The Uncanny Sense of Boris Bidjan Saberi
Boris Bidjan Saberi: A man of modest background but extravagant dedication to his craftsmanship and design philosophy.
It is well known BBS comes from a dynamic cultural heritage, his Father being Persian/Russian and Mother Irish/German and a love for skateboarding and punk music, but only upon visiting him at his showroom in Paris and having an extended sit-down that we had access to really understand more of how these elements have come to shape his work.
We began our conversation with his move to Montserrat, Spain. He described the surroundings of his new home, “a big mountain behind him, a river in front”. Perfect “Feng Shui” we point out, but totally unintentional he replies; the thought provoked him, but alas he credited the selection of his new environment to mere common sense. Beautiful, empowering and cost-effective, it was what he could afford at the time, 18 years ago. However, this “common sense” he expressed would be a reoccurring theme throughout our dialogue, and we soon began to realize the elevated sense in which he functions.
As we dig deeper into his origins, BBS quickly speaks about his father, a former textile engineer from Iran who moved the family to a small town in Bavaria when he was just an infant. The daringness of his father fascinated him. Boris spends a minute recollecting the unfriendly conditions and hardships that ensued from immigration. “Where did the rain bring you in from?” BBS reflects, was an insult by the local kids (spoken in Bavarian) that sticks with him to this day. Add rejection to insult, and we imagine a boy navigating his way around not belonging. Certainly this culture that established an “unwelcoming,” atmosphere along with his father’s perseverance under such circumstances, may be what initially attracted Boris to his integral passion: skate and punk.
“Punk is not just music, its much more than that,” Boris emphasized when speaking about his influences.
Boris felt intensely strong about his perception for his skate and punk past. These sub-cultures always had a spirit of rebellion, anti-establishment, and living outside the social norm. But for those outsiders, like Boris, that found solace in this way of life, IT was about the craft, the community, and taking power into ones own hands. They adhered to a certain code of conduct: a “so be it” attitude and “keeping it real.” Skateboarding and punk always had a symbiotic relationship, inspiring each other but existing within their own ecosystems. Both art forms played off one another, sharing a common DIY (Do-It-Yourself) approach to life and authenticity towards the image one portrays. This meant that what one wore, one lived, especially during a time before both would be considered as “fashionable.” Oddly enough, the manner in which some punk kids created home-made “Zines” (short for Magazine) with Sharpie markers on plain white paper could be the same indie (independent) initiative that sparked Boris to make clothes, feeling that there was nothing existing that spoke to him.
As we segue into his work, the authenticity and aim to be genuine became ever so present. He spoke at length about designers having to find their own path, really sticking to their lane, and not sacrificing or selling out to external circumstances. He explained, “Every time I make a piece, I ask myself, is this mine?” If a design is just a hint too much of someone else’s known style he will scrap it. Casually, he references his close comradery with Carol (Christian Carol Poell), whom he shares many striking coincidences including living only one small town away from each other. “Rubber dipped is Carols,” he gives as an example.
It goes without saying both Boris and Carol are giants in leading a specifically revered aesthetic, but Boris makes clear the importance of holding true to his own identity as a designer. It also goes without saying, that many designers would credit Boris as an inspiration for their own brands. Being a source for many, we ask about the personal inspirations behind his design.
Its rumored Boris has a large collection of military clothing in his personal archives, I promptly ask him about it. He explains, as a child, he was always fascinated with the sense of “touch.” He liked to touch everything. Perhaps it was his way to evaluate things external of himself, but evidently transmits into his work with fabrics and textiles. He started collecting military clothing from as far back as the First World War, examining and feeling out the technical wear of its time. Curiosity led to figuring out each piece’s purpose, dissecting the rhyme and reason behind such used materials. For anyone that has encountered a BBS or 11 by BBS product, once beyond the impressive initial aesthetic of shape and silhouette, it becomes ever apparent how his fascination with touch translates into his choice of fabrics. Each piece has a unique feel, and refined taste of material in relationship to its “look.” In other words they feel damn good. This practice even extends to his team who are encouraged to feel and wear all pieces in each collection. One could say Boris’ personal process has become company culture.
Examine further and notice Boris’ past experiences realized in the details of his garments. When asked about his signature hang tag (that no owner dares cut off), he explains the inspiration is from his days rock climbing, and wanting to create something that just hung on no matter what. Looking inside one of his hand sewn pants, one will see that each button is intricately tied together by a thin shoe string, which he credits to his skating days and using shoe strings to hold up his pants. He developed the shape of his original pant design from a 7 year-old worn out pair of Levis 505. When asked about what pieces from his new collection excite him, he pulls out his new seamless cashmere sweater, pointing out that at first glance it may not be that impressive, but upon inspection it is indeed master craftsmanship.
For many, its easy to consider a Boris piece as artistry, but when asked if he considers himself an artist, he quickly dismisses and says, “I believe that is for others to decide, I am a designer,” demonstrating his focus on the construction and problem-solving of putting garments together. Creating clothes can be artistic, but in the business of fashion, if one cannot reproduce the creation then it is not in the spectrum of fashion design. “I’ve created many great pieces, but it doesn’t matter because I was not able to recreate them,” he explains. At this time, he shares his appreciation for another respected counterpart Rick Owens, and his ability to produce with such scale and success. After all, clothes are designed for sale and when it comes down to it, Boris Bidjan Saberi is not just a man, but also a clothing brand.
When art meets commerce, sometimes the lines between personalities and brands get mixed up in the world of fashion. Also, marketing and PR sometimes has a tendency to outweigh design. We try to get a better sense of Boris by his relationship to these conditions: the industry. Boris is very forthright in this regard. Going back to his own standards, he believes that currently there are too many people that produce product, but do not deliver quality. He especially has a disdain for companies that play off the ignorance of those that do not understand they are being duped into low quality garments, and high-level marketing. Boris points out that it is not right, from a moral and ethical standpoint. Along these lines, we also see just how much culture has become another “look” in the line-up for so many brands. But Boris remains resistant towards letting the money mold or dictate the direction of both his lines (BBS and 11 by BBS).
In conclusion, when we ask ourselves who Boris is, we get the impression that he just wants the work to speak for itself. Opting to not have photos taken (no Instagram-type selfies) and when pictures are taken of him, it is usually of him working on his craft. Our meeting was informal, more of a “feeling-out” to get to know each other, and he was just as interested in our personal backgrounds as we were in his. As for his design process, its apparent he works from the ground up, relying on his personal sense to things, his past, and translating that into something others can appreciate. It could be said that his school of thought is subscribed to that of someone like Thomas Edison, who once famously claimed that “Genius is 98% Perspiration and 2% Inspiration.” Boris Bidjan Saberi is passionate, instinctual, and has a strong belief of how he wants to express his vision in this world.
“I’m just some skateboard/snowboard, punk weirdo” – Boris
Interview by Jasin Chang @Jas1n and Akenz team.