Stefan Siegel first entered the fashion industry as a model, working with various luxury labels such as Prada and Gucci before moving on to become an investment banker where he worked with Merrill Lynch in London and New York advising brands like Gucci.
Stefan and his brother Daniel decided one Sunday afternoon to create a platform for the best in the industry almost like a directory with the aim to create something that was transparent while bringing the best designers together.
Eight years later, Not Just A Label (NJAL) has over 21,000 designers featured on the website spanning over 150 different countries.
The London-based global sales platform, virtual showroom and online community is a website that connects designers to consumers directly. With the slow-fashion movement a priority, products listed are locally produced with sustainability in mind. Over the years, the website has launched the careers of designers such as Mary Katrantzou and Damir Doma and has a huge celebrity following including that of other top designers.
Acting as a platform for designers, buyers, press and consumers to collaborate with each other independently, NJAL does not hold stock from designers rather takes 30 percent of all sales with prices set by the designer, leaving 70 percent going directly back to the designer with each purchase.
Employees from NJAL travel around the world looking for emerging designers with established lookbooks before featuring them on the website.
“From a business model, certain fast fashion is optimised – but from a sustainable and green view it is extremely worrying,” explained Siegel. With the rapid consumption of fast fashion, a lot of consumers don’t know or understand what goes into making a garment. “Young people don’t know how shoes are made and think they should cost $19.99,” he said. Siegel believes that unfortunately most consumers cannot differentiate between value and ‘value’. “Luxury brands are producing one handbag 180,000 times, where’s the luxury in that?” said Siegel.
It’s no surprise with rapid increases in population that there is a huge demand for individuality. Siegel believes the biggest problem we have today is that consumers want to access all these new ideas and purchase directly from the designer, but can’t because of accessibility and availability. This is where fashion is very similar to music in a way that people are now able to explore this further online. Not Just A Label has created a channel that fills this gap in a way that an audience can understand.
Siegel knows in order to make a successful garment or brand, it not only has to be unique and well made, but be linked to a regional or cultural aspect, therefore guaranteeing it’s uniqueness. Brands, collections or even individual garments, they all have to have a story to tell. Even though he thinks Instagram plays a huge role in fashion, it has glamorized the profession of being a fashion designer and believes this is what turns some people away from designing. “We aren’t looking for followers, we want the black sheep,” explains Siegel.
His most recent achievement is opening his store on Park Avenue in New York. Not Just A Label is also opening a store in Dubai in April. “I’d definitely want to become like a world-wide organization that is in some way you know stands for creativity or creative economies.” Siegel plans to continue to bridge the gap between physical and online and explore going into other creative sectors as well.
“I have learnt a lot over the years and have done many things that people have advised me not to in business, I have learnt the hard way with some but mostly the result has been the best for my business and the vision that I have for the future, making the business unique and true to its roots.”
Image by Nikka Lorak