Chinese It-Girls and Haunted Hotels Collide in Babyghost
Working side by side for five years, the design duo Qiaoran Huang and Joshua Hupper have carefully crafted Babyghost, a feminine streetwear line that looks as mysterious as it sounds. The pair draw their skills from working at major fashion houses like DVF, and Thakoon, but their influences span across the uncanny. From spooky hotel interiors across the world, to Uma Thurman’s Hattori Hanzo in Kill Bill, even the face of their brand is an eerily stunning anomaly. Their muse, and Josh’s longtime roommate, is Chinese It-Girl Ju Xiaowen – known for her intangibly soft and exaggerated youthful look.
Recognized for the fashion films they’ve made along the way, all starring the baby-faced Ju, their brand is taking off resembling a young Dries Van Noten. Milk Made’s Karenna Insanally sat down with the team at their Soho showroom, and learnt that this tight-knit family shares one universal trait that all families know too well – they fight all the time.
When I first came in you were explaining some of the inspiration behind the collection. Do you mind continuing?
This one was inspired by Home House in London, it’s a private hotel that this woman named the Countess of Home owned. She was Creole and had a lot of crazy parties, and now you can stay there if you’re a member. We actually stayed there when we first met each other. I think we were in Paris around October and we were talking about all the different places that we stayed, like hotels in Beijing, Shanghai, and L.A. We started thinking about building a collection that featured all these different interiors, essentially building our dream house. That’s where our secret garden floral fabric came from, or our flocked lace, which looks like curtains. Once we started layering it that way, that was sort of where the color and texture came from and the silhouette became the lady of the house. We were going for streetwear that’s soft instead of androgynous. This lady is soft, and super feminine, wearing these big, comfortable outerwear pieces over lingerie and silk.
The name Babyghost, where does it comes from?
J: Everybody asks that. The name comes out of building a brand that was founded in 2010. Anybody trying to name a fashion brand this day either names it after himself or herself, but we wanted to do something bigger and not make it about us. One day we realized we had to create a word and we wanted something that sounded familiar, but also like you’ve never heard it before and Babyghost was that. We wrote it on napkins.
Q: Right now for us, this name Babyghost is so special. It’s become our life and our friend, it means so much more for us, almost like we’ve created a new world.
You’ve already mentioned Ju Xiaowen, who has become the Babyghost It-Girl.
J: It really didn’t start out that way and we kept saying, ‘oh well we can’t work with you next season,’ cause then everyone would think we’re crutching. But it just always worked out. With our schedule we would come back and need to shoot, and no one would be here but she would.
Q: She’s also a really close friend – we’re almost a family. After hanging out so much a lot of her style grew on us and vice versa. The three of us grew up together. We all do exactly the same things, and it’s so easy to work with her because she understands what we want. We could just let her shoot herself and she would nail it.
J: We try to use her differently and a lot of people do too. If you notice we don’t put much makeup on her, we do natural face, no hair – we try to make her look the way she does normally.
Q: It all happened by intuition. People think we’re a really big company, but we’re just two people working on this dream and we love it. This is why people feel a lot of emotional attachment to garments, because we actually did put so much of our emotions and thoughts into them. Even when we are making samples, we got to the factory in China and watch them make it. We’re really proud of our collection.
You’ve made quite a few shorts so far. What about fashion and film makes sense?
J: I’m over it now. I’m out of ideas. I hate fashion videos. I think most people do, they usually fall under one of several subsets. It’s either reportage of the lookbook shoot, or a street one which we’ve done twice. We lucked out because we have a model people recognize, but we also got lucky because when we met the director Van Alpert, he was relatively new.
Q: When we started making our first film we didn’t plan to do it. We were just shooting this Chinese It-Girl, and since then it just became our thing. We got really good responses from a lot of people, so we made a video for each season’s collection.
J: We started and couldn’t stop.
Q: People would always ask when’s the next one?
The two of you have been together for five years. How have you grown as a team?
J: We fight less. We used to fight incessantly all day long. It was like we got into the habit of only getting things done after screaming at each other, and now we’re over that.
What did you fight over most?
Q: It’s good having someone working with you. Right now our aesthetic is so similar. It’s almost like we’re the same person, but it wasn’t easy getting used to each other. We fought about buttons, colors, and all the stupid things.
J: We still fight all the time – just now it’s over business.
Who are some of your favorite designers?
J: Oh wow, that’s a good one. I think in the beginning we were both very inspired obviously by Dries, and Undercover. I liked Undercover since I was younger – I loved the brand, the clothing, the stores. Toga from Tokyo was another one. I went to college around 99’ and back then Tokyo was different, it was sort of the newest thing. Then of course Alexander McQueen, Galliano, DVF for me because that was the first place that I worked and she was really inspiring. Thakoon, Alexander Wang, and Phillip Lim we love, anyone that can make this a profitable business right now we have a lot of respect for.
When it comes to your mood boards, do they change each season? Is there any carry-over?
J: They’re becoming less relevant with things like Instagram and Pinterest. Obviously, that was one of the things we loved doing, and we still do them but we don’t feel obligated. Both of us are on social media all the time, constantly screen-shooting and every two days we’ll show each other what we’ve found. That’s changed the most, that and the way you promote your brand. You have 24 hour access to thousands of people and what they think is cool, and you put that in your rue or design stew.
I know you’re both always working, but when you’re not what are you getting into?
J: I go skateboarding.
Q: I like reading.
J: So boring.
Q: I read in Chinese.
J: She’s serious.
Check out Babyghost’s website here