Barbara Bui has always flown under the radar. Even though she has a decades-strong global cult following, she’s never really fit into the fashion world’s “star system” as she calls it, referring to the industry’s tendency to place certain designers (usually men) on pedestals.

So it’s ironic that all of the ideas that she’s built her small global empire on — Parisian rock ’n’ roll chic, androgyny, leather — are all having major moments for fall due to collections created by some of her male peers.

“I think it can be difficult for women now,” she says while we sit in her bright, sprawling work studio in the Paris district Le Marais.

“When I began, we had Sonia Rykiel, but I think it’s changed since then. I think women are judged harder,” the French Vietnamese designer admits. Rather than design heady collections with fantastical, esoteric references like some of her peers in Paris, Bui creates straightforward garments in rich fabrics that manage to be both wearable and edgy. When you look at a Barbara Bui collection you know what you’re getting, there’s no need for head scratching or interpretation. And that’s perhaps why women love her. She creates clothing that she would want to wear herself.

Bui began designing fashion in the ’80s during her days as a boutique owner. She would create pieces that she wanted to wear, but couldn’t find in stores.

“I wanted something edgy, to counterbalance the feminine part of myself. I wanted it to be a little androgynous but still elegant and sexy,” she explains. In the ’90s she began having a hard time finding trousers in a silhouette that she liked. So she made her own. “The trousers in the ’90s were awful and boring. The cut was all wrong. It was too much about function and this executive woman. I pushed the value of the feminine. Since then, trousers have become an important part of my world,” she recalls.

Leather, another Bui trademark, also plays a prominent role in her fall collection, from skinny jacket and pant pairings to mini-dresses.

Latest From ...