Studio Stalker: Inside Yigal Azrouël's Rustic-Chic Fashion District Showroom-Studio

UPDATE: This story was originally published on March 5.
We're not into objectifying here at R29. Not at all. Never. But, give us a little leeway when it comes to Yigal Azrouël, the Israeli-born designer who defines rugged good looks. Luckily, this dude is more than just a pretty face — he's been crafting his signature line (70% of which is produced right here in NYC) since 1998, clearly proving he has mega staying power. And how could he not? In the decade+ that he's been in the biz, Yigal's garnered rave reviews for his master draping, cutting-edge silhouettes, and feminine-with-an-edge pieces (he practically invented the slouchy moto jacket) that make up the staples of the chic girl-on-the-go. Of course, this self-taught designer has also dominated the menswear market, too, with a knack for making, among other things, sweaters and, yes, leather, that Big Apple boys scoop up at his Meatpacking flagship to wear over and over.
Now, with a new boutique in Soho selling his contemporary brand, Cut25, Azrouël is posed for household-name status (can you say Target collab three times fast?). To indulge our crush — on the man and the clothes, promise — we indulged in a little healthy stalking at his rustic-chic Fashion District showroom-studio. We toured the factory and the new racks, plus quizzed the stud on everything from his inspirations to his ideal woman (SWOON!). We're not going to give you the exact address — sorry y'all, when it comes to Yigal, we're not into sharing.
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Describe the kind of woman you design for. Who are your muses?
"You know, for me, it's not a fantasy of course. I've always liked Françoise Hardy. She was always my biggest, biggest muse. For me, it's not just about style, it's also about the personality and I like women who know how to wear the clothes well and who are comfortable with themselves. It doesn't really matter what the clothes are, it's how you wear them. Françoise Hardy is one of them. And of course, I like Kate Moss. Who else? It's always someone different from a different era. But to be honest, I feel like Françoise Hardy is the one I feel most attached to."

Photographed by Mark Iantosca

Yigal Azrouël shoes and clothing.
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Yigal's mood board boasts some pretty cool swatches.

Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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Tell us about your everyday work uniform in the office.
"Me, personally, I'm the shoemaker (laughs). I wear jeans and a T-shirt. Even when I make men's clothes, I always try to keep it effortless and comfortable."

Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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So, do you think being in New York has been important in your creative process?
"Absolutely, absolutely. Because you get the diversity of different things and different cultures all in one city. There's so much going on and we sometimes forget to pay attention to things. But if you take a moment, at least for me, I am very impressed by what I see."

Photographed by Mark Iantosca

Yigal Azrouël clothing.
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What did you have in mind when you designed your workspace?
"It's like my home. I like to feel comfortable. I usually have my pieces everywhere but you don't see it right now because we just finished the season, so we're redoing everything. For me, I don't like too much stuff. I like to keep it clean because I get very claustrophobic otherwise. Again, I like to start from scratch. The easiest way to describe it is: when I work on a collection, it's like a sculpture. When you start a sculpture, you don't really know where you're going. I find some great pieces in the flea markets, I love the color combination and the textures and the wood. It's very me, it's my home."

Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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Would you say that your studio reflects your collections or vice versa?
"It works hand in hand. Somehow things influence me from both sides. Sometimes we don't realize things but we absorb it subconsciously."

Photographed by Mark Iantosca
7 of 15
Are there any designers you wear the most?
"Besides myself? (laughs)."

Besides yourself, yes
"I don't like anybody in particular. I'm not really looking for names in general. I can wear J.Crew or a T-shirt. I can wear Margiela sneakers or a Dior jacket. For me, it's a mix and, of course, it can change from season to season. I'm not buying labels. I buy things that I feel like wearing. I can go to the flea market and pull some pieces I like. I don't really have a name that I always go to because things change. Like I said, I always like to keep it very simple."

Photographed by Mark Iantosca

Yigal Azrouël clothing.
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What's your favorite area in the office, if you had to pick?
"I actually like this area (the studio with the table) because it's empty and in a way, clean. You can imagine what happens here when I'm with five or six different mannequins and I'm draping and you see sketches everywhere. It's a slow process though. We're just looking at the beginning right now. I'm working on some inspiration stuff and things that inspire me like textures, polos, some movements... For me, it's definitely how I start. I love it and I hate it."

Is this where the action happens, where all your ideas come from?
"Yup! Everything starts here!"

Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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Describe what a typical day in the office is like.
"I come and I like to have my coffee. I usually eat something. I like to settle in a little bit and then I get kind of excited. I look through magazines or I put some images or drawings together. Sometimes we have models or I go to fabric appointments. And, you know, it kind of evolves from day to day. I spend time on the clothing, the design, and with the team as well.They inspire me. I'm very hands-on when it comes to making prototypes and sewing and doing any different techniques I like to experiment with."

Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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Yigal points to a look from his collection.

Photographed by Mark Iantosca

Yigal Azrouël shoes and clothing.
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When the office is craziest, what is the energy like?
"Sometimes it gets stressful. But like I said, it's more like excitement at the same time. I don't like to associate the negative aspect of it because we are all here for a reason. We're not here to fight that. We deal with things that come late. It is stressful because you work so hard to get things done and it's not here on time. But it is what it is. But I think this drives you in a way. It's a trigger that gives us something... it doesn't put us down, we learn a lot from it. From stress, always comes great things. I always think about it. I'm pushing it to the next level and that's my attitude."

Photographed by Mark Iantosca
12 of 15
How does your personal style differ from your designs?
"For me, it's not a fantasy. I like to see things, I'm very visual. I work in three dimensions, on mannequins or models, so things influence me. Like living in New York or when I travel, I get a lot of inspiration from the street, from anything. It could be a delivery man and all of a sudden a jacket on a woman or a cool downtown girl. I get definitely inspired."

Photographed by Mark Iantosca

Yigal Azrouël clothing, vintage Rolex watch.
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Yigal's simple but sophisticated wrist accessories.

Photographed by Mark Iantosca

Vintage Rolex watch.
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What are three words you'd use to describe your newest collection?
"The newest collection is effortless, chic... feminine and masculine mixed together."

"Androgynous, yes definitely. It's always what I do. It's very natural. As a man, masculinity embodies it. But I like women who are feminine inside, assuming that I like stronger women. For me, it shows a lot of character and a lot of personality. It's not necessarily how beautiful she is but who she is and her personality, how she carries herself.

Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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How is the office post-fashion week? Parties? High-fives?
"It's exciting. We had a great after-party after the show last season. We wanted to celebrate with everybody and everybody's success at the end of the day. I'm just the channel but everybody's working together. Me and Sam and the team, everybody's collaborating in a way. I couldn't do this without everybody else. So I give everybody full credit and it's everyone's success at the end of the day and appreciate what we've done. When I finish a collection, I say it's done and I'm thinking about the next thing. When I start a new collection, if you ask me, I'll say I have no idea. It's always a work in progress."

What's your most recent source of inspiration?
"It's a combination of a lot of different things. It could be me draping on a body or me walking on the street and seeing something or me going to a fabric appointment and seeing something. I could see a movie and somehow it will inspire me. I take pictures or take quick notes or I draw it."

Photographed by Mark Iantosca

Yigal Azrouël shoes and clothing.