Popular Posts
To top
29 Apr

Charles Darius – Bespoke Designer & Founder

Be passionate about what you do. Surround yourself with people you can trust and rock at what they do, and learn along the way from your experiences and mistakes.

Creator Profile:

Charles Darius + Bespoke Designer & Founder

Creator: Charles Darius

Company: Bespoke Designer & Founder of Charles Darius, A Luxury Lifestyle House  (Twitter: @_charlesdarius | IG: @charlesdariusofficial | Charles Darius Facebook)

Location: Beverly Hills, California

Websitewww.CharlesDarius.com

Words of Wisdom “You need to be able to plan ahead and have an educated strategy whether you work on a business plan or designing a product.  Your ability to understand the variables and prepare for most eventuality are crucial for the success of your project”

 

Tom Ford was once quoted as saying,

“You have a voice that can influence contemporary culture as much or more than anything else. If you love what you do, there’s nothing like the rush of having a great idea and then seeing it created.”

Fitting, considering that I just interviewed Charles Darius, who in my opinion, will become a household name like Ford within due time.

Charles represents a new type of contemporary designer that is authentically “culture-focused”. He’s not only detailed, distinct, unique and highly differentiated, Charles’ whole essence is way outside the box and his work shows.

What I think I like most about Charles is that as a creator, he doesn’t contain himself to any one thing, one genre or one type of product. Quite simply, he designs and he does it from a place that only the greats draw from; his soul.

“One day I may be designing a pair of sunglasses and the next I’ll be working on a time-piece or a motorcycle. I think my take is really the reinterpretation of a lifestyle and a certain aesthetic throughout the creation of diverse artifacts.

If I had to choose a few categories… I definitely have a passion for watches and jewelry in general, furniture with an artistic dimension, transportation design…  you are right it’s hard to stop!

Ultimately I love the challenge and the creation of truly unique pieces especially when some of our Clients ask me to create one single bespoke piece for their own enjoyment.”

To me, Charles is not constricted by any one thing, but more concerned with designing for the purpose of bringing uniqueness to the world; his artistic interpretation.

Oh, and he’s doing it with some serious style, craftsmanship and quality. Nothing is sacrificed in the making of his products, one of which recently went viral on KickStarter.com.

His BOLT Bracelet, a wearable bracelet made for the iPhone, iPad & iPod, is crafted of genuine leather and is designed to SYNC & CHARGE your devices, is pure genius.

Charles Darius’ BOLT Bracelet | Charles Darius Instagram

A simplistic idea that not only solves a problem, but I find myself wanting to wear it regardless of needing it or not.

I was driving from a trade show in Vegas back to LA, running out of battery like always and as I was digging in my bag to find the charger, I was like “why isn’t on my wrist so I never have to think about it”!

I love jewelry and probably wear a few pieces everyday, so as soon as I got back home, I sketched and modeled in 3D the idea, showed it to a few friends who thought it was really cool and decided to go ahead and see what would it take to bring it to life.

I had the pleasure of meeting Charles and we discussed his background, coming from a diverse family of entrepreneurs and intellects, proving himself in the family business, forging his own path into design, managing growth and customers, his vision for his brand and more.

Here’s what he had to say:

Charles Darius  |  Bespoke Designer + Founder + Creator

HDF: Charles! Thanks for doing this! I knew before you came onto our podcast you’d be an awesome interview, and now I’m just excited.

Charles: First thanks again for having me a second time on H&DF!

 

HDF: Absolutely! We loved having you on the podcast and I could tell you’ve had quite a journey so this is awesome for you to do this.

Before we get into all of current ventures, can we start by diving in a little bit more about where you’re originally from and where you’re living now?

Charles: Sure, I am originally from the Champagne region in France where I lived until I was 17/18 years old until I left to study in Paris.

Growing up in France was retrospectively very fortunate even though I am from a small town of 60,000 habitants and for a teenager it can feel pretty small and slow paced. 

On the upside, I had the opportunity to be exposed to many cultures due to the European proximity with other countries. I was also in an international school, so I basically had a double scholarship; both in France and various places in Germany. 

By the time I was 15, I was already well versed in 4 languages.

Charles Darius (Red Shirt) as a child with his family

Also my family being in the Champagne business, I had a unique experience behind the scene of such a cultural industry that only a few have the privilege to see.

