Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the cheerfully bright Tardieu launched his eponymous line in 2014 with a collection that blended styles, fabrics, and occasions. “It’s laid-back luxury,” he tells me. “When I design, I design in a way that the products are able to be worn in so many different ways, in a way that is functional and versatile.” Beyond this, the brand is an expression of Tardieu’s values: global inspiration, casual elegance, and fastidious craftsmanship—and he learned a lot of these values by accident.
Tardieu moved to Paris when he was 17 to attend college. His siblings had all gone to Belgium, but something drew him to the City of Lights. As he says, “My heart was telling me, this is where I needed to go. It wasn’t a calculated thing.” Paris to him felt like the place to be, so he trusted his instinct and went to the capital of the fashion world without really knowing why.
Tardieu always had a style all his own. He was known as someone with an independent look, but he never gave much thought to this until others pointed it out.
“When I finished college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Some of the kids I knew in my business management program were talking about what they were going to do. Some of them were going to do an internship in a bank; others were going to insurance firms. They looked at me and said ‘Fab, what are you going to do now that you’re finished?’ I took a minute, put my head down, looked up at the four of them and said, ‘I have no idea. What do you guys think I should do?’ And then all of them, at the same time, said ‘Fashion.'”
That was the first day that he realized he could be on the other side—the person selling the clothes, instead of buying them. So he got an internship at Emporio Armani, though again, this wasn’t a calculated move. He chose Armani of the two companies he had internship offers with because it was closer to where he was living. This is a man who does well when he trusts his gut.
After three months, Tardieu was offered a permanent position and very-necessary-Visa at Armani. His time there prepared him for the fashion world he wanted to impact. “I learned from the best,” he says. Though he got along well and found a fashion house full of mentors, he conflicted at times because of his desire to impact design though his role was in sales.
“With every collection, I would go to the presentations in Milan and get into arguments with the design team over there. Until one day, the director told me to do my job as a salesperson. As a young person who’s crazy and full of heart, I looked at him and said ‘Well, I can’t get the sales done unless you make the design changes I’m asking, so let’s make them, and if they don’t work, then fire me.’”
Sales then boosted two seasons in a row.
After learning much during his tenure at Armani, Tardieu decided to move to the United States and launch a brand with his brother called Bogosse. After working for years to establish the brand’s success, he suddenly got another intuitive feeling that his life needed a new direction. “I got the feeling on a Tuesday, and on Wednesday I launched the brand. Like everything in life, I was evolving and getting older, and I started seeing fashion going in a different direction. I wanted something that would be touching more people. And I wanted to have a brand where I could sell a lifestyle, not a product,” he says.
Tardieu knew he wanted to create a brand that consisted of clothes that he himself wanted to wear. “While traveling, I could never find a cool outfit that was super nice. With the suits I was wearing, I would get off the plane and the shirt would be all wrinkled, or it was too conservative and too tight so that I wasn’t comfortable on the plane.”
His designs combine materials and functionality—trousers made with tracksuit materials and crafted by tailors so they fit as well as a suit while being deeply comfy; boat shoes made with fuchsia Margom soles and grey python skin; Chelsea boots with straps to adjust the level of formality. The men’s and women’s clothes that Fabrice Tardieu creates are handcrafted in Italy, and are as luxurious as they are versatile—a clutch fashion hack for the global jetsetter.
The aesthetics themselves are of a global nature too. Besides being influenced by the likes of lux fashion houses and the dapper looks of Sean Connery-era Bond films, Tardieu’s palette includes the warmth and free-spiritedness of Caribbean culture. Miami, where he resides, has a large impact on his fashion sense, but the most intimate inspiration is his country. “You can find Haiti in all of my collections. I have prints in the coming collection that look like camouflage, but when you look up close at them, you see that they’re little outlines of Haiti. I keep my country close to my heart. One of my best-selling boots is my Dessalines, named after Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the lieutenant under Toussaint Louverture in the revolution which overthrew the French and abolished slavery.”
As wide-ranging as his influences are, the pieces are distinctly him. This is crystallized in a story he has about struggling with a name for the brand. He was out to dinner with one of his mentors at Armani, showing him his lookbook and list of name ideas. “I’ll never forget it. He closed the sample book with all the name ideas I had, and he goes, ‘Fab, this brand cannot be anything other than your name.’”
Thus, the fashion world now has Fabrice Tardieu, both the man and the brand.