Fashion brand bubuleh’s tag line is a unique one: “made with love and just a little anxiety.” This line sums up the approach of Jordan Star, the 27-year-old Los Angeles, Califorinia-based designer and creator behind the brand, when he conceptualized it. Star was inspired to create a clothing line that would celebrate his heritage and identity after the loss of two of his grandparents during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. This loss caused both feelings of love and feelings of anxiety about carrying on their legacies, which reminded him of the reasons why it is important to hold your culture close. Here, he shares his thoughts on the values, process and future of the bubuleh brand.
Tell us a little about bubuleh.
In Yiddish, bubuleh is a word that roughly translates to sweetheart. Many people like myself grew up being called bubuleh by our grandparents, so it has a certain sense of nostalgia and warmth.
Though it’s a term of endearment, I also consider it to be so much more: a perfect embodiment of what I want the brand to be. The word bubuleh allows us to embrace and envision who we are, who and what came before us, and who we eventually choose to be.
Our goal is to translate what this powerful word represents into clothing, and in doing so, empower our customers to celebrate and explore the spaces between our traditions, families and ancestries (which bring us together) and our unique, individual selves (which set us apart). In that sense, bubuleh is about escape and belonging all at once.
Tell us a little about yourself: When did you first demonstrate an interest in fashion? What does it mean to you?
I had never worked directly in fashion before starting bubuleh, but it was always a strong passion of mine. When I think about what fashion has meant to me, it’s been one of the most powerful tools I’ve found in terms of self-actualization, exploration and self-expression.
I’ve experimented with a lot of different aesthetics and wardrobes. I’ve been really privileged to have experienced environments in which I’ve been able to try out different things, which has very much contributed to my personal style and how I approach designing for bubuleh.
When I design clothing for others, I want people to be able to explore and express their identities, too, and experience a similar sense of freedom and comfort.
How do your Jewish and gay identities intersect through bubuleh?
So much of my identity is defined by me being a gay Jew that it’s almost impossible to separate anything I work on from that lens.
Both identities have such strong visual themes that I definitely pull inspiration from, albeit in new ways (i.e., I don’t like to plaster Jewish stars or rainbow flags across clothing). But more than that, both identities intersect in terms of similar values, which I really try to emulate in the brand. For example, there are common themes of unapologetic yet cautious visibility, exploration and challenge of cultural norms, freedom from those norms, community-building, social justice and so much more. These values really inspire me and drive a lot of the work that I do.
What made you decide to use Yiddish in your brand? How does using Yiddish words and phrases help keep Jewish culture alive?
To me, Yiddish is this reminder of how strong my heritage and community are. There is literally no logical explanation for how Yiddish has survived, given the heartbreaking persecution and genocide of Jews. And yet, not only has it survived, but it’s evolved and become such a strong part of our cultural vernacular. To me, it’s a language that helps to express what it means to be human. It’s a language of connection. There are words in Yiddish that express sentiments that English and other languages just don’t evoke in the same way, which is why I think so many people use Yiddish in their everyday lives. Words like schlep, kvell, klutz, chutzpah, schmooze, etc. all have similar translations in other languages, but for some reason these words get to something deeper.
Since there are very few Yiddish speakers in the world today, with most people knowing only fragments of the language like myself, the most we interact with the language (as a generalization) is through somewhat kitschy clothing that we buy for fun or as gifts. But for me, I wanted to sort of get to the heart of Yiddish through bubuleh, and use the words sparingly so they’re not overdone. I’m hoping to help keep not only the language alive through bubuleh, but the broader spirit. In doing so, we’re keeping Jewish culture alive by showcasing the breadth and depth of the language, and putting Yiddish into conversation with new ideas and aesthetics. Also, I think taking pride in being Jewish is key to our strength and resilience as a community, and I hope that bubuleh can help enhance the community’s sense of pride in who we are and where we come from, as well as help others outside of our community better understand us.
What sort of sustainable practices does bubuleh engage in? How hard was it to make sure your brand was environmentally friendly?
As a new brand, it has definitely been difficult (and expensive) to ensure that our business is as sustainable as possible. But it’s non-negotiable for us, so we’ve had to figure it out. It can be really hard to ensure that a product is eco-friendly, because eco-friendly can mean many things and yet be such a hollow and overused term.
A few of the key ways that we incorporate sustainability into what we do are focusing on evergreen and high-quality material and design, using 100% vegan and cruelty-free materials, producing limited inventory to promote limited waste, partnering with responsible production partners (which are always sweatshop-free), looking at internationally-recognized certifications (FSC, GOTS, FLO, WRAP, etc.) when vetting vendors, providing automatic carbon neutral shipping and using recyclable and eco-friendly packaging. That’s just a short list, but to learn more about our sustainable practices, please check out our sustainability section on our website.
What is your vision for bubuleh’s future? Would you ever look to do a pop-up shop or some kind of partnership with a physical space to showcase your clothing? Are there types of clothing you are planning to add in the future?
We’re still a young enough brand that the vision for our future is constantly evolving, but our hope is that we become a brand that people from all walks of life turn to for clothing that makes them feel good about themselves and where they come from. Right now, we plan to continue selling mostly through our website, but in the hopefully near future we would love to get our clothing into stores around the country. We’ve been starting small, but when we have the ability, we definitely plan to produce other custom types of apparel. We’re actually already working on designing new collections. We also plan to eventually become a lifestyle brand and create other types of products, as well.
In terms of a pop-up or physical space, we would absolutely love to do that! Hopefully we’ll be able to do it soon, but in the meantime, we plan to start hosting trunk shows locally.
If you’d like to shop bubuleh, check out our website, bubuleh.com. You can also find bubuleh on Facebook and Instagram (@shopbubuleh). Please direct all email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org