Shoes and Bags Influenced by the Aesthetic of Rachel from Friends

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By Far A/W18Photography by Hugo Comte

Accessories brand By Far – with its 1990s-esque designs – has swiftly risen to become a favourite amongst stylists and fashion editors alike

  1. Who is it? By Far, the Bulgaria-based shoe brand founded in 2016 by twin sisters Valentina Bezuhanova, Sabina Gyosheva and their best friend Denitsa Bumbarova
  2. Why do I want it? Beautifully modern footwear designed by women with a prophetic habit of knowing what you’ll want to wear two years from now
  3. Where can I find it? Online at Net-a-Porter, Browns or the By Far store

Who is it? Valentina Bezuhanova, the co-founder of cult shoes and accessories brand By Far was innocently binge-watching early series of Friends when she was struck by the aesthetic of Rachel Green’s wardrobe – in particular, the character’s gloriously tiny and impracticable handbags. “We wanted to create a collection which is super joyful and fun without taking into practicality into consideration,” she explains. As Bezuhanova, her twin Sabina Gyosheva, and their lifelong friend Denitsa Bumbarova got to work on their A/W18 collection, the influence of Debra McGuire – costume designer on Friends and Paul Feig’s 1990s television show Freaks and Geeks – and Sex and the City’s inimitable Patricia Field, was keenly felt. Subsequently, the trio created a leather baguette, inspired by the era’s omnipresent Fendi iteration, in caramel, brown and embossed faux-croc colourways which, like bouncy bobs and denim dresses of yore, was bestowed with a knowing name: The Rachel.

“We want people to feel emotional when they see or touch our shoes and bags,” explains Gyosheva. These are, they hope, accessories their customers will love long term rather than seasonally. Bezuhanova likes to imagine them illicting a jolt of nostalgia for someone, too: “I want people to hold a pair of our shoes and remember what it feels like being 18 at a place where you danced with your friends; or remembering a crush you had and how your skin smelled like sea salt and sunscreen – of a time when you didn’t have a phone!”

By Far’s swift rise to popularity has been somewhat unbelievable. Since launching in 2016, the Bulgaria-based brand has become the go-to for fashion editors and stylists. Right now, By Far is one of Net-a-Porter’s top five best performing brands. Along with the likes of their contemporaries – Spanish creative director Carlota Guerrero and designers Maryam Nassir Zadeh and Paloma Lanna of Paloma Wool – the By Far co-founders have helped to shape a very specific design aesthetic: a revival of the chunky-heeled mule, the colour palette of a Mediterranean fruit bowl and an Instagram feed peppered with Modernist pencil drawings by Matisse and Picasso.

Before these brands existed, you’d be hard-pressed to find 90s-inspired two-inch heels in buttery-soft leather unless you were an undefeated eBay whizz. But now, two years on, the desire for such products has trickled down, and even infiltrated the high street. “I don’t know how this happened, but it happened!” Bezuhanova laughs. “We get emails all the time from our customers saying: ‘Office copied you! Zara copied you! H&M copied you!’ But to us, this is flattering – we don’t mind it. Our customer is going to be our customer, and the one who goes to the high street is just a different customer. It’s flattering, but it means we’re doing something special that someone would want to recreate.”

It does mean, however, that Bezuhanova, Gyosheva and Bumbarova are keen to up their game each season. “People want colour and weird shapes; they don’t want to play it safe,” they explain. Though, Bezuhanova admits that sometimes their designs are a touch too crazy for some cautious fashion buyers. “But we still believe in it so much that we order a lot for our website,” she says. As we’ve seen, it is a gut instinct that always pays off. 

Why do I want it? As well as reusing deadstock leather supplied by Italian factories, for A/W18 By Far has started working with the luxury tannery that creates bespoke leather for Céline and sources silk from Tassitura Attilio Imperiali – “the world’s best silk factory” – near Como, Italy. Alongside The Rachel baguette, the Autumn collection includes 1980s-esque lace-up heel boots. The Britney loafer, a chunky square-toed homage to the pair worn by Britney in the video for her debut ...Baby One More Time, were handmade in a Spanish factory that makes men’s loafers. “We intentionally chose this factory because the production team’s hands are rougher when they create a man’s shoe; less dainty. The end result was a chunkier loafer, which we love.”

The By Far founders like to collaborate with young photographers and creatives whose work is “super raw and not polished by the industry”. French photographer Hugo Comte, who has worked with Vogue ItaliaDazed and Interview Germany, alongside his job as a shop assistant at Agnès B in Paris, shot the A/W18 lookbook. (Bezuhanova, Gyosheva and Bumbarova only realised Comte was 19 years old when they booked his plane ticket.) New York-based stylist Katie Burnett, and Marta Caro, an art director who works at The Line, NYC were also part of the team. The resulting lookbook photographs are uncannily arresting. “We wanted to create something which is almost ugly, that catches your eye and makes you want to look closer to understand what’s going on,” Bezuhanova says. 

Where can I find it? Online at Net-a-Porter, Browns or the By Far store.