Boast's Ryan Babenzien On the Iconic Preppy Brand's Revamping + Leafy Logo

Peter Davis

I grew up wearing Boast every summer at tennis clinic (sounds so medical!) at The Meadow Club in Southampton. The preppy brand the cool gear to wear because the label's symbol looked like a pot leaf (it's actually a Japanese maple leaf). Who would have known? So when my sister, designer Minnie Mortimer told me she was designing a capsule collection for Boast (and will continue to do so, I immediately called up to get the whole scoop. "I'm going to do more stuff for Boast," Minnie promised. "It's part of our childhood, Pete."

I met Boast's dapper CEO Ryan Babenzien to discuss the re-vamping of the iconic label, which celebrates four decades in 2013. We also talked about his plans to update the sportswear line, the surprise new designer (skateboard-obsessed peeps will be thrilled) and just what to do about that Japanese maple leaf that looks like a big leaf of ganja. Naturally, Miss. Lilly's Jamaican themed eatery was the ideal place to meet to chat.

Boast is such a classic brand - I grew up living in it. How did you modernize the Boast label which has such a storied history?

RB: As you know, Boast is really an American Heritage brand at this point. While we covet the brand's authenticity, it's important to maintain our relevancy as fits and styles aren't static. That is really the most important modernization for us: fits. We've got two great designers working with us on the brand, one who helped launch Rogues Gallery and the other who's the creative director of Supreme. (And who's also my brother.)

I grew up wearing Boast to play tennis. Do you play? Are you good? What is your best tennis move?

RB: I don't really play much but now that I've joined Boast, I think I'll be spending more time on the court. I played a bit as a kid when I would visit my grandparents in Florida, probably until I was 12 or so, then I didn't pick up a racquet until college. But I've always been a fan of the sport.

Tell me about the Minnie Mortimer collaboration for Boast? Why Minnie? And by the way, Minnie is my sister and best friend.

RB: Minnie is kind of the perfect fit for Boast. She's grew up wearing Boast. We love those kind of authentic connections so given her talent and connection to the brand, it was a perfect choice.

The belts, bags, ties and women's cuts seem modern. How did you decide to add these to the Boast collection?

RB: What you see is really only a small sneak of what we're doing. Spring 2013 is really going to be the first time Boast shows a collection for both Men & Women. And yes, they will be modern and relevant. But we know the most important thing we have with Boast is its heritage, so we will always design with that in mind. Boast came into existence from courts and country clubs, which are really the foundation for American Classic Style. But Boast has always had an irreverent nature so we're going ot have fun with it. There will be surprises on top of the basics.

Where do you see Boast going in the future?

RB: Our immediate focus is for the 40th anniversary in 2013 and in addition to the collection, we've got some great collaborations were lining up to support this monumental year. We're building a great collection and are in the early stages of setting up the machine to bring the brand to the world.

How do you feel about the Japanese maple leaf logo? It signifies preppy to many while other hippy types thought it looked like a pot leaf? What does the symbol mean to you?

RB: In today's world, Japanese brands are so influential in men's apparel. We like to think that [Boast founder] Bill St. John was a visionary and his use of the Japanese Maple was a testament to that. That connection to Japan was way ahead of the curve in 1973. The reality is, it's a Japanese Maple leaf so it's "similarity" to a more illicit leaf just doesn't matter to us.

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