The first time that Brendon Babenzien met Sam Lobban, he was suspicious. Lobban was an executive at Mr Porter at the time, and Babenzien—the founder and designer of Noah—had plenty of firsthand experience dealing with corporate fashion types who’d bluster into meetings without much regard for his brand or ideas. “I thought, ‘Oh god, here we go again. Another one of these guys,’” Babenzien recalls. “But Sam was actually really lovely.” They wound up spending hours on the couch in Noah’s Mulberry Street flagship, connecting over the kinds of deep cultural touchstones Babenzien had baked directly into his label: surfing and skateboarding, new wave and hardcore, New England prep and New York streetwear. “He really understood where we were coming from, and we’ve learned to trust each other ever since.”
That trust is the foundation of Noah’s new collaboration with Nordstrom, where Lobban now serves as senior vice president of Designer & New Concepts. On paper, an independent, ethically-minded, eco-conscious company like Noah teaming up with a global retail colossus like Nordstrom might not make all that much sense. But as Lobban explains, Nordstrom’s New Concepts series has been specially engineered to help brands like Noah broadcast its ideals and point of view to a wider audience. “Oftentimes in these collaborations, the bigger player tries to control the narrative,” Lobban says. “We come at these things in the exact opposite way. What Noah stands for—the messaging that Brendon and [Noah co-owner] Estelle [Bailey-Babenzien] have built into the brand—is what drew us to them in the first place.” In other words: They let Noah be Noah.
The end result is a limited capsule that reads like a balmy greatest hits record from Noah’s first five years—jammed with archival grails, present-day standouts, and a handful of collaborations-within-the-collaboration with the likes of French eyewear savants Vuarnet and surf rock legends The B-52’s. “It’s got an over-the-top beach party feeling,” Babenzien says, “with a touch of snarkiness and sarcasm about how we’ve been treating our beaches and our oceans.” The entire collection landed on Nordstrom’s site this morning—and if you’re hoping to get your hands on some of it, we’d advise heading over there as soon as possible.
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