Max Azria has a simple goal for his company, BCBG Max Azria. He wants women to feel beautiful without spending a lot of time at it. That is how he created the name for the company: “BCBG” stands for “bon chic bon genre,” which means good style and good attitude. He believes that his brand of fashion items, as well as his retail stores of the same name, will help the company to achieve this.
The pursuit of this goal is constant, but BCBG Max Azria also works to respond to the changing demands of women in terms of fashion. This has been Azria’s vision since the beginning of his career. The founder, chairman and CEO of the company started by working at many different levels of fashion houses, slowly forming ideas and constructing his vision, and then designing bit by bit. He explains that he often advises students that they can’t be good designers without 20 to 25 years of experience.
“Design is more than 50 percent technical, and if you don’t know the technical aspects you can’t design,” he says. “You also have to have a strong vision, but knowing the garment and the texture is important because it is really a technical project. The technical aspect can make a garment beautiful or awful. Once my visions started to work and my projects were successful, then little by little I got more confidence in myself and started to design 100 percent of the collection. It is more than the shape of the people – it’s about the reaction of the project and the vision is a lot of that.”
BCBG Max Azria aims to supply the “total lifestyle” concept for women, offering a full line of clothing, shoes, bags, accessories and, as of fall 2001, fragrances. While women used to seek to change their looks about once a year, the company notices that many women seek new styles much more frequently today. “Change for us is security, it is not a risk,” explains Azria. “We are very free in our design experiment – if we don’t change we feel at risk.” He believes that women, especially Americans, are much more knowledgeable about fashion than they were 10 years ago, which could drive their desire for change. He, however, enjoys this challenge.
“We have to be capable of finding ideas and concepts that are on the table at the moment,” he says. “I make myself a person of the world. I try to go outside the usual borders and use the entire earth as an inspiration. This gives me the power to travel during the year and to be inspired by the feelings and atmosphere of many areas. I may get a color, emotion, texture or special fabric for a garment and that will give me a new feeling for a product.”
This same method for inspiration helped Azria develop the most recent expansion of his line, the BCBGirls fragrance collection. Knowing that one fragrance would not fit every woman, and that a woman’s mood would change depending on what she was doing, Azria set out to develop different fragrances that would meet these needs. He explains that the Nature scent is for a woman who plans to spend her time in the country or at a beach; Metro is a little stronger and reminiscent of urban life; Star adds glamour to a woman and is good for a big party; and Sexy is what a woman should wear to feel sexier in anything she does.
“They respond to the lifestyle of each woman – she is different in different places at different times,” Azria says. “With these, I have more of a chance to be open to more consumers and give them a choice between four fragrances. The best fragrance in the world would only be good for some women because it might not match with the skin of everyone. But ours responds to the inspiration of the consumer.”
The company, however, does not cater to a specific type of consumer. Azria believes that age is less important than in the past, and that while his consumers can range from 15 to 65 years of age, he mainly designs for women who he describes as modern and active. “When I can go to one of my stores and see a woman and her mother buying things at the same place, that is phenomenal,” he says. “One of our biggest areas of the business is to stay extremely young and modern.
“For example, today I am wearing something that my son can wear,” he continues, “because I don’t see the difference between me and my son in terms of what we wear. If I want to wear a loud shirt to feel more comfortable and happy, I will. Age has no meaning.”
The main thing that drives Azria in his business and design is his love of women, he says. He understands that women’s fashion is a serious business, and has spent a lot of time studying women to gain a better sense of what fashion can do for them. He explains that for thousands of years women did not receive the respect they deserved, whether it was in politics, the work place or the home, and he wants to use fashion to elevate them to the level they deserve.
“In my vision, I see what women are capable of doing in their life,” he says. “From age zero to the end of their life, they are 10 times more able, creative, passionate and emotional than men. I really have much more respect for women than for men.
“When I work, it is a challenge because a woman is a beautiful thing in our lives. I admire them, I love them, I respect them and when I work for them I serve them and try to give them the best I can to make them even better. Fashion exists for a woman to get much more confidence in herself to perform better. Fashion is the medicine that can help her a lot in her entire life in all of her daily aspects. A modern type of woman needs to have a good look, a good smell and charm to realize what she wants. It goes far beyond just looking pretty.”
This thinking has guided Azria in his development of new items. He has found that through operating his own retail stores he is able to gain a better sense of what his consumers want. “There is a straight connection between me and the person I am working for,” he says. “By looking at their reaction to the products every week and every day in the store, little by little I gain some silent communication between us, and that has made me what I am today. It has made me give a visible response to the needs of each woman.”
The company has major plans for retail growth in the near future. Its stores are in every major American city and on every continent, in addition, the BCBG Max Azria line is in most large department stores. The company would like to develop a greater number of stores in foreign markets and American cities, and has currently met 15 percent of its goal to develop 30 Stores in 2003 and 40 stores in 2004. Azria believes that in terms of marketing, production and helping consumers, the company can do “five times” what it does today.
“If a woman does not know BCBG Max Azria, she should go out and see us and understand what we are doing,” he says. “I think we are doing something spectacular and we try to help every person by making their life much easier and a woman more beautiful. That is the main goal. Life is beautiful.”