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Ben Taverniti has been a design star for more than a decade. After studying at the renowned Parisian fashion school ESMOD (alums include Balmain's former creative director Christophe Decarnin), the young talent became the head designer at Taverniti Couture and followed that up with a role as head designing assistant to the one and only Jeremy Scott. At 25, he moved to LA to become the creative director at Hudson Jeans, where he made waves in the premium denim market for years. Now, the ever-evolving Taverniti is once again disrupting the fashion industry with Unravel.
With the help of his tastemaking significant other Joyce Bonelli (a celebrity makeup artist known for her killer style and work with the Kardashians), Taverniti has transformed Unravel into a model-off-duty movement in less than a year, and has everyone from Kendall Jenner (this look styled by Monica Rose is now legendary) to Gigi Hadid to Chanel Iman fiending for his bomber jackets, cashmere hoodies, and lace-up pants.
Intrigued by the craze, which also includes a Forward by Elyse Walker collab, we visited Taverniti and Bonelli at their incredible home in the hills to exclusively learn more about the badass magic they're making.
What inspired the launch of Unravel?
Ben Taverniti (BT): I started thinking about Unravel about five years ago. My strategy was to create momentum, because the fashion industry is dying. Everything is starting to look the same, so the concept behind Unravel is "let's destroy all this and start something new."
I launched it by myself last February, and my strategy was to have it in the top five best luxury stores in the world—including LA's Maxfield—in its first season. Everybody said I was out of my mind because those were the most difficult stores to get into. But I presented the collection in a suite at Hôtel Costes in Paris, and I got into every store. The hero pieces for buyers were the distressed T-shirts and biker jackets. I was doing everything alone, and I was glad that I planted the seed properly. Then I linked with Joyce three months in, and that's when everything changed.
How did you two meet?
Joyce Bonelli (JB): It's actually a really funny story. We met on a plane from Paris to Los Angeles. It was during Kim and Kanye's wedding week, so the whole wedding party was on the flight. Rob Kardashian went home early, so Ben took his seat, which was next to me. Everyone knew each other on the plane except Ben. We were having our own party on the plane, then all of a sudden the girls were like, "Who is this guy sitting next to you? He's so hot!" He had earbuds on and his hoodie over him—I think he hated us!
BT: I didn't hate you guys at all! When I saw everyone on the plane, the first thing that came to my mind was, "It's going to be a shitshow when we land in LA." That was my biggest concern. Then we landed, and we went our separate ways.
JB: On the plane, we talked and realized we have very parallel lives. He has a four-year-old, and I have three-year-old. We also talked a little bit about Unravel, but it was just an idea then. Cut to a year later, I was at a BBQ with my friend (Sable Banoun) who does ThePerfext line with Elyse Walker, and she was on my phone because her phone was dead. She was going through my Instagram because she wanted to show me these amazing pants that the everyone is obsessed with. When she showed them to me, I was like "OMG! That's the guy from the plane!" We noticed that he was following me, so I DMed him to say congrats on everything. We decided to meet up, and the rest is history.
So, Kim and Kanye were your unofficial matchmakers. Amazing. When did you two decide to start working together?
BT: We starting talking in the DMs. One day, I told her that I'm going back to Paris, and she said that she was actually on her way to Paris. We met up there, and that was the beginning of all of this. You see, I was in my little box when I first launched Unravel. It was purely my art, it was my baby. I was literally in a one bedroom apartment working all day, all night. Thanks to my time at Hudson and being in the fashion industry for 18 years, I don't need to make a living off of Unravel, but it is a passion of mine and I use the finest materials. So, when I met Joyce, she helped me take it to the next level because she's constantly pushing me. She showed me how powerful social media was and how important it is for my designs to look good in pictures. She'll rip up one of Unravel's sweaters and then that becomes a new style. She's really my muse and inspiration.
JB: We feed off of each other; our work ethic is very similar. As an artist, you always have to have someone pushing you. To me an unsatisfied artist is the best because there is always going to be an evolution to them. Ben is a genius, epic designer and I'm obsessed with him. He really puts in the work and is constantly feeding his passion. He's igniting the fashion world. I know models who have worn many different brands, and everyone has the same opinion: Unravel feels new, but has a vintage comfort to it.
How did you get Unravel on celebrities?
BT: When Joyce and I first got together, people were talking about what she could do for me. It was never my goal to have her expose her friends to me. In fact, I was pushing back on it because I knew how visible the brand would be once they wore it, and I didn't know if I could keep up with the demand.
JB: There was never, ever a creepy factor. I was just so excited for his designs, so I started wearing the lace-up pants and the jackets in photos and at work. One day, I came on set in one of Unravel's silk jackets that we don't even more anymore, and Khloe Kardashian wanted to wear it to go out that night. Three weeks later, I wore a similar Unravel jacket and Khloe took that one too! Then, after a long day I dragged Monica Rose to our house for wine and made her try on a few pieces. She immediately realized what was happening and how special it was.
BT: To do a luxury line like this, it requires a lot of money, and I was financing everything myself. The cost to make a pair of lace-up pants, for instance, is very expensive because we use the best leather in the world; nobody has this leather because I created it. It's not like we make our designs for $20 and we're just overpricing them—we actually pay real money to produce everything because I think it's worth it. This isn't like buying a $5,000 red dress that you're only going to wear once; I don't think that's fair to people. I want us to do cool pieces that are timeless—items that you can wear today, tomorrow, and 15 years from now, and people will still respect it. That's very important to me.
Since Unravel is a small operation, have you two been approached by any established designers to take the brand to the next level?
BT: We've definitely been approached; people are throwing big money at us. But I'm looking for a power move, not money.
JB: With those kinds of deals, you lose the luxury. You have this person with a mass-market mind that wants to change everything and then it becomes shit that everyone else has. We don't want that.
BT: One specific person reached out and wanted us to join their brand, but told me that I would have to stop Unravel. It was the hardest decision I ever had to make, and we spend three hours talking, but eventually I said no.
JB: I feel like it's not the end with that person, though. I know the two of them are going to do something major together at the right time.
What are your big dreams for Unravel?
BT: Things are going to explode for us this year. LA is home, but I had to move our production to Europe, where I'm from, since here there are some limitations on designing luxury products and shoes here. I want Unravel to be a true lifestyle brand. People will be wearing head to toe Unravel, and have it all over their homes. This is just the beginning.