Buckle Up Baby
TSKC's Ashuni Pérez interviews Parisian partenaires Milena Walter and Hugo Magagnin of Baby Turns Blue! (Cover photo by Victor Pattyn)
Am I correct in assuming that Baby Turns Blue is a pun directed at the fact that you make chokers and other bondage gear that might make you blue in the face?
Actually it's the title of a song from the Virgin Prunes (one of our favourite post-punk bands), and indeed we thought that it made a great pun as you guessed, and we think it sounds great!
How did you get into leatherworking? What were some of your influences?
Milena is a graduate student from La Cambre Brussels, she was studying Fashion Design and incorporating leather craft into it since her first year collection.
As Milena spent six years in Belgium, most of her influences come from there; her favorite designers are Margiela and Ann Demeulemeester. The "technical" inspiration resulting in peculiar designs can help for precise ideas such as details on a bag or jacket, for instance.
What brought the two of you together?
We’ve known each other for 3 years and we live together.
Milena designed the first piece as a challenge. She perceived a suspender harness as a true work of art, but she was like "I'd love to buy it but I won't wear it. Also, it's too expensive for something I would like to frame"
So I answered, "Why don't you do it yourself?" This is exactly how everything started and how Milena quickly grew a passion for handcrafting leather accessories. Then of course you've got to organize photoshoots and collaborate with photographers, but it's often hard to work with people that don't understand exactly what you're expecting from them.
After she had multiple bad experiences, I decided to bring back my old camera and do the pictures myself. We are proud to say that we now produce most of our visual content by ourselves (we of course do collaborations, too).
I come from an engineering background and later decided to help business wise.
We admire your transparency with your materials. Upcycling already existing leather is an important step in the direction of reducing waste. How do you decide what makes the cut?
Of course, this is a key point we like to highlight as often as possible as we don't use vegan leather at the moment.
There are today only 3 options regarding the "vegan leather" promise. Most of what is called vegan leather is, in fact, faux leather made of plastic, with all of its downsides (doesn't look good, not durable at all, industry based...) There is also vegetable tanned leather which is just true leather with no chemical products for treatment, but not upcycled of course... Last option: True vegan leather made of natural fibers only... But the choice is limited today, and it doesn't have the soul (random grain, comfort on the skin) of real leather.
Therefore, upcycling seemed to be the best option for us. We choose our leathers based on quality of course, but also availability as we want to be able to make multiple pieces in the same finish. We have a online gallery of available finishes, so our customers can choose their piece in any leather we currently have in stock.
The process for each one of your pieces feels so intimate. How long does it take for you to craft a choker, from beginning to end?
This is very random based on leather choice, hardware and complexity of course. We line 100% of our pieces, always add edge quote finish, and use traditional techniques for cutting, so it takes quite some time...
BTB makes beautiful gear that fits into bondage aesthetics. Are you part of the scene or on the fringes?
We really do our best to revisit (through design, photography and our models) the stereotype linked to these accessories. We are always trying to turn the "vulgar" side of it into softness and cuteness, while still keeping it sexy.
How does being based in Paris affect your work? Do you find inspiration in the nightlife there?
We were born and raised here and are both almost 30. I think that we can say that we're not so much of night birds anymore (we used to be).
The theme of this issue is ‘Blue’. What do you think of when you think of blue?
In French, blue translates in "bleu", which also means "bruise". It makes us think of clumsiness, something you'll always find cute in a girl. It's quite obvious, but blue also makes us think of softness, connecting the dots of what we try to show or avoid through our brand.
Do you have any big projects in the works?
We have many new products to be launched before the end of the year, we want them to be perfect and tend to challenge ourselves more and more, which doesn't simplify the design part of the task... We're also working on a video featurette, showing the other side of our story.
Where can we see more of your work?
Our brand new Baby Turns Blue website (with nice product pictures & uncensored photoshoots)!