a whiskey-fueled web series in which the very funny Jilly Hendrix chats with esteemed industry insiders. The ethos of Bib + Tuck embraces the internet’s infinite wealth of creativity, honing in on like-minded artists and personalities with instinctive precision.

Brand identity is intertwined with the business side of Bib + Tuck, and what keeps it in shipshape. Before any bibbing or tucking can happen (selling and buying, respectively), clothing has to be approved piece by piece, to maintain aesthetic. Funds earned can either be transferred to a bank account or put towards store credit, and commission for each purchase is a low 15%. Bib + Tuck focuses on building community — the experience of raiding infinite wardrobes — over profit, and the person entrusted with protecting this experience is Ilana Savdie, creative director of Bib + Tuck and fellow childhood friend of the Saris. “We try to harness energy from people who have very much defined their voices, and whose style and aesthetic we feel really aligns with ours,” Savdie summarizes.

As a director, stylist, producer, and painter on the side, Savdie is a wearer of many hats. We asked her about going from URL to IRL, and how she finds time to sleep.

What were you doing before becoming creative director of Bib + Tuck?
I used to work for Calvin Klein fragrances, and then I was just painting for a long time. Calvin Klein was a really fun foray into the beauty industry — totally bizarre, but really exciting. When I freelanced with Bib + Tuck, it started to seem like something real and something I wanted to be a part of, and I just really believed in both Saris and their vision. So, I focused all my attention to Bib + Tuck.

Did you know Sari and Sari before?
I actually grew up with both Saris. We all grew up in Colombia together, and we knew each other since kindergarten, pretty much. They knew I was a designer, and they knew that I knew about aesthetic, so they reached out to me to start branding and designing the website. I had a lot of freedom because they trusted my vision, and I really appreciated that. It’s really hard to find that when you’re starting off as a designer.

Knowing them when they were younger, were you surprised that they created Bib + Tuck as adults?
Well, I knew they were both smart girls, but I didn’t know that they were sharp as fucking tacks. They really delivered on everything that they said — a website, social networking, an app. People talk so much, but you don’t really know who has that follow-through.

Did you feel like their aesthetic matched yours?
We both understood the sort of person that we wanted to appeal to. We had a big think tank moment when I joined the team, and we really figured out who the Bib + Tuck person is: a bold and intelligent person who isn’t easily shocked. The items on the site are dictated by our users, so it’s very important who our users are — we want people to get it, whatever ‘it’ is. They place a lot of value on brand identity, and they let me protect it, which is my priority.

Is it safe to say that the majority of the Bib + Tuck demographic are artists? The people you feature and collaborate with have all been artists.
Yeah, a huge percentage of our user base is part of a creative industry one way or another. Artists are people that take a lot of risks, especially when they’re people that have carved their identity from their appearance and aesthetic. They tend to wear certain styles that aren’t yet comfortable to a lot of people, so their clothes are very on-trend by the time they get rid of them. This is very much a person we want to have on the site, if only for that reason.

You just worked with Molly Soda. How do you choose the people you feature? Do you have to have a consensus?
Since we’re a small team, if there’s somebody I like and want to do something with, I’ll just sort of reach out or put them in touch with someone else. Molly actually was part of this new series I’m putting together — sort of an Artist of the Week, which is something I really wanted to do for a little while. I’ve been trying to do something where I get artists that I respect to give us their perspective on the highlights of the week. I also think it’s a way to show a little bit of aesthetic. Molly was the first one that we worked with, and I met her when we were putting together the Bib + Tuck launch event. She was one of the girls in the video series we made, which projected conceptual visuals related to the event.

The internet is such a big part of what you do — even in your own personal artwork, you’ve painted these huge screenshots of Skype calls. How do you view the relationship between your work and the internet?
All of the visual elements and all the social experiences you get from the internet — it’s like a new vocabulary. It’s not something you can ignore anymore, and I think it’s part of our language now. I like the idea of not using it as a concept in any way, but using it as a medium. I think that we believe very much in the fact that the social experiences that you have online are as relevant as the social experiences that you have in person, just in different ways. People tend to talk about how much we need to disconnect and go outside, but I actually think people having their social experiences on the internet really does lead to disconnecting and going outside. We’ve seen users really become friends with people that they buy clothes from, because it goes, for lack of a better term, from URL back to IRL back to URL back to IRL.

Let’s talk about the clothes — I assume a healthy percentage of what’s on the site is vintage, right? We were just talking about the internet and the future and everything, but why do you think vintage is having such a moment right now?
I guess because there’s such a mass production of fast-fashion brands, and you see the same things on a lot of different people. Places like Bib + Tuck really do allow you to find the people whose closets you want to follow and really be able to raid their closets. Literally, you can actually do that. And that’s where the social experience comes in. If you like a specific kind of vintage, then you can really find the type of people who have that closet and you can follow them. You can create your own experience on the site, which is what is really exciting about it. Trends very much come back, and I think when they reach a certain point, they become acceptable again as vintage. Part of what we really believe in is this sustainable element of a shared economy with fashion, and it’s definitely having people contribute things that are vintage. Clothing has to be approved by all of us if they’re vintage and not part of the approved or unapproved brand list, to kind of keep the aesthetic to a curated level.

You’ve directed and produced and styled a lot for Bib + Tuck. Did you have to take on a lot and just learn as you went along? Or was this all in your skill set already?
No, not at all. I definitely took on roles that weren’t things that I ever really planned to do. You really get your hands dirty when you’re working in a startup. I actually found that I hate everything about styling, but I love directing a shoot or directing and editing videos. I really like the idea of having control over a brand’s image, and knowing that my vision is being executed correctly.

And you’re also a painter. How do you have time to do all this?
[laughs] I don’t sleep. At all. I’m actually painting right now.

How do you not sleep? I never sleep either, so I’m always asking people for tips. [laughs]
Oh, I’m crazy like 95% of the time. I talk about this endlessly to my parents and friends and everyone is exhausted hearing about it. I love what I went to school for — it’s why I moved to New York. So painting has always been there, and I have always planned on that. I like the idea that because conceptually it overlaps with my job, I’m able to find inspiration in my day-to-day at Bib + Tuck. I just come home from that every day and continue working. I have a studio in my apartment which really helps, and once I get past the conceptualizing and sketching and the initial stages, it becomes very Zen for me, you know?

Photo by Kelly Kai