Twice winner of the CFDA Men’s Design Award, Bode Aujla believes that old things have “an intrinsic value”.

With jackets made of antique bed quilts, shirts made of crocheted tablecloths and pants made of colorful horse reins, men have vintage, sophisticated clothes made just for them, and Bode, a menswear label founded in 2016, fills a niche in menswear with its unique concepts. Designer and founder Bode Aujla was named Menswear Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion De – signers of America for two consecutive years, 2021 and 2022. WSJ. speaks exclusively with designer Emily Adams Bode Aujla, who tells us about Bode’s philosophy of upcycling and the intuition, approach and vision that led to the creation of the brand.
When Emily Adams Bode Aujla launched her menswear label, Bode, in 2016, it was clear that she wanted to build the brand independently without investors. She says she always wanted to be able to create a business that could be passed down through generations. At the same time, she understood that this vision seemed to defy economic common sense. How do you take a brand created from vintage bed quilts and old sacks and turn it into a one-of-a-kind fashion icon.
From a business point of view, if we had a partner, these would be the first things to go,” says Bode Aujla, 33. Shirts made from crocheted tablecloths and pants made from colorful horse reins are among her “upcycled” pieces. While such pieces make up about 30 percent of her New York business, their uniqueness can be a nuisance, at least in the business world: When celebrities such as Harry Styles, Jay-Z or Ethan Hawke are wearing her designs, it’s hard for her to find the same shirt or suit to sell to her fans. “It’s hard to justify these metrics, and sourcing, storing and protecting fabrics is never easy,” she admits, “but we’ve managed to build the brand around the concept.”
Bode (pronounced bo-DEE) clothing is sold in specialty stores in Manhattan and Los Angeles, as well as in premium stores around the world. After seven years of growth, the local upcycling business has become a large, globally-scaled enterprise with local textiles, makers, and artisans from India, Italy, Peru, Portugal, and Romania, and Bode Aujla himself has been recognized as a top designer by the Council of Fashion Bode Aujla himself was named Menswear Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2021 and 2022. However, Bode’s expanding reputation has also brought new pressures. “It’s very intimidating,” she admits in a phone interview from Bode’s couture studio in Manhattan’s Chinatown, “The stakes are higher than ever.”
Bode Aujla, who grew up in Atlanta and often travels to Cape Cod to see her family, believes there is “an intrinsic value” in old things. She loves looking through her grandparents’ antiques and heirlooms, shopping at flea markets with her mom and aunts, and playing with her dad’s toys from the ’50s and ’60s. “There’s a certain comfort you get from these objects that were once cherished,” she says, “and that sense of history makes it doubly precious.”
As a teenager, Bode Aujla always enjoyed rummaging through her mom and dad’s closets, looking for treasures to wear and encouraging her friends to do the same. She loved old clothes so much that she often made her own and regularly sought out foreign editions of Vogue magazine. “I always knew exactly what I wanted to do,” she says, “I just didn’t know what to call this career.”
While studying fashion at the Parsons School of Design in New York, she discovered her love of menswear, something her professors encouraged. “I was more interested in making clothes for other people,” she says, “and I think there’s a huge void in the market for men’s clothing, where they can’t paw through vintage clothing as easily as women can.” While many of her peers are more distinguished in their cutting and sewing, she feels she has “a vision for the future, which is to build a brand,” something that sets her apart from the rest of her classmates: “I always have something that feels ‘very ‘Bode’ something.”
After interning and working in retail at Marc Jacobs and Ralph Lauren during her college years, Bode Aujla officially graduated in 2013 with job offers from a number of American brands. But she ultimately decided to start her own clothing brand so that she could go back to work if her dreams were dashed: “I’m very good at sales, and I felt like I could always go back to work at a Yves Saint Laurent store.” She crafts boxy jackets and high-waisted pants sewn from vintage bed quilts and old dishcloths. “I found I could focus on a few specific silhouettes-two shirts, two jackets, two pairs of pants, one pair of shorts-and create a classic closet with them,” she says.
Bode Aujla’s success is also due to good timing.The launch of Bode “comes at a time of change in the fashion industry, with a proliferation of men’s boutiques and more brands showing up at Men’s Fashion Week,” she says, adding that “the number of male shoppers continues to rise. ” While men’s fashion has long been accustomed to street elements, the brand’s fusion of masculine silhouettes with feminine craftsmanship, such as lace and embroidery, has quickly set it apart in the marketplace. Bode Aujla is not surprised that a brand that sells floral pants and fringed crochet shirts for $500 to $1,800 has been so successful. “I have a belief that I can give men the piece they want to wear before they know what they want to wear.” She says, “My husband would be the first one to step up and say, ‘I didn’t realize until I saw it in the show that I would think that would be cool.'”
Today, Bode is in a period of expansion, says Bode Aujla: “We want to open more stores and introduce more categories, and to do that, we’re hiring more staff.” She adds, “For a long time, we have operated on a self-sufficient model as a way to grow organically.” She admits that the company’s hours are long, its workload is heavy, and its employees are primarily recent college graduates-until three years ago, 90 percent of the company’s workforce was under the age of 23, which is quite outrageous.” The company’s top executives are all family members. She describes her husband, Aaron Aujla, as a “creative partner and business associate,” and his brother, Dev Aujla, serves as Bode’s CEO.
While women have long made up half of Bode’s customer base, they buy for themselves and for the men around them. Over the past few years, there have been calls for Bode Aujla to launch a women’s line. To which she responds, “I didn’t want to launch it as a separate category at a time when the brand hadn’t established a solid enough concept.” In January 2023, she launched her first women’s designs in Paris, with an eclectic mix of styles, including beaded dresses, sequined jackets, denim blouses, and chunky knit sweaters. From the 1920s to the 1970s, the range of silhouettes, styles and inspirations became wider and wider, “which naturally demanded more effort,” she admits. “Applying men’s silhouettes to women’s designs was too simple and crude. I want these women’s clothes to feel like I’ve customized them.”
Bode Aujla plans to start selling her women’s line before her first child is born later this year. She said, “At this stage of development, I feel like I can take a little time to have children, but of course, it’s definitely a daunting task.” She also mentioned that very few of the women she was able to talk to were able to create a brand while also prioritizing their families. “I’ve interviewed a lot of older women who work in fashion, and a lot of them have told me very directly that all of this affects your relationships, and the process is pretty tough,” she says, “but I can’t imagine myself in any other job.”


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