I moved about 6 and half years ago to California and lived a little bit everywhere from Santa Barbara, the Hollywood Hills, West Hollywood, Bel Air. 

Today my wife and I live in Beverly Hills, CA, and we just love it.  The weather is awesome especially considering where I come from.  We are in the middle of everything and at the same time it feels like we are in the country. 

LA is like an international hub where you have the opportunity to meet some of the most talented and inspiring people they are and it is one of the few places I have been where even though you may work hectic hours it stills feels like you have a healthy lifestyle.

 

HDF:  I like Los Angeles! I really do. Something about the vibe. It’s creative, forward thinking and on the move.

If you don’t mind, I’d love for you to share some of your experiences with the Champagne region of France. I had mentioned to you that I’ve been there on assignment for a champagne brand and the region was awesome. Beautiful actually.

What did you like about this part of the world that has always stuck with you?

Charles: The Champagne region and the Champagne industry is a family thing. I was born in it and still part of it to this day.

I have to admit that growing up I had no interest whatsoever and repeated multiple times to my father that I would never be part of the family business, but the behind the scenes is not as glamorous as one may think.

Charles Darius | California Living

Funny enough after graduating from business school, circumstances led me to start working with him to this day.

Today I have a greater appreciation for it especially after living in various countries for so many years.

The region has a very poetic & calming feel to it, which you can only appreciate if you have enough distance from it.

It’s the French version of the “romantic Napa”.

View from Notre Dame de Reims (Champagne Region) | Courtesy of Matt Gottesman

HDF: This is true! So how did you first get into designing and creating your own products?

Was there one of those “aha” moments in your life where you knew at some point this is what you’re going to do with your life?

Charles: I always was creative. I grew up with a pen in my hand, spending hours between sketching, painting, doing architecture etc.,  but I actually did not know anything about design until I first started working in the Couture industry.

For the longest time I always thought I would become an architect, but after much thoughts I felt like it didn’t have the diversity that design offers.

HDF: I would imagine the two have very similar disciplines, but are completely different. That, and you probably get a bit more hands on with couture?

Charles: It was an evolution which started when I collaborated on engineering and manufacturing our own line of labelling machines for the Champagne & Wine industry. 

Until then I was always frustrated with having to sell someone else’s idea or product. I felt like I needed to be more involved in the process of creating something instead of conforming to selling or using someone else’s idea.

Charles Darius  |  At Work Designing

HDF: That’s a sign of a true creator right there. Non-conformist.

Charles: Well, I was always curious to understand how things were made and what was the reasoning behind it.

Fortunately I was accepted to one of the top design schools in the world and I was taught design by a mathematician who was heavily involved in artificial intelligence.

Today he’s a leader in what we call interactive design (nothing to do with web design!), which landed me a very unique prospective on the discipline additionally to my prior experiences in business and the manufacturing world.

 

HDF: How long have you been designing?

Charles: I started about 11 years ago with garments and made an actual carrier out of it, and for the past 6-8 years I’ve been designing everything from action sport goods, interactive platforms, consumer electronics, jewelry, leather goods, furniture and more.

Charles Darius™ Designs

Charles Darius | CharlesDarius.com

HDF: And that’s how it happens. You dive in, try lots of different avenues with that skill set and see what sticks.

Now, on the podcast I believe you mentioned you had your own company at a very young age, correct? How old were you and what made you go in that direction initially?

Charles: Correct, I actually didn’t own the company quite right away though.

I entered the family group after my business school at 20 years old because one of the companies my family had bought a couple years prior, was losing a lot of money due to various reasons related to the old management.

They needed someone they could trust and knew the company philosophy with a fresh prospective to take over and turn around the activity.

I ended up having to restructure the entire team and activity, which was not an easy task, especially for a 20 year old coming out of Paris to the middle of nowhere. Not to mention having to manage a team of people who were at least twice my age, if not older, and were used to doing the same thing for as long as I was alive. 

But it was a great experience and lesson, which still helps me today managing the companies.

 

HDF: Especially learning at such a young age!

Charles: Well, what helped me is that I had the chance to be guided by a very experienced gentleman who was retired and brought me over 40 years of experiences working and managing companies in related industries.  It accelerated my learning curve tremendously and definitely helped me learning some finesse and humility in the process.

 

HDF: Do you come from a pretty entrepreneurial / creative family?

CharlesOn a legacy stand point my father’s family is the entrepreneurial one. 

