Once upon a time, designers lived or died by the choices of shrewd buyers and eagle-eyed editors. Today, labels can reach stratospheric heights simply by getting their designs seen on the right girl.
THE IT-GIRL’S IT-BAG: Paula Cademartori
You might not know Paula Cademartori’s name, but you will most likely know her bags, thanks to their omnipresence on street-style blogs come the biannual international Fashion Weeks. Forget Céline and Chloé. It’s Cademartori’s sweet satchels (above) that are favoured by almost every street style star on the planet.
The designer launched her brand in 2010, cold-calling boutiques and publications in Milan trying to introduce them to her label. Her breakthrough came when street-style clickbait Anna Dello Russo answered her calls, booked a showing, and grabbed a gold python clutch to take with her to New York Fashion Week in February 2011.
She was snapped sporting the bag and the images were plastered across social media. Shortly afterwards Dello Russo’s friend, Russian fashion editor Miroslava Duma got in touch with Cademartori, snagging an emerald green tote to take to Paris Fashion Week the following year (one image that Duma posted of herself holding the bag garnered almost 15,000 likes).
But Cademartori is adamant that street style can only get a designer so far. “I couldn’t be happier that the street style boom happened as I was launching my brand,” she says. “[It] helped me get the product out there. But the product was something that sold itself.”
THE FASHION EDITOR FAVOURITE: Ellery
When you wear an Ellery piece, it takes on a life of its own. The flares fare. The sleeves billow. And the street-style photographers come a-running. “Street style means you can see an outfit from different angles, and in motion too,” explains designer Kym Ellery. The movement in particular is a quality that has made her designs immensely popular among the globetrotting fashion cognoscenti (think Natalie Joos, Nicole Warne and Yasmin Sewell).
Ellery says that her label now receives as many sales enquiries from customers who have caught glimpses of a design on Instagram as they do from celebrities parading her pieces on the red carpet. One particular picture of a stylist, clad in clouds of diaphanous Ellery silk, resulted in hundreds of email requests in 2014.
Ellery has personally experienced the lure of her brand in the eyes of street-style snappers. In Paris last year, she was set upon up by a scrum of photographers. “I thought they had mistaken me for a [celebrity],” says Ellery. “But no, they just liked my pants.”
THE JEAN GENIUS: Frame Denim
Many designers make items for their friends. Not all designers have friends like Karlie Kloss. That’s how boutique denim brand Frame’s cult Forever Karlie fares came into being: an impassioned plea from a supermodel for a pair of jeans that were long enough for her 185cm frame, and a bit of quick thinking on behalf of Frame co-founders Jens Grede and Erik Torstensson.
The jeans were made, Kloss shimmied into them at New York Fashion Week in 2013 and the street-style photographers went wild. The orders flowed in and the brand moved from a fashion insider fave, known for its skinny jeans, to a major denim player with more than 50 stockists worldwide (including David Jones).
Grede is unequivocal: “I think Frame is entirely built on street style.” The designer believes that “what defines Frame is how people wear us when they style themselves”. To that end, the Frame stable is filled with street-style mainstays: overalls, denim boilersuits and those bestselling fares. “We all get the chance to make our own catwalks [with street style], and I love it,” says Grede.
"We all get the chance to make our own catwalks with street style"
THE BOYS FROM OZ: Tome
Ask designer Ryan Lobo the moment he believed Tome had fnally “arrived” and he doesn’t hesitate. “Giovanna in the trench,” he says, defnitively. He’s talking about Italian stylist (and former girlfriend of Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld, yes Carine’s son) Giovanna Battaglia, who wore a mercurial gold jacket to New York Fashion Week in 2013 (pictured above right). It caused a street-style frenzy, and the pictures of Battaglia striding down a Manhattan sidewalk were plastered across style blogs and shared on Instagram.
Suddenly, the little label founded by two Australian expats (Lobo’s business partner is Ramon Martin) was transformed into an It-brand with A-list clientele, from Sarah Jessica Parker to Amal Clooney. The boys from Oz had made it.
“I believe that a single person can put you on the map,” muses Lobo, who views the role that street style plays as more complex than merely a sales or branding boost. Street style is a constant source of inspiration, and a way of translating the runway to real life. “It’s the power of one woman’s style,” he says. “If it wasn’t for those moments – like Giovanna in the trench – I don’t know if the [Tome] story would be the same.”
THE FABULOUS FAUX FURRIER: Shrimps
When it comes to fashion origin stories, nowhere has street style played a more tangible role than for London-based brand Shrimps. In 2013, model Laura Bailey found herself surrounded by photographers at London Fashion Week thanks to her distinctive, striped faux fur coat. Net-a-porter founder Natalie Massenet spotted Bailey through the crowd and was so enamoured with her jacket that she chased her down the street, demanding to know the name of the designer. The answer?
Shrimps, an unknown faux fur brand founded by Hannah Weiland, now 25. Cue a large order for Net-aporter, and a small one for Massenet herself. (She later wore her bespoke French navy coat to New York Fashion Week in 2014.)
Today, the brand is a favourite of It-Brits Alexa Chung, Poppy Delevingne and Pixie Geldof, and boasts a slim but signifcant stockist list that includes Net-a-porter, Matchesfashion.com, Selfridges and Perth’s Elle boutique. “Shrimps coats are for when you’re looking for something with an element of fun, [when] you don’t want to look boring,” says Weiland. “They stand out from the crowd.”