This spring, the department store Selfridges heralded a new era of retail when it decided to merge its men's and women's sections into three floors of unisex shopping. It was excellent timing for Scott Studenberg and John Targon, two longtime friends who founded Baja East, the first "ambisex" luxury clothing brand. "The idea is that it doesn't limit any gender," Targon explains. "Baja East was built on feeling confident and sexy in what you're wearing, and it doesn't have to be traditional tailoring or fitted dresses."
Targon, 32, and Studenberg, 31, both worked in fashion wholesale, and sensed an opportunity when some female friends asked to borrow their garb. "We thought, Let's do something different," Studenberg says. "Fashion should be for everyone. When Jared Leto goes around wearing a skirt, he doesn't look like a girl -- he just looks cool."
Baja East was founded in October 2013, and its relaxed, travel-inspired designs caught on with A-listers: In addition to Leto, other celebs who've been spotted wearing Baja East include Zac Efron, Adam Levine, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Cameron Diaz. The New York-based brand was also longlisted for the prestigious LVMH Prize for emerging designers this year, an experience that had its founders rubbing shoulders with like-minded icons.
"We met Karl Lagerfeld," Studenberg recalls, "and when we told him about our ambisex concept, he stopped us right away and said, 'Everyone has two arms and two legs!' "
Although they didn't win, the LVMH recognition boosted Baja East's global reach, particularly online. Men who would never walk into women's stores -- where most of the line is sold -- are buying clothes from it via women's e-retailers. Now the pair is focusing on expanding their home collection, and will launch Baja Baby this summer.
"We had extra fabric lying around in our factories, so we started doing little baby hoodies and sweatpants," Studenberg says. "Lagerfeld mentioned he wanted some for his godson."
Photography by Luke Fontana. Photographed at Baja East Studio, New York. Groomer: Angela DiCarlo. All clothing by Baja East. Shoes by Nike-ID inspired by Baja East.