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David Sarfati’s clothing label 13 Bonaparte has a certain chameleon charm. When he opened his first store in the Marais, everything about it seemed absolutely French. Then he opened a second store in downtown Los Angeles and everything all of a sudden felt very LA. The label, which was built around the concept of smart, seasonless, and well-tailored wardrobe staples, expresses an inimitable refinement. Each collection is based on Sarfati’s personal style, sensibilities, and experiences.

He has a background working in both New York and Paris—first as an assistant at a branding and packaging design studio and then at a department store, respectively. As Sarfati tells, the concept for 13 Bonaparte began while he was working in Paris, but at the same time, he was very much inspired by his American experiences. For him, the natural next step after success in Paris and LA was a shop in downtown New York.

Each 13 Bonaparte store is distinct but connected through the same brand spirit and certain Sarfati signatures. Similar to the first two locations, the New York shop will have 20th-century European design pieces, a personal collection of rare and vintage art and photography books, and an edit of wardrobe pieces that are tailored specifically for the New York customer. In the lead-up to the store’s opening this September on Rivington Street in Manhattan, GrandLife had the pleasure of speaking with the designer and artistic director.  

What is your relationship with design and architecture?

DS: Design and architecture are a passion. It is core to my process and truly provides daily inspiration for me. I’ve always been drawn to a certain sense of structure when conceiving of our product offering and I also really believe in functionality. From graphic pockets and design details to employing durable materials, the wardrobe is meant to be worn and to hold up over time in a variety of climates and lifestyles. I think there is a certain reference to what I find most inspiring about design and architecture inherent in that idea of building something that is long-lasting and able to exist in a variety of settings.

Tell us about the new space. How did you approach designing it? What was the inspiration behind the interiors?

DS: I conceptualized the space at 1 Rivington as a true homage to simplicity. Throughout the process, I really gravitated to the work of artists such as Robert Irwin, Elias Crespin, Richard Artschwager, and Pierre Soulages for inspiration. I held onto a passionate focus on precise graphic details and sharp lines to create a space that allows customers to escape for the time they’re in the store and be able to really engage with and enjoy all of the different elements of the store, from the product offering to the design pieces and the library, without any distraction or a sense of over-saturation. Pulling a range of materials is also always very important to me and for this space you’ll find concrete, steel, mirror glass, Formica, rubber, and perspex throughout, but they’re used thoughtfully and sparingly to avoid an overly cold or industrial feeling.

Will this store carry the same pieces or is it tailored differently? Are you selling anything else in the shop?

DS: Each store has a slightly tailored version of the overall 13 Bonaparte wardrobe as we often introduce certain core permanent styles in different fabrics and colors based on local market tastes. To celebrate the launch in New York, we’ve also created a few exclusive products including a lightweight jacket in microfiber that incorporates our signature false collar.

Tell us about this location and why you were drawn to it?

DS: We’re opening on the south side of Rivington Street, just east of Bowery. We were, of course, drawn to the location given our experience with the pop-up, but also loved the space’s large picture window and the little nook to the side that we’re using as a library. I’m also very inspired by how Rivington Street attracts local creatives and a dynamic mix of international tourists and New Yorkers from other parts of the city. The nearby museums and galleries, as well as all of the innovative food concepts and boutique hotels, really make it the most inspiring part of the city for me.

Are you excited about any of your new neighbors?

DS: I love being so close to the New Museum and the ICP [International Center for Photography]. Le Turtle is a favorite for dinner.

Can you tell us your favorite New York spots to…

Eat a French meal?

DS: Lucien on First Avenue.

See art?

DS: I’ve always loved many of the galleries in Chelsea but more recently, I’ve enjoyed exploring more of the galleries on the Lower East Side including Lehmann Maupin, Bureau, and Tibor De Nagy. It’s fantastic how the Lower East Side has provided opportunities to get to know small independent galleries that are integral to the emerging art scene. Friends also recently introduced me to the founder of The Invisible Dog [Art Center] in Brooklyn, which I also found very inspiring given the work it does with young creatives.

Shop for furniture?

DS: I mostly shop for furniture at flea markets and vintage galleries in Paris and Antwerp that specialize in 20th-century design. In New York, I love to go to Demisch Danant.

Feel like a true New Yorker?

DS: Dinner at Kiki’s.

Words Jenny Hartman

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