Funny, fearless and insanely driven, our April cover star Betty Bachz is a disruptive force in the fashion industry.
After sitting down to chat with Betty Bachz, the founder cult favourite eyewear brand MØY ATELIER, I found myself questioning “how on earth does this woman find the time to do so much?” Unfortunately, there isn’t a cheat sheet. “I’ve never lacked motivation that’s for sure,” Bachz confesses.
Bachz is the creative force behind MØY ATELIER, the luxury eyewear brand that launched in 2017 and has since garnered a following that includes the likes of Kate Moss, Jourdan Dunn, and Lena Dunham. Now, a seasoned model and a writer too – after landing the role of eyewear expert for Vogue Scandinavia – is there anything Betty Bachz can’t do?
So, with a clear knack for creativity, how is it that the model slash writer slash designer hybrid ended up working in a hedge fund in London? “To be completely honest, I went to business school because I really didn’t know what to do with my life and I didn’t know what I wanted to become so that seemed like a great choice at the time,” Bachz admits. After her dad got a job placement in Norway, the model and her family ended up in Trondheim, moving from Shanghai when she was just four years old. “My dad’s academic, and my mom used to be a teacher. I mean, I come from a very strict traditional Chinese immigrant background and grew up in Norway, so none of my family had the luxury to become anything creative – it’s always been survival first.”
In 2012, Bachz moved to London and got a job as a Hedge Fund analyst. Reflecting, she tells me that “a lot of my decision to get the job at the hedge fund was due to wanting to prove a point that I could do what the boys could do and be good at it, you know? But also, I think a lot of us have this good girl syndrome – we want to be good daughters and make our parents proud, as well as fit in society and not create too much fuss or take up too much attention. That doesn’t just apply to jobs, it can apply to lots of things.”
Don’t be fooled though, Bachz certainly is not one to follow the rules, and she wouldn’t suggest that you do either. “For Asian communities, security is particularly important, so it’s really hard to break with expectations,” she admits. “Then at one point, I thought about what I really wanted instead of always trying to prove something and it was clear as day that I wanted to do something in the fashion industry.”
“And MØY ATELIER was born?” I can hear you all asking. Not quite… “Creating a career for yourself is not easy,” she tells me, “you definitely have to fight for it every step of the way.” However, if there’s one thing I can tell that Bachz does not lack, that’s drive. “I’ve always been very ambitious, so failure was not an option for me,” she assures me. “Once I decided to do it, I just knew that I would stick it out and make it work and that made me even more determined.”
Noticing a gap in the eyewear market where she couldn’t tell a Gucci apart from a Prada because it was “all so homogenous, and very masculine,” Bachz wanted to create an independent brand that stood out. “I wanted to create a brand because I wanted to have a legacy and I had a story to tell and a very specific aesthetic,” she says.
“I wish I would have been quicker to listen to my gut instinct and trust what I already knew when I was younger,” she reveals, “but it can be really confusing to trust yourself because you don’t know how to.” It’s advice as old as time, but Betty thinks there’s a reason for this. “There are so many words for it in literature as well, so it can be confusing, but it’s there for a reason because if you listen to people’s stories, it’s a common thing to realise throughout life.” And having realised that, MØY ATELIER was born.
It’s no secret that Scandinavian fashion brands have long had a focus on sustainability way before it was cool to do so, and MØY ATELIER is no different. “It definitely has to do with my upbringing,” Bachz says of her focus on sustainability, “I was always taught to live a carbon-neutral and environmentally friendly life and to be at one with nature.” This has always been the focus of the brand. On a roll, she continues, “It just so happens that thanks to the buzz around sustainability now, there are more options and innovations out there, especially when it comes to materials, but we have never shied away from experimenting and choosing the most sustainable option, even though it’s much more costly because the gains always outweigh the costs.” The fashion mogul in the making reveals that this is why she took the role at Vogue Scandinavia too. It’s her personal mission to educate people on sustainability, particularly in the eyewear market.
Everything has changed over the past two years, including the way we think about and consume fashion. Brand identity and story seem to mean a lot more than they did previously, now that people are starting to recognise the impact of fast-fashion and shorter trend cycles (thanks, TikTok!). That’s the difference between style and fashion for Betty: “fashion comes and goes, but style is timeless.”
That’s another way MØY ATELIER has come out on top: “We are not a very trend-based brand – we have stuck with our core aesthetics since day one and since COVID, we have basically doubled down on it,” Bachz tells me. Both her and the head of design at MØY ATELIER are Norwegian, so the brand’s core aesthetics undoubtedly borrow influences from Scandinavia. “We both love the best of both worlds,” Bachz says. “We love London for its networking, excitement, opportunities and inspiration, but we also love the focus on quality and not quantity that comes with the slower approach to life that there is in Norway.” This translates into a very clear aesthetic that she sees as being a mix of everything she loves.
When visiting Norway, the model tries to switch off and enjoy the quiet life, a time that she often finds extremely inspiring. “As a creative director and writer, you have to be very on top of pop culture and what’s happening and I’m generally a very curious person, so I’m constantly trying to gather information. I read a lot and listen to podcasts a lot,” she tells me. While I sit patiently hoping that Bachz is about to reveal the secrets to creative success, what I actually notice is something a lot of us experience. Theoretically, having so much information at our fingertips should be a good thing. It should help us make informed and smart choices. In reality – especially in a creative context – it makes information harder to digest because there’s so much of it. “Inspiration can often come from the very quiet moments when you’re not always overloading your brain with new information,” as Bachz puts it. “I love the idea of sleeping on it,” she reveals. Not to self: try sleeping on it!
One thing I learned throughout our conversation is that she’s a major history buff, just like me. “Inspiration can come from the most unlikely places, or anywhere,” she says, and history and culture seem to be her most significant sources of inspiration. “Before designing the new collection for MØY ATELIER Autumn-Winter 2022, I was doing a lot of research on who the femme fatale is and why they get such a bad rep, and that became part of the inspiration for the new collection.” The new collection will be based on a lot on the great cinema of the 1960s, so expect chic, cinematic and sophisticated, “but it still has that playful ’70s spirit,” she reassures me. The collection is set to release around September this year and is a continuation of MØY ATELIER’s last collection, which was inspired by Egyptian culture and heritage and Cleopatra who Bachz dubs “one of the OG femme fatales.”
We use stories to make sense of our world and to share that understanding with others, which is exactly what the designer is trying to achieve. She is reinterpreting the idea of the femme fatale, for instance, through a collection that she sees as “championing a notion of being independent, free and having some considerable fun.” Later she reveals, “I have always related to femme fatales rather than the goody-two-shoes, all-American girl next door because I always found the dangerous, independent, sassy woman to be more compelling.” She also assures me that it’s fine to be somewhere in between too.
We are not even half way through 2022, so we have a lot more of Betty Bachz to look forward to this year, including a beautiful summer collection with silk scarves that are produced in the UK and some exciting collaborations with brands that she loves. There’s even an artist collaboration in the works as well. “To think, had I stayed in finance, none of this would be a reality,” she ponders.
As our time together comes to an end, I ask Bach what’s the one thing she doesn’t want to die wondering about – and – in true Betty Bachz style – after sleeping on it, she says “I have to see the seven wonders of the modern world IRL as the history buff that I am.”
Pretty on brand. No pun intended.
Photography: Lee Malone
Video Production: Goatboy Enterprises
Styling: Olga Timofejeva @ The Only Agency