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Former Urban Zen (DKNY lifestyle) designers, Bessie and Oliver Corral, believe a wardrobe should be transitional, cohesive and timeless. With the environmental cost of fast fashion and trend-led designers increasingly exposed, the husband-and-wife duo are right on the mark with their sartorial love child, Arjé.
Taking cue from its name – “the essence of everything” – the heart of the brand beats longevity. Opposing the idea of traditional seasons, the label debuts biannual “chapters” on a “see now, buy now” basis. These are designed to flow seamlessly from first to last, weaving threads of colour, texture, fit and feel, to create the perfect wardrobe of go-anywhere-at-anytime pieces. From airport attire to gala garments, Arjé designs for the urban nomad who is too busy to sift through piles of clothes strewn across the floor.
While it was their reversible shearling jacket which first had us reaching for our wallets, the pair have released cult classics, namely their ivory tuxedo, in easy shapes and luxurious fabrics. Expertly cut silhouettes and heavenly draping in covetable pieces make it clear that trans-seasonal and timeless do not equal boring basics.
Expect to hear a lot more about (and purchase a lot more of) Arjé – their curated collection will last you a lifetime.
Oliver and Bessie Corral
Type of Brand:
Modern luxury lifestyle
Where did you grow up:
London and Madrid
What’s the meaning behind the name Arjé, and how does it connect with your brand?
Arjé is defined as “the essence of everything” and “the beginning of the beginning”, it’s the Spanish word for a philosophical term developed by the Ancient Greeks. The word connects directly to our core concept that everything is connected and everything is part of a new world we are building.
How would you describe your brand aesthetic?
We create a wardrobe of elevated luxury essentials ranging from covetable outerwear and knitwear to lived-in linen shirts, lightweight tailoring and everything in between, developed in silhouettes and defined colour palettes which intertwine across each collection or “chapter”.
Everything Arjé is designed to be worn from day to night, from boardroom to beach and each piece evolves depending on how you layer it. Although we use the word essential, nothing is basic – every product has a purpose. Once you put it on, you really connect with it. We always say that if you invest in just three pieces of Arjé you have outfits for an entire week.
You launch collections as limited-edition “chapters” modelled on a see-now-buy-now philosophy. Can you tell us more about this model?
The chapters help achieve a sense of cohesion from one to the next and back again. Ultimately they are seasonless, one piece from a past collection sits just as well next to one from the new; each helps to tell a story.
As a business model, this narrative of see-now-buy-now likewise evolves as we do. We create a collection when ready, honouring a real gestation period. By that I mean when we are ready, when the clothes are ready and most importantly, when the stores and customers are ready.
Who do you have in mind when you are designing your clothes?
Firstly, without ego, ourselves – it’s so important to us that these are clothes we would wear and love personally.
Why did you choose to base your brand in New York and how has the city shaped your brand?
We met in NYC nine years ago. The city is the home of Arjé and a huge part of its heart. New York is our hub and definitively where our customer base is; that part has shaped our brand infinitely.
Describe your average Sunday in New York.
You’ll find us opening up the store at around 11am on a Sunday, right after we’ve had our typical morning of coffee and breakfast at home, near University Place. We always start with our own ceremony; burning palo santo and incense, freshening our flowers, plants and trees. After we’ve closed up, sometimes its back home for more work, in which case Oli will cook, or else we’ll head to one of our favorite restaurants close by, like Pasquale Jones or Café Altro Paradiso.
How has your experience at Donna Karan’s Urban Zen shaped Arjé?
We had the opportunity to gain a 360-degree understanding of a fashion and lifestyle brand; from design and development, production to marketing functions, campaign shoots, sales and distribution. We are forever grateful for that foundation.
Have your Spanish and British-Turkish backgrounds influenced your style?
We like to think of Arjé as a melting pot of cultures, yes to our Spanish and British-Turkish roots, but also NYC, our home, and Italy where we produce most of the line. For both of us, our heritage and understanding of other cultures is critical to our work.
Is travelling a large source of inspiration?
Absolutely, though now we don’t get to travel enough. Our favourite destination, however, is more of a mode than a geographical place – to be aboard a sailboat just us two, or with our friends, spending a couple of weeks sailing from place to place. You’ll see in our next chapter (launching in May) that the idea of travel and a summer spent ready to go at a moment’s notice is a huge inspiration.
What are your go-to airport outfits?
It depends on the season. Right now, each of us is wrapped in Arjé shearling to beat the cold; it doubles as a blanket to use on the flight. We have to be comfortable when flying, so we’ll always pack a cashmere hoodie or something else oversized to bundle up in.
What are your favourite pieces from the Spring 2019 RTW collection?
The linen boiler suits for men and women. Since we shot the lookbook in September, we’ve had so much interest in them – they finally launch next month.
Your latest drop included more colour than your earlier collections do you see Arjé continuing in that direction?
Chapter Six was an explosion of colour for us; it helped to enliven our offering and it was a really exciting moment. We wanted spring to be really optimistic; sunshine, saffron and more. Season seven will be a return to lighter, more neutral shades for summer and then – well, we’ll surprise you.
How has being married impacted your working dynamic?
We’re very much in unison but we do operate from different perspectives. We’re each other’s right hand for sure; sometimes tasks are shared and we work through each step together. Other times, we totally know our own strengths and tackle an element independently, but we’re always there to support each other when needed.
What activities do you do as a couple to get away from the drawing board?
We love to escape the city, whether it’s a day trip out to Amagansett and a walk on the beach or a drive upstate. For Oli, it’s cooking, either just for us or friends who drop by. For Bess, it’s about making a space look and feel beautiful and cosy. We love to host – it provides an essential disconnection.
Which are your favourite date spots in New York?
La Mercerie is perfect for Sunday date night – it always sparks our creativity. For a midweek bite (and the best margaritas in town) it’s got to be Atla. We love the bartenders and have become real regulars – they always indulge us in homemade tequilas and creative off-menu dishes.
Lucien is ideal for a late-night Friday date. We’ve been going since our early years in New York and love the energy – and the lobster pasta! One of our favourite local spots is Pasquale Jones. Grab a seat at the bar and watch the chef make pizza or pasta. We go so often the hostess brings over a bottle of our favourite wine before we’ve even ordered.
Our best-loved spot in the city is Estela, which we save for special occasions. There’s something about the atmosphere and the attention to detail in the food which is magical. You can truly feel the passion that Ignacio Mattos (the chef) puts into each dish.
What’s next for Arjé?
Expansion and travel – hopefully, the two together. We love that we’re now grounded in NYC but that’s only a part of what the brand is, and will become. We truly see this as a lifestyle brand, not bound by clothes, which is only the beginning. Our dream is to create somewhere for our customers to stay with us and eat with us. We want to show the Arjé brand represented in homewares, objet, travel and a curation of beautiful items from like-minded creatives.
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