In less than a year, Paris-based streetwear brand Boyhood launched a full collection, received dazzling press mentions (Hype Beast, Hero, and Office) and found international stockists in cities including Amsterdam, Milan, and Toronto. For such a young brand, Boyhood is moving fast.
Founded in February 2017 by creative diretor Benjamin Brouillet and his childhood friend Céline Fadalat, Boyhood draws heavily on Brouillet’s own youth. He cites his childhood in Angers, France as a major influence on the label’s schoolyard looks. Young Brouillet was a serious athlete, and his love of sportswear is obvious in Boyhood’s primary-hued designs.
The strong personal narrative behind Boyhood lends realness to an aesthetic that’s decidedly au courant. Sportswear has long been a mainstay of French street fashion; lately, retro-styled sportswear is more popular than ever stateside as well. With 1990s favorites like Champion and Fila experiencing a fresh wave of popularity, standing out as a nostalgia-inspired brand is a challenge.
Boyhood’s quick success is due, at least in part, to the brand’s ability to revitalize this trend with new takes on classic looks. Their ability to make the most of online platforms has also been key to gaining new customers.
To help them get off the ground and sell clothing to customers, Boyhood leveraged their online presence. “I got my first customers on Instagram. Direct message is the new email,” Brouillet told Format Magazine. Now, as the brand grows, Boyhood is turning their focus to e-commerce. Their website features lookbook photo shoots, as well as an online store. It echoes the brand’s simple, playful and curated vibe with an über minimal theme design.
We got in touch with Brouillet and his assistant Anna McCorriston to find out more about what makes the brand tick. In a sea of new streetwear lines, this is what a young label does to stand out.
“Don’t let anyone take over the image until people catch on to your vision.”
Build a personal narrative
“The most important thing as a new designer is to oversee every process of the brand and be able to establish the brand aesthetic,“ Brouillet says. "I have been involved in every photo shoot so far, and did my own casting. My advice would be to do it yourself and don’t let anyone take over the image until people catch on to your vision.
"Boyhood’s narrative is deeply personal, inspired by my childhood growing up in France and going through the ‘boyhood’ years. I don’t really like categorizing the brand in a narrow way because it represents a diversity of ideas and memories. With that said, the garments are definitely more sportswear than street, but the image is more recognizable as streetwear because that is what inspires me.”
“There’s just an amazing streetwear culture here in Paris, and Ben draws on a lot of the trends that were really popular in the 1990s and 2000s,“ says McCorriston. "It’s a particular aesthetic that people who are French recognize, because it’s nostalgic for them, and people internationally find interesting because it’s different.”
Brouillet takes authenticity seriously. The school books used in Boyhood’s latest collage-style look book are from his own school days. “He actually pulled them out of storage and stuck the lookbook images on top, and then the whole collage became the look book,” McCorriston explains. “It’s kind of funny, people think he just pulled any kind of school book image, but it’s his actual book.”
“If you can respond to somebody in a direct way and give them what they’re looking for I think everybody wins.”
Get the most out of social media
With a highly engaged Instagram following, @boyhoodofficial has been a surprising source of sales as the brand gets established. Brouillet often receives DMs from photographers looking to borrow his pieces for shoots, or customers looking to pre-order the latest item.
“I really just go with the flow for Instagram,“ he says. "I wish I had a strategy, but I just post whatever I feel like and try to keep things consistent. The most important thing is that you like what you post and what you do; having too many rules would become really boring. It’s a very good platform to show people your work and your vision.”
McCorriston describes the brand’s approach to press as multidimensional. “You have to capitalize on everything that you have available to you,” she says. “A lot of personal orders come through Instagram, and then some of our press pieces direct more traffic towards our online portfolio. We also showed at Capsule Paris recently—it’s a trade show that happens in different parts of the world, there’s one that just happened in New York. We showed there and also acquired some stockists that way.“
Boyhood makes personalized customer engagement a focus. Brouillet runs the Instagram account and replies to everyone himself. "It’s not some ghost person dealing with it,” as McCorriston puts it. “Ben gets DMs from people, and people reach out for pre-order through Instagram. For us, it’s not a bad way to go, because it’s nice to confirm numbers. And we want people to feel like there’s a personal touch. It’ll probably become harder over time as we get more and more people, but if you can respond to somebody in a direct way and give them what they’re looking for I think everybody wins.”
“Boyhood is quite versatile in terms of fit, which is also why it’s a good brand for e-commerce.”
Don’t limit your audience
“I think is one of the reasons Boyhood has such good traction on social media, and also with the press, is that the model casting is really diverse,“ McCorriston says. Diversity is a focus for the brand not just in casting but also when it comes to their customers. Although Boyhood is technically a menswear label, they’re not quick to categorize themselves as such. With their sporty, oversized cuts and simple colors, most pieces have a gender-neutral feel.
“If you throw on a sports bra and one of the oversized button-downs and a pair of baggy jeans, it works. It just depends on your personal taste. I think we’re also entering an era where people pay less and less attention to what section they’re in when they’re buying clothes.
“Even for the men, sometimes they’re between two sizes—the same guy could wear two sizes of the same shirt. Boyhood is quite versatile in terms of fit, which is also why it’s a good brand for e-commerce. We haven’t really had anyone who’s disappointed in the way that a piece fits once they receive it. We’ve also had a huge diversity in the height of our customers. It’s interesting how a button-down shirt in the same size can work for somebody who’s a foot taller than someone else.”
“I think for any brand, the most ideal sales happen in your store or your online platform.”
Create an online platform.
Although Boyhood hasn’t ventured into paid advertising yet, they’re planning to focus on their website and online store as the brand grows. “I think for any brand, the most ideal sales happen in your store or your online platform. It just gives you the best results, and it’s a more direct relationship with your customers,” says McCorriston.
“When we launched, the website was kind of a home base. The goal is to over time make it a destination for customers. We just launched an email newsletter, so it’s now possible for people to sign up for that. Our goal is to get the customer really comfortable with visiting the site and using it as a reference point to find products. So much fashion is online these days. The more you can harness that and work with that, the better.”