Never grow up
In a fashion landscape saturated with talented designers and emerging brands, those that present a personal story alongside the clothes often stand out. Enter Parisienne stylist Benjamin (Benny) Brouillet, who is infusing his menswear label, Boyhood, with the 90s spirit of French youth and masculinity.
Centred on the notion that boys should never grow up, Boyhood explores themes of adolescence through a bold collection of street and sportswear silhouettes. The inspiration comes from Benny’s own youth in the rural town of Angers, where as a teenager he trained and competed as a professional athlete (first as a gymnast, then ice-skater) before turning his hand to fashion. Moving to Paris at the age of eighteen, he studied international business before packing his bags and heading to New York City to follow a career in fashion. After studying a short while at FIT (the Fashion Institute of Technology), Benny tapped the title of fashion editor at FIASCO Magazine, where his styling work has since led him to collaborate with a number of publications and brands.
Boyhood marks Benny’s first official step into the world of fashion design, and so it’s fitting that his debut collection, La rentrée des classes, translates literally as “First day of school.” Here, the rising designer reflects on his shift from sports to fashion, the personal inspiration behind Boyhood, and how he came to launch his own label.
Nazanin Shahnavaz: I understand that you were an athlete, what did you specialise in?
Benjamin Brouillet: I still am, kind of. I specialised in ice-skating, I trained for about six to seven years when I was in junior high. Growing up, I also loved Japanese culture, so I also did Taido, martial arts. I went to a sports school from the age of eleven to sixteen, but then I got lazy. I never liked being told what to do and when I started to do big competitions like the national championships, it got too much and I dropped out. I now love to hike, cycle and I swim a lot. I’ve been a bike messenger for almost two years now in Paris.
Nazanin: How did you get into fashion? What inspired the career change?
Benjamin: I grew up in a household of women – my mum and my two sisters. My mum loved for us to dress well, she would come home from work with big shopping bags, it would make me so happy. I’ve always loved clothes, but didn’t realise that I wanted to work in fashion until I moved out from home. I started my career as a visual merchandiser at Takashimaya in NYC, I then worked at Dolce & Gabbana for four years whilst working as a stylist and started producing my own shoots. I’ve been freelancing for four years now and launched Boyhood two years ago with my best friend Celine, she makes all the samples and I’m in charge of the creative direction and styling.
“I’ve always loved clothes, but didn’t realise that I wanted to work in fashion until I moved out from home.”
Nazanin: Does your professional sports background play a part in Boyhood?
Benjamin: It sure does, I take a lot of inspiration from my sports background. I worked on a jewellery collaboration with designer, Chris Habana, we made a necklace from charms of the French flag, it reminded me of the lanyards at the sporting competitions and the fleece joggings were inspired by my high school PE teacher. Though, I don’t want to be categorised as a sportswear brand, which is why I mix and match other products like jewellery and underwear to create more of lifestyle label. For spring, I want to create a football team, along with the fans and referees.
Nazanin: Can you run us through your first steps in designing and launching your debut collection?
Benjamin: It took us a while to decide which pieces we wanted to launch with and how to design the debut collection. But, we basically spent a day in charity shops, sat in a park and laid down the pieces we bought and took it from there. That was of course the first step, we also looked at old school photos and pics from ski camp – Boyhood is like a friendly reminder of how we used to dress during the nineties in the French countryside.
“Boyhood is like a friendly reminder of how we used to dress during the nineties in the French countryside.”
Nazanin: What’s the ethos of your brand?
Benjamin: I want to offer a lifestyle brand with sporty clothing, jewellery pieces and accessories. Inspired by my personal background and growing up as a teenager in Angers, I want the brand to capture French fashion and culture from a very particular time and place. Nineties throwback with a 21st century vibe. The idea of Boyhood is to never grow up, always stay young and keep a good energy.
Nazanin: What was your experience of fashion growing up in Angers?
Benjamin: Angers didn’t have much to offer in terms of fashion, but when I was a teenager my sister moved to Paris and I was always visiting her to go shopping. I would return after each trip with new outfits and sneakers and the kids at school would hate them, but six months later they would go buy it, I guess I was a bit of a trendsetter 😉