Last month, I told you how my treasured Byron Lars baseball vest inspired me to track down Byron himself. As I said in that post, Byron was one of the precocious New York-based male designers who won great acclaim in the late ’80s and early ’90s, only to go out of business before the ’90s were over.
Byron ran into trouble after he licensed his designs to a company called San Siro Inc., which sold unauthorized Lars products to discounters. Byron won a court order in 1997 barring San Siro from continuing to sell product under his name, but his business had already suffered and he closed it that year.
After that, Byron started designing a line for petite women. Petite, plastic women. No, not Hollywood starlets! Mattel hired him to design a line of limited-edition Barbies.
Byron and Barbie are still an item, but real women can get a piece of Byron too. In 2001, he started Byron Lars Beauty Mark. I interviewed him by emailA while he traveled in China for work. Here’s a lightly edited version of what Byron had to say about Beauty Mark, his ’90s fame and Barbie.
Byron Lars Q&A
WendyB: Many ’90s articles mentioned your gorgeous smile. What makes you smile nowadays?
Byron: Everything really. There’s so much to smile about and for which to be thankful: good health, a wonderful family, awesome friends, talented and committed coworkers/friends, Starbucks in China … you name it.
WendyB: Describe Beauty Mark.
Byron: Beauty Mark is a contemporary priced collection with cuts and an aesthetic that are more indicative of the kinds of collections most could only dream of affording. It has the same integrity of design as my original namesake collection of years ago but, because of price point reaches many more people.A This fact is a little ironic because of the vast difference in visibility of the two collections. My first higher-priced collection met a lot of fanfare as far as publicity was concerned. But I was disappointed to meet so many women who professed their love for my clothes and who I would have loved equally to have been wearing them, who would also confess that they simply couldn’t afford them and therefore had to settle for merely trying them on at a store and dreaming in the mirror. It was so sad to me that the same woman whose energy inspired me and who were inspired by my clothes, would probably never have any in their closets.
Byron (continued): Beauty Mark, on the other hand, while virtually flying in under the radar without the hoopla of a seasonal runway presentation, has continually gained steam and sales on the strength of the clothes alone … sans hype.
WendyB: What does the name Beauty Mark mean to you?
Byron: Beauty Mark is about clothes that make you look better…it’s that simple. They often accentuate the waist, perk up the bust, flatter the booty and leave a girl standing in the mirror feeling quite taken with herself.
WendyB: How is the Beauty Mark line aesthetically similar to or different from your original namesake line? How does the experience of designing and selling compare?
Byron: The aesthetic is exactly the same as my previous collection, only less expensive. This means that a wool blend may replace a cashmere or a cotton fabric may be sourced from Turkey rather than Egypt but, at the end of the day, the look and (most importantly) the make is the same. Designing remains the same, an absolute blessing while selling … not so much.A Don’t get me wrong, we are selling, and well for that matter (thank God), but the atmosphere has become a lot more brutal as the stores get increasingly demanding while committing to orders later and later, leaving design companies to project production on sheer guesses.
WendyB: I understand that your original line came to an end after a dispute with the company that licensed your name.A How does that experience affect your business strategy now?
Byron: Unfortunately, the setbacks that I’ve experienced are typical in this business. The key to surviving is to get up, pray, dust yourself off and keep it moving.
WendyB: What’s your life like now? Do you travel a lot on behalf of your
business? Do you have a “typical” day? How/where do you show your collections?
Byron: My life is really quite boring. It takes a lot of man hours to make these clothes to keep my girls happy and although I really love it, it’s not the stuff of which page-turning action novels are made. I do travel for work, twice a year to both China for sample development and Paris to shop for fabric and some domestic trips for the occasional trunk show at some of our store accounts.
WendyB: What’s your signature piece that all my readers have to have?
Byron: A curve huggin’ white shirt is a must-have.
WendyB: Which is your favorite Barbie?
Byron: I wouldn’t want to make any of them jealous so I would have to say that they’re all my favorite.
WendyB: Is it true that your interest in fashion started when you made a pair of baggy pants for yourself? If you were going to make something for yourself now, what would it be?
Byron: While it’s true that all this started from a pair of pants that I made for myself, I’d probably be walking around in a barrel with suspenders if I had to actually sew anything for myself again.
WendyB: Describe your personal style.
