Killer B’s: Brendon Babenzien and Bee Line Are A Match Made In Heaven

Brendon Babenzien, the new creative director of Billionaire Boys Club’s Bee Line

Billionaire Boys Club: one of the most well-known and storied brands in streetwear history. Since the brand’s inception in 2005, it’s managed to fuse Japanese and American street culture in an authentic manner that most brands could only dream of, due to Pharrell and Nigo (of Bathing Ape fame)’s unique space-inspired aesthetics.

Pharrell and Nigo wearing BBC and holding their “Diamond and Dollars”¬†collaborative Reebok sneaker

The brand has released several legendary designs (who could forget the classic crest logo or the Diamonds and Dollars print?) and lived many lives since then, and even though it’s significantly more available (and less expensive) than it was when it was founded, BBC still stands strong in 2017 … and is now aiming to revive a mostly forgotten sub-label, their Bee Line.

Bee Line’s website circa 2013

Originally founded in 2012, Bee Line was a higher-end, more refined take on Billionaire Boys Club’s streetwear-friendly designs. The idea for the line originally came about when Pharrell and Mark McNairy (founder of Mark McNairy New Amsterdam and the first-ever creative director of the sub-label) had a conversation about a possible boot collaboration that evolved into a whole new line.

With a logo and name inspired by Napoleon (he changed the French royal symbol from a fleur de lis to a regal bee during his reign), and high-end, made-in-the-USA menswear that still had just enough of Pharrell’s signature spacey touch to remain unique, the line launched in 2013 to rave reviews … and somewhat mediocre sales.

Unfortunately, apart from Bee Line’s Timberland collaboration¬†which won Footwear News’s “Collaboration Of The Year” award in 2015, it failed to make a large impact on the fashion landscape, and over the last few years found a place as a steady, well-crafted un-hyped line, for folks who loved BBC but were aging gracefully out of loud graphic tees and pullover hoodies.

Pieces from Bee Line’s first collection under Babenzien

However, Bee Line’s place in street culture may change drastically soon. News broke across the internet this weekend that former Supreme creative director and Noah founder Brendon Babenzien had accepted a position as the sub-label’s creative director, and the label’s first collection under Babenzien dropped as well.

Babenzien is no stranger to the street culture landscape, having worked in the industry since 1994. Starting at legendary Miami-based brand Pervert, he then moved to Supreme as a designer in 1996, and left to unsuccessfully launch Noah for the first time in 2002 (a failure he attributes to his “youthful inexperience” and “lack of business sense”). He was welcomed back to Supreme in 2005, and held a role there as creative director until 2015, when he departed from the brand for the second time to re-launch Noah.

Babenzien during his days at Supreme

It’s readily apparent: Brendon Babenzien has got some stripes. He’s widely credited as the man that took Supreme’s popularity to the next level in the mid-00’s, helping them reach the cult status that they enjoy today through collaborations, limited releases, and careful marketing, all while sticking true to Supreme’s defiant aesthetic.

Pieces from Noah’s S/S ’17 collection

He’s also enjoyed great success in his second go-around with Noah, creating a brand with a unique nautical and New York-inspired aesthetic (we also see small hints of Supreme and 90’s Ralph Lauren in his work) that offers everything from $48 tees to $300 patchwork corduroy pants to $1,200 sportsman jackets that can be worn by people of all ages and tastes.

And Babenzien is a perfect fit for Bee Line, not just on a design level (as the two brand’s aesthetics have more in common already than you may think) but an ethical level as well.

A detailed manufacturing cost breakdown of a Noah jacket

One thing that sets Noah apart from their peers in the streetwear industry is their transparency and brutal honesty. Babenzien is very candid and open about what causes his brand supports, why certain garments cost what they do (even penning an open letter in response to a customer who was befuddled by a jacket’s $448 price tag), and how he believes the fashion industry needs to take a long hard look at themselves, their business practices, and the impact that their manufacturing and their customer’s consumption have on our planet.

If a customer is even slightly familiar with Billionaire Boys Club, they likely know the brand’s tagline: “Wealth is of the heart and mind, not the pocket”. With his strong ideals and unique take on how a streetwear brand should be run, Brendon Babenzien brings a new meaning to the iconic tagline. “Your money is a weapon” he said recently. “How you spend your money is the best way to affect change”.

A jacket and pants from Bee Line’s new collection

And if you choose to spend your money on Babenzien’s new Bee Line garments, they won’t come cheap (they feature a higher price point than in-line BBC clothing), but you’ll get every dollar’s worth … and be able to feel good about your purchases too. The garments are made with the same sustainably sourced materials that Noah has become famous for, and Babenzien called upon many of the same manufacturers that he’s worked with for Noah too.

The first collection is entitled “Army Of Lovers”, with graphics inspired by Tom Tom Club’s song “Genius Of Love” and feature the nautical, preppy, and military influences you’d expect to see from the Noah head. The collection is themed around war and piece, and Babenzien choose “Hate Has No Place In Our World” for the slogan.

Only time will tell if Bee Line can generate the staying power that it was unable to upon its initial launch, but this is certainly a big step in the right direction. The designs fuse Babenzien’s signature aesthetic with BBC’s playful touch, the quality is top-notch, and the statements made by the clothes regarding love and inclusion are timely. We fully approve, and we’ve got a feeling that you, our KicksOneTwo family do too.

 

What do you think of Bee Line’s re-launch? Do you like the new clothes? Do you think that Brendon Babenzien can be the shot in the arm that could propel Bee Line towards the top of the street culture landscape? Sound off in the comments with your thoughts!

RDwyer


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