The BARE Facts: An Interview with Founder Justin Biel

If you can’t already tell how excited we are to showcase the super-cool bags by fellow Colorado natives BARE in their upcoming trunk show at Goldyn this Thursday, you’ve been warned…. They’re the perfect blend of functional design, art, and sustainability.  Goldyn’s own Julia Cardi sat down with BARE founder Justin Biel to talk about the collection, his inspirations, and just what exactly makes this line of bags and accessories so special.

Justin Biel of BARE

Justin Biel of BARE

JC: To start out, talk a little bit about BARE in general and how the line started.

JB: BARE started as a passion project.  Grason’s father had brought back a jute coffee sack from Costa Rica which had all these amazing prints on it and Grason was determining what kind of art project he wanted to do with the bag.  He really loved the story, texture, and idea that this bag had travelled all over the world and had a life to it and also saw value in what it could still become.  Grason watched some online sewing tutorials and built the first BARE tote prototype in one afternoon.  I saw the bag and absolutely loved what Grason had created, and the two of us decided this would be our new business.

JC: So what inspires a couple of guys to create a handbag line?

JB: We never looked at BARE with the vision of creating a handbag line.  For us, and especially Grason, everything is just art.  We were drawn to the idea of creating items that were unique, art driven, spoke to our love of travel and other cultures, and this expression came in the form of travel bags and accessories.

JC: I understand that BARE includes collections from a few different artists. Who are these artists, and what kind of aesthetic do they each bring to the line?

JB: With our Artist Collection we hand selected individuals from around the US who had beautiful contemporary abstract styles.  We chose Naomi Clark out of Brooklyn, NY, Jonni Cheatwood out of Pheonix, AZ, and our creative director Grason Ratowsky participated as the third artist.  Naomi was actually a friend of Grason’s who also grew up in Boulder, CO and now works at an art collective called Fort Maker’s in Brooklyn that is involved in a lot of public art projects, installations, and creates one of a kind art products.  Naomi has a very feminine abstract style with soft colors, and large sweeping brushstrokes.  Grason randomly found Jonni Cheatwood’s artwork and was immediately drawn to his style and thought it would fit well with his vision for the BARE Artist Collection.  Jonni does a lot of mixed media and painting.  His work is known for blending and mixing colors and typically has lots of layers.  Grason completed the artist trio and oversaw the entire vision for the collection from the conception of the idea to the creation of the bags, and oversaw the manufacturing, which led to our beautiful final product.

JC: What type of customer do you have in mind when you design the bags?

JB: Our customer is a versatile one – a person that enjoys artful products, that is drawn to items that are beautifully different, and someone that wants a bag to fit the constant flux and changes of their everyday life.  We focus a lot on people like ourselves – world travellers that want unique style and functionality in the bags that play such a huge part in their distinct personal journeys.

JC: BARE is all about sustainability in its production and materials. What does sustainability mean to you guys?

JB: Sustainability is the desire to make our products with materials and in manufacturing facilities where we lessen the negative impact we have on our environment.

JC: Is there anything about using sustainable processes that might surprise people? That might seem contrary to what people think of when they picture sustainable fashion?

JB: Sustainability does not mean a reduction in quality, craftsmanship, or innovative design.  Sustainability is a driving force for innovation in the fashion industry. It leads to the creation of new, beautiful textiles and apparel, and will continue to impact and alter the style and type of garments our world has access to for the better.

JC: Lastly, anything else you want people to know about BARE?

JB: You can expect products from BARE that are different, that tell stories, and that are produced with the intention to create value in the world.  Our products and our brand are a bit different, and that’s the way we like it.  In many ways at BARE we’re not trying to fit in, we’re trying to diverge.

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