Byron: Relaxed utilitarian.
WendyB: I still have a ruffled “baseball” vest of yours that I got at a sample sale back in the day.A I’m haunted by the fact that I never got the long-sleeved jacket version. If you happen to find one in a size small in the back of your closet, will you give it to me?
Byron: You are too sweet but no, I don’t have one of those…not even in archive. Sorry, but if I ever make anything similar again, I’ll make sure to get it to you.
WendyB: Will it help or hurt my case if I promise to be your best friend in return for that jacket?
Byron: Definitely help.
WendyB: What’s the #1 lesson you’ve learned from your years in the fashion industry?
Byron: It ain’t what you promise, it’s what you deliver that counts.
Ain’t that the truth! Thanks for chatting with me, Byron. Y’all can click here to find out where to buy Byron Lars Beauty Mark.
Miss j. says
“Will it help or hurt my case if I promise to be your best friend in return for that jacket?”–lol. cheeky question, but it worked! Love yah miss wendy!
oh by the way, my anti spam word was oliveoyl—the definitive thinspiration. love it.
Besos from Spain!
What a great interview!!!! I just adore him, and you are right — dude doesn’t age. How is it that he doesn’t have massive crow’s feet from all the smiling? Not fair. I’m so taken with the new Beauty Mark jackets. Fantastic shape as usual Mr. Lars. Is that plaid shirt in the Fall 2009 photo smocked in the back? I want it. Reminds me a bit of Spring 2007 Bottega Veneta
Alecca Rox says
really enjoyed this interview!
he does a good job dressing Barbies but a great one creating clothes that make real women feel like dolls;)
(that bosom-emphasizing jacket looks amazing…)
Suzanne aka Punk Glam Queen says
Great interview! And lucky me I found out his line is carried just a few miles from home! I can’t believe that’s a puffer coat, I think its the first I’ve ever seen that I could actually pull off without looking like a mini Michelin man!
miss cavendish says
I remember loving how he made tuxedo shirts cool.
Awesome interview Wendy! I grew up loving Barbie and for years collected designer Barbies and it was so fun to read about a designer who designed for Mattel. Thanks for highlighting Byron’s current work also. I am going to be attending a wedding real soon and am on the lookout for a new dress. I love the blue and the purple one on the carina site.
Great find and kudos to you for interviewing him via email! I am now off to look at the website for Beauty Mark.
Style Artisan says
I absolutely adore the Beauty Mark collection. He can tailor clothes like nobody’s business!
How inspiring to hear of someone who suffered a bump in the road, but didn’t let that stop him. Real talent rises to the top. And he has it in spades!
Thank you so much for your supportive comment on my last post. I’m a bit of a hypochondriac myself. Especially after what I went through, and since my regular doctor dismissed my symptoms as nothing to worry about. Now, I do tend to over-react to even the slightest problem…
Ah, the “On-A-Wing Blouse” from Anthropologie that I am minorly obsessed with lately is a Byron Lars Beauty Mark piece. I looked up the label afterwards and was so intrigued by the whole line, so I was so happy to find you did an interview with him, so interesting to read, thank you 🙂
sharon rose says
What a really fabulous interview and post, its great to hear about designers from the 80s and 90s who are still designing now. I love the fall 2010 collection, the blue dress is just stunning and I really hope that jacket can find a way into your wardrobe sometime soon from somewhere!!
that plum jacket is awesome!! and in that picture, that blue skirt -iwantsss – soooo perfect <333
Make Do Style says
What a great interview and a very interesting designer/retail story. Love the plum puffer jacket.
great interview, I love his pieces, too.
Wendy, thanks for bringing this fab designer to our attention – this is great stuff for us hourglass gals! Wonderful.
I loved Byron’s celebration of the female body. His pieces always flattered. I think it amazing that you tracked him down Wendy! I think your questions were great and his answers so intelligent. He sounds like a humble great guy. I like his new line, I think despite the lower price points, the cuts and structure is true to Byron’s ethos and signature.
Fab piece Wendy!
Love that my anti spam word is LenyaJ!!!! how fab!
I just love his creative take on menswear pieces like blazers, double-breasted coats and button-downs – he renders them so fantastically feminine.
Oh my god! That blue dress! Those houndstooth skirts! GORGEOUS!
