Indie label Area has become the unexpected crown jewel of the New York fashion scene. Renowned for an audacious crystal-clad aesthetic, the brand—founded in 2013 by Parsons School of Design graduates Beckett Fogg, 32, and Piotrek Panszczyk, 34—has amassed a huge global following and an enviable roster of influential fans, including Michelle Obama, Jazmine Sullivan, SZA, Katy Perry, Cardi B and Bella Hadid.
“If you like Area, you have a distinct personality,” says Panszczyk of the brand’s A-list appeal. The USP? Area’s eye-catching looks, which weave cultural references into opulent glamour, with immediately recognisable precision-cut tailoring and painstaking embellishment.
At the heart of the duo’s operations is their Manhattan atelier. Lest we forget their virtual haute couture debut (albeit not on the official FHCM schedule) back in January, which sent shockwaves through the industry. “Naturally, we’ve evolved to be a global brand,” Fogg says, with a nod to the fact they’ve been making custom couture-level pieces for some time. “It’s ingrained in almost every aspect of our business.”
Ahead of their latest collection launch via the official Area website, Vogue caught up with the design duo on what it’s like to dress the biggest stars of today, how music inspires their process and the importance of size representation in their collections.
How would you describe the Area woman? Is she the same person as when you started out?
Piotrek Panszczyk: It has evolved, but we’ve never really changed our aesthetic too much. Area was never about us, it’s always about our audience and looking to them for inspiration.
Beckett Fogg: [Our woman] is very proud of her success and likes to present that—it doesn’t mean she’s a certain age. Our customer lives around the world and we’re resonating with so many different regions right now.
You’ve dressed some amazing people, from Solange to Cardi B and SZA. How do your collaborations with high-profile clients come about and what’s your process?
BF: Sometimes they just direct message us, it’s quite natural. Since the beginning, we’ve developed organic relationships with customers and they always know what they want from us.
PP: We usually work from measurements, recreating their full body on a mannequin with foam. From there, we can easily drape and make patterns. It’s straightforward, we just have to be precise.
Who have you enjoyed seeing wearing your creations?
PP: Naomi Campbell recently wore one of our crystal dresses. She’s an ongoing reference for us and it was incredible to see.
BF: Obviously, Michelle Obama was a really great moment because that made a lot of women look at our brand in a different way. And then Jazmine Sullivan at the Super Bowl, that was iconic.
You’ve set the bar extremely high—who do you like to see wearing your looks?
PP: It’s amazing to see how celebrities translate the looks, but it’s equally inspiring to see people from different walks of life wear our clothes.
BF: When it’s unexpected, that’s the most interesting. I have an aunt who’s 65 and she wore one of our blouses the other day, that was incredible.
You’ve dressed some of the most prominent artists in the game right now—in what way does music inspire your designs?
PP: In a big way. We’re always listening to so much music and it flows into the work, then gets curated and abstracted. When we do a show, it’s important that the audience gets captivated through the sound as well. It’s such a sophisticated medium that really brings a collection to life.
BF: I feel like music is similar to a lot of our pieces; they can be interpreted in so many different ways. It adds another element that makes everything more interesting.
What music inspired your latest collections?
PP: For couture, it was [the late British musician and performance artist] Genesis P-Orridge, but generally we really love strong female voices.
In what way has New York counter-culture influenced your brand? What’s exciting about the city’s creative scene right now?
PP: Recently, there has been a shift where true New York creativity has been able to shine and have a platform. It’s the brands that have been doing their thing for a while on their own terms, such as HBA, Telfar, Vaquera and Collina Strada.
BF: The pandemic has been a reset—it’s obviously devastating, but the aftermath is an opportunity for the creative scene.
What encouraged you to launch couture last season?
PP: It was a natural progression. From the beginning, we were invested in creating garments that were challenging and rooted in craft.
BF: It was about providing clarity to our audience and giving our couture pieces a platform to be recognised for what they are.
You have also proven that couture can both be fun and accessible in sizing. Why is this important to you?
BF: Couture should be fun—it should be enjoyable and come from passion. It’s crucial to show that couture should address and fit various bodies. For us, that’s what couture is rooted in: custom-fit, tailor-made, bespoke—which, naturally, means diversity.
What advice would you give to your younger selves starting out in the business?
PP: Stick to your gut. Especially now, young people have so much power and opportunity to work in a better fashion industry.
BF: Make sure you have a strong support system and cultivate your community—constant conversation and dialogue is important. Nothing will ever follow your plan, which can be a great thing, so embrace that and maintain fluidity to adapt and respond.