Oliver and Bessie Afnaim Corral, the husband and wife behind new luxury men’s and women’s essentials brand Arjé, are adorable. Like, too cute for words. When we met at Café de Flore just after Paris fashion week, where the pair presented their third collection—or chapter, as they call it—they were finishing each other’s sentences. Actually, they were correcting each other’s sentences in the most endearing way possible. For instance, Oliver was telling me that, when he moved to New York after working for Carolina Herrera in his native Spain, his English was “really quite bad.”
“No, it was zero,” chimed Bessie, who was wearing a sumptuous navy blue look from the new Fall collection. “It was like, ‘Hello, wee-fee?’” Oliver blushed, and they both laughed. Now, he speaks English better than I do, but what’s so fascinating is that this pair “basically communicated through body language,” as Bessie put it, for months after meeting during a weekend class at Parsons. The teacher suggested that Bessie reach out to Oliver for some help. She was working for Donna Karan’s Urban Zen at the time, and not long after that first encounter, Oliver joined her.
The duo headed up the design team there from 2009, more or less communicating via telepathy. “When someone said blue, we both thought of the exact same shade, tone, reference—we saw exactly the same thing,” said Bessie. “Then, we fell in love,” offered Oliver, gazing in his wife’s direction. “It was pretty intense,” Bessie added.
Six years later, the two wed, and shortly thereafter, their little bundle of joy—Arjé—was born. “When you have a line, it’s like having a baby,” said Bessie. “We were thinking about creating the brand for two years before leaving Urban Zen, but we didn’t really have the ideas together, and the missing link was getting married,” added Oliver. “It was important for us to get married first because we wanted our love to be built on us, not on something we had created,” said Bessie.
But about what they created—needless to say, Bessie and Oliver had amassed some pretty serious experience before launching their own line, which debuted earlier this year. And they were well aware that the fashion cycle is in a bit of a kerfuffle, thanks in part to the see-now, buy-now debate. Over the last few years, during which a number of brands have dipped their toes in the see-now, buy-now pool—some, like Burberry, staying for a swim, others, like Tom Ford, running swiftly for the showers—it’s become clear that there is no one-size-fits-all model. The Corrals, however, have pioneered a new approach, and they’re hoping it might start a retail revolution—or, at the very least, get people thinking about production and sales differently.