My grandfather started from nothing nor had any education.  In his young age he was a martial arts artist, swimming teacher, semi-pro rugby player etc., and after having his eldest son (my uncle), he realized that he needed an actual career to support his family.

This led him to create over the years a multifaceted company ranging from Mercedes cars and truck dealerships to the agricultural machinery, heavy machinery, etc.

My father started working with him when he was 24 and my uncle came back to the family business later on. 

The funny thing was that when I started in the business I had to justify my salary and every action I was taking to half of my family during the board meetings. 

If I recall properly it took 5 interviews to approve my hire after they had heavily insisted I join the family business. 

There was no space for “the kid of the boss” to work in the business. I legitimately needed to prove myself everyday that I was an added value to the group, not only to my family but most importantly to everybody else who worked in the company.

On my mother’s side, they are intellectuals. It goes with the territory as my mother is Persian.  They all have countless degrees ranging from compared literature, international law, archeology etc.  So it was quite unique to navigate these very different universes and find my own path in the middle.

Charles Darius | CharlesDarius.com

HDF: Navigate is right. Everyone has their own path and you clearly found it in design. So speaking of, let’s talk about Charles Darius, the Bespoke Designer and Owner of a Luxury Lifestyle House.

While I know designers and creatives can’t ever be put into any one category, how would you best describe the pieces you like to focus on?

Charles: Well I chose design so I can do everything! This ability and accessibility to design something completely unrelated form one day to the next is what is the most exiting to me.

One day I may be designing a pair of sunglasses and the next I’ll be working on a time-piece or a motorcycle.

I think my take is really the reinterpretation of a lifestyle and a certain aesthetic throughout the creation of diverse artifacts.

If I had to choose a few categories… I definitely have a passion for watches and jewelry in general, furniture with an artistic dimension, transportation design…  you are right it’s hard to stop!

Ultimately I love the challenge and the creation of truly unique pieces, especially when some of our Clients ask me to create one single bespoke piece for their own enjoyment.

HDF: I think you cornered the market on truly unique. (Laughter)

I was taking a look at all the products you feature and I also came across your Kick Starter Campaign for the BOLT. That piece is cool on so many levels. Especially for an Internet Entrepreneur like myself.

Charles Darius’ BOLT Bracelet | Charles Darius Instagram

Charles Darius’ BOLT Bracelet | Charles Darius Instagram

Charles Darius’ BOLT Bracelet | Charles Darius Instagram

Can you walk me through how did you came up with the idea for this piece?

Charles: This actually was a “why hasn’t anyone thought of that?!” moment.

I was driving from a trade show in Vegas back to LA, running out of battery like always, and as I was digging in my bag to find the charger, I was like “why isn’t on my wrist so I never have to think about it”!

I love jewelry and probably wear a few pieces everyday, so as soon as I got back home, I sketched and modeled in 3D the idea, showed it to a few friends who thought it was really cool and decided to go ahead and see what would it take to bring it to life.

I probably interviewed over 400 factories to find a few who were officially certified by Apple, then selected the one who really loved the product and really committed to the project.

The goal was to bring the same level of quality than any legitimate leather bracelet you may find in the market which usually retail between $100 to $350 based on the brand while being affordable to anyone who possesses an iPhone, iPod or iPad.

Charles Darius’ BOLT Bracelet | Charles Darius Instagram

HDF: Boom! The fact that you really took the time to develop a prototype and research the right manufacturing partner shows the actual hustle behind the product, which I love. I think people sometimes forget that there’s a person running this idea and bringing it to life.

I know you had mentioned on the podcast that there were a few challenges you had endured in the process of making this project happen, correct?

CharlesVery true. So, the factory and ourselves really decreased our respective margins, as well as the minimum order usually required for them to start the project allowing us to reduce the cost and amount of funding to get the project started. Not to mention being able to use genuine leather and other premium material for the hardware to set the retail price at $50.

We spent over a year developing it throughout samples and manufacturing non-sense to finally being proud to shipping it these past few weeks.

Charles Darius’ BOLT Bracelet | Charles Darius Instagram

Retrospectively, I think the biggest issue during the development and manufacturing process was that we had to educate a factory and its suppliers who are really good at making consumer electronics, on how to make on a large scale an actual fashionable accessory.

