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Scott Studenberg is betting on a post-pandemic boom in fashion with lots of risk-taking — and his edgy-luxe label, Baja East, will be ready to serve looks. Case in point: For his fall 2021 collection, the creative director tapped RuPaul’s Drag Race season 13 winner Symone and finalist Gottmik to showcase his latest line of lamé halter dresses and trench jackets, velvet bodysuits, semi-sheer body-con gowns, and more, all shoppable now on the Los Angeles-based brand’s website. The brand is known, among other things, for dressing Billy Porter in a gemstone-encrusted jumpsuit at the 2020 Grammys.
Priced from $85 for corduroy baseball caps to $645 for a gold satin trench coat, the collection takes cues from the coastline of Big Sur, where Studenberg — along with model friends Soo Joo and Trent Axelson — decamped for a spontaneous mid-pandemic road trip at the end of June of last year. The Baja East designer has a history of tapping inspiration from California locales: the desert destination of Joshua Tree played muse for the brand’s spring 2020 collection, and spring 2021 was inspired by Malibu.
“Quarantine was happening [so] we just drove up north,” Studenberg tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We didn’t have any plans, we just stayed in a couple of random hotels. We just went to be in nature, and I knew when I was there: This is my next collection, one hundred percent.'”
“There was this one place specifically, it is so beautiful, it’s called Julia Pfeiffer Falls. There’s a waterfall and there’s this beach, it looks like you’re on an island, it does not look like you’re in California. The one that was even better was Garrapata Beach. It was the most beautiful; zero people, and it was just at least a mile of just cliffs and water and moss and grass,” adds the designer. Studenberg’s photos of the Northern California destination also informed the color palette of his upcoming collaboration with Eddie Bauer.
Big Sur — one of the settings of HBO’s Big Little Lies — was the first choice for the shoot, but production delays and tightened budgets due to the coronavirus impacted those plans. “When challenges happen in life, they really make you confront the situation and that’s what [the pandemic] has done for people. In my case, it was a financial barrier, but I was able to shoot in the studio to focus on [Symone and Gottmik] being complete and utter divas in clothing that I tried to make over the top, but also very wearable,” says Studenberg.
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Studenberg hadn’t met the drag duo prior to the photoshoot, and recruited his lookbook stars by sliding into their DMs. “I was driving downtown to work on the 101 [freeway], and I sent a voice memo DM to Symone and Gottmik. I said, ‘Hey queens, I wanna do something really fucking cool. I want you to be ’90s Versace supermodels — sensual and strong and powerful and sexy.’ Within 24 hours they said yes.”
Dolled up in blonde wigs, the drag duo channeled icons like Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, and Stephanie Seymour. “Symone was channeling Naomi [Campbell],” says Studenberg. Like Beyoncé — who has worn Baja East — “she’s pretty quiet and chill” until the cameras start rolling. “Then she’s Sasha Fierce,” he adds.
The shoot’s ultimate goal? To represent “gender, identity, sex, beauty, glamour — and a reinterpretation of what all of those things mean and a celebration of what all of those things,” adds the designer.
The fall collection includes Baja East’s signature luxe loungewear, such as crystal-embellished hoodie sweaters and sweatpants, tie-dye basics, and accessories as well as familiar silhouettes such as silk suiting in hand-dyed hues.
The brand’s signature equine print also gets a new spin as seen on a kaftan shirt, a cami dress, a drapey velvet top, and a reversible down vest. “I always changed the horses up a bit; I don’t just copy and paste,” says Studenberg.
Rounding out the line are leopard print jackets, billowy pants, strapless tops, and skirts with thigh-high slits for those who “want to get out of their house and go have fun — and feel fucking sexy.”
Baja East’s fall 2021 collection is available online starting today, and we’ve rounded up a handful of our favorite pieces mixed in with current-season picks — shop them all below.
If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, we may receive an affiliate commission.
1. Baja East Spiritual Advisor Long-Sleeved Tee
Made from heavyweight jersey that gets softer with every wear, this long-sleeved tee features a slim fit and an illustrated crystal ball with floating cannabis leaves inside.
2. Baja East L.I.T.H.V. Baseball Cap
Keep your good vibes up and the summer sun out of your eyes with Baja East’s baby blue baseball cap (also available in other colors). The cotton logo hat is finished with an acronym of Studenberg’s mantra, “live in the higher vibration,” embroidered on the back.
3. Baja East Bi-Level Distressed Tee
From the brand’s spring/summer 2020 collection, this tie-dye logo shirt stars Baja East’s unofficial horse mascot on a tunic-length silhouette.
4. Baja East Drop Trench in Gold Satin
This loose-fit trench coat has a double-stitched raw edge hem, side pockets and a removable belt, so you can wear it as dressy or as laid-back as your occasion calls for.
5. Baja East Bi-Level Hoodie
Baja East’s signature hoodie gets a mineral-infused update, thanks to an all-over crystal print for fall. This cotton hooded sweatshirt has an oversized fit and a front kangaroo pocket.
6. Baja East Harem Sweatpants
From Baja East’s exclusive collection for inclusive online retailer 11 Honoré, these casual sweatpants are perfect for paying homage to your favorite California desert getaway (so long as you’re not wearing them in scorching weather). They feature a loose-fit harem cut and are made of cozy fleece fabric.
7. Baja East Kaftan in Pacific Jaguar
Another Baja East best-selling silhouette, this white jaguar print kaftan can be worn as a lightweight cover-up or a breezy dress. It’s made of breezy crepe and features a double-stitched raw edge hem that brings a casual touch.
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