From Fair Haven to Fashion Row

October 20, 2017
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By Judy O’Gorman Alvarez |

Big things are happening for Fair Haven native Stephen Biga.

The young designer is a creative force behind fashion designer BY. Bonnie Young’s Ready to Wear spring 2018 line.

Biga has taken his talents, artistry and Jersey Shore memories and helped create a line of clothing that is flowery, flirty and functional.

And if something looks familiar about the photo shoot backgrounds, it should – the photos were shot at Monmouth Beach Bath & Tennis Club.

The 2010 Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School graduate said he was always involved in fashion, designing costumes for school productions and attending classes at Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City on weekends.

“I knew this is definitely where I wanted to make my career,” he said.

Biga went on to graduate from Parsons School of Design where he studied women’s wear, and in 2016 earned a degree in cultural media studies at the New School, which was “invaluable to my approach to fashion,” he said as he studied culture and understanding market trends.

“That’s always been a really important theme in my work – mapping out culture. Making sure nothing is misrepresented, making sure I’m not taking something and diluting it.”

As Biga explains, there’s a fine line between a designer observing a culture and interpreting it quite literally versus a designer who can use that culture as inspiration and integrate it into their designs.

Biga describes it as an “interpretation” as opposed to an invention.

Biga went on to land internships with Rodarte in Los Angeles (the brand that did the costuming for the movie “Black Swan”) and Proenza Schouler, a womenswear and accessories brand, where his internship evolved into a position in design and product development after graduation.

There he joined the team and got to see a design “all the way from sketch to runway.”

“It was amazing artisanal stuff,” he said. “We made a dress made out of feathers cut in half, and chains were clipped…We were working with super niche materials.”

Biga went on to work as a design illustrator for Coach 1941 collection and then to DKNY as assistant designer.

Biga helped create the BY. Bonnie Young Ready to Wear Spring 2018 collection. The photo shoot was held at Monmouth Beach Bath & Tennis Club.

In December 2016 he joined BY.Bonnie Young as the Ready to Wear designer. (Coincidentally, Young was the creative director of Donna Karan before branching out on her own.)

“We’re a small team,” said Bonnie Young. “And Stephen is my only design person. He’s brought a very big contribution.

“I think Stephen is on the cutting edge of what’s happening,” said Young. “He’s got a great pulse on fashion. He’s super creative and super talented… with an amazing disposition. He brings me a lot of inspiration.”

The summer 2018 line has been a milestone for Biga, who lives in New York City but enjoys trips home to visit his parents in Fair Haven. “This is my first collection and I’ve had a heavy hand from start to finish,” said Biga, who designed some of the prints and styles.

“This collection was inspired by old-fashioned pool clubs and beach clubs,” said Biga, who brought his childhood and hometown memories to the sketch board.

As a child Biga was a member of the swim team at Chapel Beach Club in Sea Bright and remembered going to Monmouth Beach Bath & Tennis Club in Monmouth Beach for meets. “I’ve always been impressed with Big Monmouth,” as it is affectionately called, he said. “It seemed like it was from another era and had a nostalgic vibe.”

With its striped awnings, stately cabanas and lap pools, the club, founded in 1924, provided a perfect seaside backdrop for the BY.Bonnie Young collection’s photo shoot in early September.

Biga traces his passion for fashion designing back to childhood when he was often found, pen in hand, sketching something. “I always doodled,” he said. “I always had my hands in motion. And when I can work with fabric or sketch, it kind of soothes me.”

His inspiration came from Hollywood films of yesteryear, such as the 1950s. “Women wearing elegant, extravagant clothing, and seeing the expressiveness.”

He also credits the various magazines that graced the waiting rooms of doctors’ offices and the like for launching his creativity. As he accompanied his mother to appointments over the years, Biga said he perused countless magazines. “There was a lot of fashion,” he said. “You could see the evolution” of styles, trends and seasons in the photos.

The BY.Bonnie Young Spring 2018 Ready to Wear line was released last month and the reviews have been positive.

Vogue described the collection as “designed to appeal to the woman looking for a real-life uniform, as well as to one chasing after fantasy.”

And in an article also reviewing Marc Jacobs’ collection, fashion critic Cathy Horyn called it “the best take” on “good-looking, relaxed American styles.”

“To be reviewed alongside Marc Jacobs was monumental,” Biga said.

The next stop for Biga is Los Angeles where he and Bonnie Young will comb vintage shops and look for inspiration for the next line.

This article was first published in the Oct. 12-19, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times. 

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