HDF: I think that happens more often than not. Having to educate talented individuals in applying their skill sets to a product different than they’re used to can be a bit challenging for sure.

I feel like entrepreneurship and being a designer have a lot of similarities.

When you’re first coming up, people don’t know you and you have to prove yourself, good things take time and you have to be “so on” about your craft.

What similarities have you noticed between designing and building your own company?

CharlesI think in both cases you have to be creative, honest and transparent in what you are offering.

You need to be able to plan ahead and have an educated strategy whether you work on a business plan or designing a product.  Your ability to understand the variables and prepare for most eventuality are crucial for the success of your project.

Charles Darius at Work

HDF: You got that right! Since forming Charles Darius Luxury Design House was created, how much growth have you seen and what do you attribute that to the most?

CharlesWell, we literally started from nothing and overnight sold thousands of products with very limited resources in marketing.  Concurrently we have been featured in various magazines and other media outlets like H&DF, as well as being approached by well known brands & retailers to collaborate on our collections so I would say the growth has only been positive so far.

I had to consciously pace ourselves and not jump on any opportunity to make sure we were ready and had enough understanding of our market post release of our products in order to not spread ourselves thin or mismanage our resources. 

The goal being to properly establish the brand by ensuring that we were able to deliver at every level to our customers before taking it to the next level.

 

HDF: I think that right there is key to the growth of a brand – not taking every opportunity. In many ways you have to protect the brand in order to truly grow it to your long term vision. And you seem like you’re handling the growth really well.

Charles: Well, it hasn’t been without bumps on the road, but hopefully we had a fast learning curve and found better ways to handle certain situations and are finally in a position where we can take these next steps.

Ultimately I think this growth was primarily the result of launching the BOLT bracelets because this product is much more relatable than most of our other collections. We’re much more bespoke and therefore target a more specific target demographic. 

Bolt Bracelet

I actually had to build our entire business model, while also designing and engineering most of our Collections about 2 years ago, but I knew that if we had launched without a common denominator like the BOLT bracelet, we would have had a much harder time and would have needed further funding to establish ourselves.

This foresight if I may say so, while delaying our official release on the market scene allowed us to really put us on the map in a short time and decreased significantly the resources we would have needed to introduce a new brand like ours.

HDF: Strategic. What’s been your favorite project so far and what about it made it your favorite?

Charles: Within Charles Darius™ I would say our Eden ping pong table because I love the game, but the design and manufacturing was more so a work of art than simply product design.  I think we made a real statement with this piece transcending the game into interior design & Art.

Eden Ping Pong Table

HDF: What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned in business from having your own design line?

What were some of the obstacles you didn’t see coming in the process of building this company?

CharlesI think the biggest lesson was consumer service.  Even though I felt that I was generally knowledgeable on this topic, especially on a very high end stand point, the experience of actually doing it with a large and international consumer base was very overwhelming.

From one moment to another you have hundreds of people from all over the world who ask you a million different things, which in certain instances can be very unsettling and ultimately you feel like this is time you are not doing your actual job.

But again if you don’t have the patience and necessary care for your clients your brand means nothing.

It is beyond time consuming, and hands down the most emotionally invested part of the business especially when it is your name on the front door.

I am still learning to detach myself from Charles Darius the brand and it finally became natural to treat any request with the upmost respect and commitment to our customers.

HDF: Are there any favorite artists or designers you admire that have inspired you?

If so, who are they and why?

CharlesI am always inspired by others’ creativity and vision of the world.  I don’t have an actual list as not everyone is a designer or an artist. I go by others who create and engage me emotionally or artistically, it usually happens more on a piece by piece.

You count upon them – Tom Ford, Alexander McQueen, Peter Marino, Leonardo da Vinci, Takashi Murakami, Jeff Koons,…

On a business stand point, definitely Philippe Starck.  I do appreciate his work and probably more on what he accomplished in hotel industry over his other artifacts, but I have a large admiration for his entrepreneurial sense.  I always thought that his transition from designer to a brand of recognition was enlightened.

Alhondiga by Philippe Starck | Photo Courtesy of Philippe Starck & Wikipedia

HDF: That’s some group of people right there! And all well deserving of being admired.

You also mentioned that you travel quite a bit. Something like 15 countries per year, correct? When you mentioned this on the podcast, you brought up the fact that it allows you to observe other cultures; their needs, wants, desires.

