Imagine this: if Glastonbury married FILA and raided Kurt Cobain’s closet, what will their love child look like?

In that case, John Targon knows that it’ll be no other than his brand, Baja East. Together with co-designer Scott Studenberg, they are known for churning out tie-dye tees, tracksuits and sleek party dresses. Apart from their clothes, they’ve collaborated with Related Garments, FILA and most recently, Melissa Shoes and Hudson Jeans.

Thanks to their take from the pre-party to the post-afterparty lifestyle, a mass of musicians (Justin Bieber; Solange Knowles; Lady Gaga) and fashion muses (Caroline Vreeland) are never caught without their Baja East. Not to forget, they’ve also earned a nomination for the CFDA.

Targon and I chat about their upcoming collabs, experimenting with vegan accessories, and LGBTQ rights.


This season, you've debut your collabs with Melissa Shoes and Hudson Jeans. What made you collab with them and why have you decided to expand into footwear, bags and denim?

We have had such a fun time building out our brand and it's new approach to luxury, something that isn't fussy or overdone and meant to be worn and lived-in. The collabs we did for Spring ‘18 were all about a natural extension of our customer’s lifestyle - a way for them to continue building their wardrobe with Baja East at the right price points. The collabs are direct extensions of our brand including the weed print on the denim with Hudson and the python texture bags and “thriving” slides with Melissa.

Your designs lean into athleisure, futurism and beachwear, but it has a strong city girl vibe. Is there anyone who inspired you to create a lifestyle-centred collection?

The first reality was that Scott and I travelled a ton with our past jobs and we thought about this lifestyle and the desire to always seek some way to restore which often meant the beach. We thought about needing more serious work clothes and then said, “Why do we have to have both? Why can't one wardrobe be dressed up or down and take you to all the places you want to go?” Lady Gaga is one of our muses and she is a continued inspiration for the lifestyle as you see her on the beach in one of our knit cardigan robes or on a red carpet accepting an Emmy within the same two days.

What many people don't expect from you is that you are known for your love of veganism. As a fashion designer, how does it feel to be designing vegan accessories? Where did this idea stem from?

The idea is two-fold: it's about the animals and our planet, and how can we be part of doing what's right and changing the design game a bit. The other reality is, it’s fun to really push the limits and ideas of creativity within unconventional materials, like using 100% plastic to achieve designs that one wouldn't be able to tell from the real thing. You never wanna feel like a fake when it comes to style but sometimes you wanna feel like the real thing and appreciate the beauty that exists in mother nature.

If there is one piece from your collection that you will pass it down to your future children, what will it be?

Let me get to having those kids first! But in all seriousness, I would like to pass along a good assortment of our knitwear, ideas that started from prints and graphics and translated into wearable art, like our ikat graffiti zip hoodie or tribal graffiti sweats.

Among your celebrity fans, you've got Lady Gaga, Leona Lewis and Miley Cyrus wearing your t-shirts that support LGBTQ rights. How have they inspired you to motivate others about issues you care about through fashion?

I think our biggest inspiration to begin was the actual LGBTQ community, not only because we are members ourselves but because the issues ahead jeopardize our rights to exist equally. The great thing about musicians and actors who use their voice for good is that what they say and when they choose to stand behind an initiative such as our BE Proud campaign - it's from the heart and not a forced move.

Prior to joining Baja East, you were a wholesale director at Burberry. What was it like for you to work in a non-creative position there and how did that lead you to pursue fashion design?

My work history always involved design, my first internship was a shoe design internship, so looking forward at Burberry there was always a merchandising component. A direct working relationship with the design teams, visual teams and all the people that bring about a collection. I think my biggest approach has always been how do we have the right vibe and make it wearable and a staple to your wardrobe.

Lastly, you mentioned that being perfect annoys you. Why does it bother you and how can we grow to accept mistakes?

For me, it's always about the strive to doing things perfectly, which the idea of perfection means that you can't get inside and live there or experience something your own way. The idea of perfection in a lot of ways means that the same experience is controlled for everyone and that's not how I see life. You have to bring all the things you learn to the table and often those weren't the first right choices. In design, some of the best concepts and clothes happen with experimentation, and in that case, it doesn't mean you don't want the perfect distressed garment.