The Model Behind the Athleisure Label Friends With Animals - The New York Times

Tavia Bonetti gets her fashion inspiration from the great outdoors.

Send any friend a story Laser Cutting

The Model Behind the Athleisure Label Friends With Animals - The New York Times

As a subscriber, you have 10 gift articles to give each month. Anyone can read what you share.

Now Lives: In a three-bedroom, one-level house in Pasadena, Calif., with her boyfriend, the rapper Matt Champion, and their pet snake.

Claim to Fame: Ms. Bonetti is a model who started the athleisure and street wear brand Friends With Animals, which makes long lace skirts, bomber jackets and pastel-colored hoodies for all genders and body types. An avid snowboarder and adventurer, Ms. Bonetti derives much of her fashion inspiration from the outdoors. “I feel like every collection is reminiscent of the landscape and nature that Vancouver has,” she said. “​​It reminds me to look at life the way I did as my younger self.”

Big Break: After high school, Ms. Bonetti went to Concordia University in Montreal, where she planned to study sociology. Instead, a modeling agent scouted her at a nightclub during her first week, and she soon found herself in India modeling for Elle India and Cosmopolitan magazines.

She later moved to Los Angeles and landed a career-changing gig as the face of American Apparel. She has since appeared in ad campaigns for Aimé Leon Dore, Arc’teryx and Outdoor Voices — brands that align with her values and interests. Her aspirations in fashion, though, were not limited to modeling. “I randomly bought a sewing machine from this vintage store,” she said, “teaching myself how to sew and make clothes.”

Latest Project: Friends With Animals, which Ms. Bonetti started in 2019, released a gender-fluid collection in October called Ballet that includes lace-tiered skirts ($100), mesh shorts ($30) and stretch-cotton bodysuits ($45). Instead of seasonal drops, Ms. Bonetti releases a collection whenever she has enough pieces for a coherent theme. “It’s about doing what you want and taking risks without worrying what other people are doing,” she said. She also styled a music video for her boyfriend’s rap group, Brockhampton, last year. “This was a huge first styling job for me,” she said. “It was so fun and rewarding.”

Next Thing: Ms. Bonetti recently photographed the look book for her forthcoming collection, and has her next three collections planned out. “You’ll definitely be seeing new things from me that haven’t been seen before,” she said.

The Model Behind the Athleisure Label Friends With Animals - The New York Times

High Frequency Mold Natural High: To clear her head and get fresh ideas, Ms. Bonetti often escapes to the mountains, which she can get to from her house in about 15 minutes. “When I was younger, I used to go down to the creek that was in our backyard and see salamanders when I flipped over a rock,” she said. “All of that stuff for me was so stimulating as a kid, and it hasn’t left me at all.”