When Fabrice Tardieu graduated from college in Paris, he wasn't sure what he wanted to do. When he asked his fellow classmates what they thought, there was a unanimous reply: "you should be a fashion designer." That moment of clarity was a turning point for Fabrice, who dove headfirst into a career in fashion. First, he was interning and then employed by globally renowned atelier Giorgio Armani. Then, he came to Miami to launch the shirt label Bogosse, and most recently he has launched his signature line, Fabrice Tardieu. We met up with Fabrice in his studio to discuss his career, the vision behind his brand, and of course, to discuss Miami. Hint: on the weekends you'll usually find him at Mondrian South Beach.
Where are you from, and what brought you to Miami?
I'm from Haiti, and it was actually in my plans to move back to Haiti after college, but then there was a lot of political instability and business was very difficult. In Haiti, you're kind of raised to live there, not go after the world. I went to Paris for college and work, and then I came to Miami after living in Paris for a while. I came to start a line of shirts with my brother. He wanted to import other brands, but I said I'll move to Miami, but only if we create our own line.
How did you get your start in the fashion business?
Funny enough, I never realized that's where my passion was, because I was thinking more analytical and not the creative. I was studyin business administration! I was preparing my curriculum, which was my work experience, what my skills were, why I wanted to go into fashion, and so on. I had a little bit of work experience. I got very lucky, and I got two positive answers for an internship. Giorgio Armani and the accessory line at Lagerfeld leather goods both gave me positive feedback. I went with Armani simply because it was walking distance from where I was staying. So it was the right choice for the wrong reason! I had a Haitian passport and a student visa, and I had 6 months to do an internship--that was it. I had to act quickly. I had to convince someone to sponsor me! I was offered a job beyond the internship, and that was my big break. They sponsored me and I was the salesperson for underwear, to sales of the Emporio Armani accessories, then Armani jeans. Everytime I went to Milan for the fashion presentations, I would fight with the design team because I wanted to change things. I told them that for me to sell, they needed to present things in a way that people want to buy. I grew business +30% across the European markets. I never studied design, but I understood what people wanted to wear. That's how the whole design thing started in my mind.
What was the biggest takeaway from working at Giorgio Armani?
Giorgio Armani is the number one brand it Europe. It's not owned by anyone except Armani, and the business methodology changed my life forever. They had a lot of faith in me too, which was huge.
What was it like taking that leap, moving to Miami and starting Bogosse and then transitioning over to your solo line?
It was crazy, but it was the next step for me and it made sense. I moved to Miami and I was working for $200 a week to build this brand with him, doing door to door sales. $200 a week does not do much, we worked very hard. Now, its a major success story with stores in St. Tropez, Mexico City, and more, and it is also sold in stores in Neiman Marcus and Dubai and more. But, after about 10 years, my role in the company sort of ran its course. I was ready to something that offered more creative freedom. I needed more room to express my creativity, and be more diverse and make things like leather shorts and printed sweaters--cooler things. I'm putting hot pink soles on python sneakers, my options are endless. So I jumped into my own brand where I could do these things.
How does Miami inspire your collection?
Miami influences my collection in many ways. The weather, of course, its very tropical and has this Latin flavor. Even in the fall, you'll find colorful pieces. I'm not into monochromatic, and I think Miami supports that. You're in different mood in MIami--you wake up to the sun every day. Everything from Miami is just fresh, in paris and New York you wake up in winter and snow--but when people here are more joyful than in other places, and the ocean, it keeps your mind fresh. Even when we do something basic, we have color somewhere--the lining or some other element. I tend to do short sleeve t-shirts and other practical pieces because everyone at some point in the winter comes to Miami and somewhere tropical, so traditional winter clothes are not in my mind.
What kind of guy wears Fabrice Tardieu?
Very often I find that the person wearing my line is creative. Architects, musicians, entertainment personalities, and also plastic surgeons even, who are designers in their own right. It is the guy who wants to be noticed when he walks into the room, he wants to look stylish but without being flashy. He isn't following trends in a desperate way, its more of a distinguished and tailored way. For example, a tunic that has details that is longer than a traditional dress shirt, but isn't dragging to your knees and so dramatic. It's the guy who looks at details, he isn't the loudest guy, but when he walks around people say, "Who is this guy?" Very refined. Everything is very versatile--I can wear python slip ons with sweatpants and a tee shirt, but also with trousers and a blazer. People who want to look different and cool but also remain comfortable. That was the most important thing about doing this brand. That's why it's laid back luxury. Even the jogging pants are tailored, where they are fitted and tailored. You're comfortable but very refined, and fit is everything with this brand so it's very important to me.
You're currently creating men's luxury apparel and footwear, what's next for Fabrice Tardieu?
Well, we started making women's sneakers. and they are available online. The slip-ons killed it! They are flying, women love them. Python slip ons with great details like zippers and bright colors. And we would also like to open our own retail space here in Miami. I'm a local, so I definitely want a store here.
Who are some Miamians you think have great style?
Definitely one of the most fashionable men in Miami is Yakir Shoushan from Vault. Definitely! Dwayne Wade, definitely one of the most fashionable guys in America in my opinion, and he wears my line which is amazing. He's a very stylish guy. And of course, Max Pierre. He's got that "thing" going on. And for women, Calyann Barnett, she's got amazing style. Also Jenine Howard,the wife of Juwan Howard, she's got great style, it's crazy.
Favorite restaurant: I really like the Cheesus burger at Mondrian! There is nothing like waking up on a Saturday after a night out and looking forward to that huge burger and relaxing by the pool. Like the perfect Saturday. Also the popcorn buffalo wings at the pool are great! Also at Soho House, I really enjoy ordering from Mandolin Beach while I am on the sand. Mandolin is amazing, and now they've put him in a couple of locations. I'm also excited for the River Yacht Club, they bought the Flanigan's on the river, and it's going to be a totally different experience for Miami. It's going to be huge for the boating world in Miami and really bring St. Tropez to Florida.
Favorite cafe: Honestly, I always have people here in the showroom so I make my own coffee most of the time. A lot of people who like my brand come here, have coffee, and talk about the brand and the collection. So coffee for me is more an intimate experience here in the showroom.
Favorite place to grab a drink: I like the bar at Zuma, it's always a good ambiance and atmosphere. And of course, on Sundays, over at Mondrian by the pool, Max brings great group together.
Favorite places to shop: One of my favorite places to shop is Alchemist, it's a very curated store and has such unique and awesome pieces.
Favorite museum: The Perez museum is across from my showroom, so I go there a lot. And the cafe there, Verde, is so good.
What do you recommend for first-timers in Miami? You have to go on a boat one day and experience the ocean, go to Stiltsville and see Miami from the ocean, it's a fantastic thing to do. Visit the cabaret-style club Eleven, go to a Heat game and watch Dwayne Wade play, and Vizcaya is a beautiful place to go and see. Visit Wynwood Walls if you're into arts, and YoungArts too. And have Haitian food! I recommend Chez Chez Le Bebe in Little Haiti. They have pumpkin soup there on Sundays that is so good.