Gen Z Says is a series where we tap different members of Generation Z who'll give us the latest insight on what's cool in the fashion space.
While we spend a lot of time looking toward big labels and retailers, nothing beats finding and supporting a small brand that you immediately click with. When perusing through the collections of emerging brands, you'll find the innovation that can often be missing from the bigger labels. India Roby, Gen Zer, and fashion writer happens to agree. Having worked at Nylon and now at Fashionista, her work has helped her gradually build up a mental directory of small designers that are worthy of mainstream attention. Roby is also no stranger to the fast-paced stream of social media, always paying attention to what's perceived as "of the moment." Sites like Twitter and TikTok may have their list of flaws, but they've also created a way for smaller designers to have their moment against all the noise.
Roby is always quick to share her thoughts within her writing and social media posts, so we knew she wouldn't mind sharing the small brands she's been wearing as of late. She describes her style as "feminine, kitschy, and colorful” but also makes sure there are timeless and versatile elements to her look. While the brands below mesh with her style, the variety they offer will suit many sartorial preferences. Keep scrolling to see for yourself and shop along the way.
"I have been a long-time admirer of watches, especially when they're worn by powerful women. All of my favorite people I look up to in my life have a badass watch on their wrist, but I was not fortunate enough to have one passed down to me. Since I'm 22 years old and on a media salary, I can't afford to invest my paychecks into top-tier luxury brands, but thank goodness Breda exists! Founded in 2009, this brand has an amazing selection at wallet-friendly prices, and my go-to one is the two-tone Revel one which comes in silver and gold. I'm not even joking when I say, I wear this watch every day. I may not always look at it to tell time necessarily, but it makes for such a statement accessory regardless!"—India Roby
"I've been a fan of Jessica Tse's brand Notte shortly after its inception, and of all the beaded accessories I've tried out, this brand makes my favorite pieces. I absolutely love chunky beaded jewelry and Notte offers a variety of designs made from freshwater pearls and glass charms. I've worn Tse's necklaces and earrings to many occasions—whether that's at work, grabbing evening drinks, or even to the Met Gala after parties."—Roby
"Being Korean myself, I love supporting fellow Korean labels whenever possible. Find Me Now is run by a mother-daughter duo and they have an array of coveted mesh designs and cool-girl knits.
"If you asked me to choose my favorite silhouette, I'd definitely say I'm a midi/maxi dress lover above all, and my go-to piece has been this adorable Rhapsody midi dress from the label. I'm in love with this swirly blue-and-cream print and it comes with a not-so-suffocating mock neck and keyhole cutouts at the chest. The mesh fabric is comfortable and has a lot of stretch."—Roby
"String Ting is an accessory brand I've written about extensively in my career. I've always adored the early aughts phone charm trend (I'm still missing the cute teddy bear and Pucca charms I used to have for my Blackberry—RIP). I'm so happy that the kitschy 'kidcore' style has returned, and that beaded accessories are dominating right now."
What I love particularly about String Ting's phone charms over other brands I've tried is not only how adorable the designs are, but the beads and pearls are top quality. Founder and designer Rachel Steed-Middleton knows exactly how to create a wide range of options that's perfect for everyone's taste, and arrange the colors together in a way that never clashes too much. Bonus points for the branding, too."—Roby
"I'm a huge believer in investing in quality purses because it elevates every outfit no matter what you're wearing, and that's something you want to have in your closet for a while. During my time at Nylon, I profiled Antoine Manning and his brand, Homage Year, earlier this year. [I'd] say it's my all-time favorite handbag label at the moment! I'm a huge advocate and admirer of Black-owned brands, too, and not to mention, Antoine Manning is the kindest and most genuine soul I've met in this industry. He has an array of these egg-shaped bags that come in vibrant colorways and I've never seen anything similar to it before. Right now, I'm obsessing over his mini Ova fruit print bags. I have the banana one and haven't put it down since the day I received it!"—Roby