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Justin Timberlake isn’t the only Justin in Jessica Biel’s life, and the other one was around well before her hubby! Justin Biel is the actress’ younger brother, who — while not a part of the industry — does work in a complementary one: fashion. The male Biel is a director of communications and a co-founder, along with creative director Grason Ratowsky and Lo Sampadian, of BARE, their two-year-old lifestyle accessories brand with eco-conscious leanings.
Jessica is also a partner. “She’s been involved sort of from the beginning of our company, initially helping us get some support when we launched and get exposure using some of her network,” says her brother. “She came to Colorado (where the brand began and where they grew up) and got really excited about our first initial designs. She’s a tote girl; she’s been rocking those from all our collections, and she’s excited about the new mini backpack we’ve created [for fall].”
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The fall/winter collection of BARE is a bit of a departure from previous output in that it signals a shift to a higher-end focus. “We started in a more eco and directly repurposed way and we’re keeping up sustainable practices as we go into the more luxurious contemporary bridge market,” Ratowsky tells Pret-a-Reporter. The new range, which as always is inspired by travel, art and culture, uses 100 percent merino wool sourced from Australia along with contrasting leather and hand-cast brass hardware.
“Our factory in India is all solar-powered,” says Ratowsky. “The whole production process from the tannery all the way to the final product is really hands-on. It’s all eco-friendly, all natural tanning.” Though India is where the pieces are being produced, it was another far-flung country that inspired the collection, which isn’t surprising considering Ratowsky and Biel’s world travels together (one of their most memorable trips was at age 15 to Costa Rica for a month and a half — unchaperoned).
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“I was actually traveling to Colombia a year ago and hiking to the Lost City, and in contact on the way with some indigenous people who carried these mochila shoulder bags,” says Ratowsky. “They have these great contrasting prints and are hand-woven in wool, so both the contrast and material was an inspiration through the trip that I brought back.”
And while Timberlake’s better half may bring a certain clout to the label and increased eyes in the entertainment industry — she was probably at least part of the reason former 7th Heaven costars Andrew Keegan and Beverly Mitchell Cameron attended Thursday’s fete — Biel says their customers are “creative, well-traveled people who have been exposed to lots of other cultures and have a focus on design and aesthetics. It’s not teenagers, but young adults starting their career who we think have a big focus on how well is this made, is it unique, is it something different. Not people who are so focused on brand recognition.”
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For him, Pharrell tops his list of people he’d like to see rock BARE. Adds Ratowsky, “We talk about the Dos Equis ‘most interesting man in the world’ — it’s a sophisticated traveler we’re trying to focus on.” Though with someone like the new mama and actress on your side it may seem less so, Biel adds, “It’s a risk starting your own company. We think our customer is that same person out there creating in the world and building the life they want to live through their aspirations.”
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