I couldn’t agree more. I try to explain to people that creating, branding and design is a very fluid process with constant inspiration all around. That is, if you stay present and are ready to explore.

Charles: Correct, traveling has always been part of my life since my youngest age and I think I would go depressed if I couldn’t see the world.  I come from a multi-cultural family and was fortunate to be in an international school in Europe which facilitated my exposure to other countries and cultures.

Today my work brings me all over the world, and my wife being a fashion and travel blogger, we are always planning a trip somewhere. Right now we are planning our next tour to Japan & China and we are trying to add a few more stops between the Seychelles, Bolivia, the Maldives etc.

I think once you travel enough you learn to see beyond the postcard picture and start seeing people and the undertones of their culture.

Charles & His Wife, Monika Freeman

Charles & Monika

Charles Darius in Cannes, France

Charles with Monika in Venice, Italy

Trip to Bali

HDF: Is traveling for you a way to constantly push the boundaries of design for you? Does it allow you to come outside the “work bench” and become inspired by life and life’s events/people?

Charles: This is the biggest inspiration in my opinion.  You get exposed to new ways to do certain things, which can be completely eye opening when you design and craft a product.

You also start understanding how people perceive the world surrounding them, how they value others, their traditions etc.

These kinds of insights are so much more valuable than a tangible “innovation” to make your designs different; you are able to access the emotional and cultural referential of a certain part of the world.

Charles Darius with UK Olympic Champion Louise Hazel

Charles Darius with Bespoke Tailor Tony Lutwyche smaller

Charles Darius with Top Model Khadija Donatelli Neumann

Charles Darius with Friend

With enough attention and understanding of a culture, you may find some subtle ways to relate on a much deeper level than the only physical parameters of what you have created.

HDF: It makes you multi-dimensional for sure! Charles, you are a serious creator – in business, industry and life.

What’s the best part about “creating” for you?

CharlesI think it’s being able to bring an idea into something people can relate to.

 

HDF: What’s the best advice you can give someone just starting out on their own company, brand or project?

What about getting involved in the design industry? What’s the best advice you’d give?

Or creating for that matter? Or maybe just pursuing their dreams? (laughter)

Charles: Be passionate about what you do, surround yourself by people you can trust and rock at what they do and learn along the way from your experiences and mistakes.

Charles Darius with TV host and singer Tetris Kelly

HDF: Well put! And if you could describe the essence of your brand or brands, how would you describe it/them?

CharlesCharles Darius™ has been established on the premise of creating Art versus making products.  While we may look like a luxury lifestyle brand we approach each design as an art piece with respect to simple principles:

  1. Tradition & Innovation
  2. Quality & Exclusivity

. . . in order to offer a new experience of refinement, sophistication & exclusive service.

HDF: So, I already know the answer to this, but how important has social media and the Internet played in the building of your brand? Or at least, how important do you think it will be as you continue to grow it?

CharlesSocial Media is probably one of today’s most valuable tools to build a brand. 

It is cost effective and if well done, can potentially expose you to millions.  Each platform has its plus and cons, but when we started, the only marketing we did was posting a few pictures on Instagram. We were fortunate to be featured by various influencers leading to pre-selling thousand of products.

We will definitely be utilizing these platforms in further depth soon as we finalize shipping all the pre-orders we have been receiving over the past few months.

HDF: I’m often surprised when brands don’t understand how powerful social media is. Access to millions of people seems like a no-brainer.

Charles, final question: If you could meet any entrepreneur, artist, designer or cultural icon who contributed to the world (past or present), who would it be and why?

CharlesSir Richard Branson, Philippe Starck & Elon Musk.  They all achieved in some ways what I anticipate doing with this brand and I think it would be fantastic to learn from their experiences.

HDF: I would easily agree to all three of those! Great choices! Charles, seriously, thanks for doing this interview. Your designs are creative, your quality is on point and your attention to detail is unparalleled. Keep up the phenomenal work!

Charles: Thanks again for the opportunity! It was a great experience doing this interview with you and I really enjoyed it!

###

Matt Gottesman

Matt Gottesman is a global digital strategist and technology advisor, creator and editor-in-chief of Hustle & Deal Flow™ - an online magazine dedicated to the world's entrepreneurs, creators and makers, a Social Media Influencer and a consultant on New Media and go-to-market strategies for investments in digital marketing, technology, websites, mobile applications, eCommerce, social media and content.