Thanks for bringing this interview to us, Wendy. I don’t know if I would have ever heard of Beauty Mark otherwise.
I love his last remark.
Lucy Marmalade says
Lovely interview! I love that jacket you’re wearing, too. Your red lipstick picks up the red lining perfectly.
Couture Carrie says
Fabulous interview, WB!
Love that coatdress!
Thank you so much for the great profile of Byron Lars! I’ll be following his designs.
I swear I can see and feel a fabulous Byron Lars white shirt I showed in the 90’s. Perfection. He is so talented, thanks for the great interview.
Bryon is so talented!
oh my…i love the bustle back shirt!
Is he selling an anti aging juice by chance? How I would love to get one of my grubby hands on one of his gorg designs…namely this little number…yeah, it’s a Barbie. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001M57SP2/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_3?pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B000F4LOCE&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=1NAMG0RY5K24QKS6CA5Q
Def. must-have plaid shirt!
I knew you’d love the color of that Rolls!
When I get back from a lecture at the Architectural Heritage Center, the grocery store, and ushering at the Oregon Children’s Theater’s “The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs,” I will read this interview. Just scrolling by to get to the comment box piqued my interest.
Reena Rai says
What a lovely interview, I’ve not heard of him but he sounds like an absolute sweetheart and I love the clothes
this is freaking awesome. so glad he is back!!! thanks for this beautiful wendy b!
Lenya Jones says
I want all of it!
Wow awesome post, That very very first, vintage Dress is amazing!
Girl Japan says
Thanks for introducing us to Mr. Lars! I hope to see more of his work, that “mean” company can’t take his talent away.
Wrecked Stellar says
Great interview- love the Beauty Mark name. It’s great to see that even with some major setbacks he hadn’t given up on his designing dreams. I also love his #1 lesson learned- so true! xo, mel
Arushi Khosla says
I’m always fascinated by quintessentially AMERICAN designers. You know, there are those who are so inspired by Asian and European accents that it seeps into their aesthetic. But designers like Byron and Halston were just so much more interesting because they invented their own inspiration in a way. I dk, do I make any sense? Although I am not in any way insinuating I prefer their work but..okay, I’ve just got too much in my head. I need to vent. Blog post, here I come!
wow such an interesting post and great interview x
Last day to enter my Olivia Rubin giveaway:
wishing you a gorge Sunday honey
I really enjoyed this interview! Thanks for introducing us to someone so exciting!
Brilliant interview. I love how you do detective work so we don’t have to! I’m investigating this line now!
Prêt à Porter P says
Yes!!!! I remember his Barbies! When I was a kid I truly LOVED Barbie and I mean the designer Barbies the Dior barbie, the givenchy barbie, the escada barbie, and of course the fabulous Bob Mackie Barbies. In those days it was my dream to design clothes for Barbie. I remember the Byron Lars Barbie.
Shrimpton Couture says
Excellent interview – thanks for showcasing such a talent! So happy to see him still a success!
Wonderful, wonder interview! Byron Lars has always been an inspiration to me. His fabulously flattering and curvaceous cuts and the sense of joy that has always been the hallmark of his designs. He is one of my personal design heroes! (I am a teeny bit envious! I would so love to meet/talk with Byron Lars)
Thanks Wendy for this interview
I was just thinking of mr lars the other day….I was cleaning out my vintage pattern collection and definitely kept one designed by him because One Day I shall make that drapey clingy dream of a dress….and I was wondering if he was still alive…Oh yes, he is!
While I can’t say I like everything Miss O wears, I too am a HUGE fan of Byron Lars dresses and have had a positive customer service experience at the Carina New York website. So, I will be pre-ordering this dress before it gets released.
Julie Marie Matos says
Hey Lady B,
Thanks for bringing the fabulous Byron Lars to your blog. I wore lots of his
pieces back in the day. Up until a few years ago was able to find some of his fab
clothing at a small boutique on Lower East Side called ‘Vlada”. Unfortunately went
out of biz, like other great little shops in the area. Have a couple of summer blouses that I will be pulling out this summer!! Thanks for the info on where to buy.
The cut of his garments are like no one else’s!! Always like the little surprise at the back.
I did backstage hair at one of his shows, but didn’t get to meet him!!! He is soooo
handsome!! Dang, I wish I had my older pieces!!!