It’s my job to know about new brands (I know; fun, right?), and I have a few favored tactics for sourcing them before they get big. I use the Instagram Collections feature heavily to remember new talent; if you dive into my “brands” folder, you’ll find thousands of saved photos. I also follow retailers that have their finger on the pulse of emerging designers.
One such shopping destination, Net-a-Porter, just doubled down on its dedication to fresh talent in a major way. The Vanguard is the site’s new program to incubate and accelerate fashion’s brightest new designers. The retailer’s buyers single out the brands they’re betting will make an impact on the fashion world and work with them to position them for success through a mentorship program with Net-a-Porter’s global team of specialists.
The Net team is clearly on its game… When I was in Copenhagen this past summer for fashion week, one of the site’s buyers casually mentioned to me that stamped-croc bags were about to blow up. Fast-forward three months and my collection has grown from zero to four (including this boxy Staud pick, the By Far baguette, Bally’s new Cecyle bag, and a bag from Gu_de, one of the brands selected to be in the inaugural Vanguard program); in fact, every major editorial outlet— from Vogue to Forbes—has covered the trend.
Even though I’m an online editor who works largely with digital assets, when I first heard about the program, I knew I had to see and feel the Vanguard brands firsthand. There are four companies that have landed a spot in the first season of the coveted program: Les Rêveries, Rūh, Gu_de, and Souliers Martinez. After a few emails with the Net team, samples from each of the brands arrived in L.A. What better way to get to know the brands poised to be the next big thing than to wear and style them myself? I figured. Ahead, see some of the outfits I put together and get my thoughts on each of the It brands in training.
The Elevator Pitch: Les Rêveries is a collection about love and daydreams from two NYC-based sisters. Special dresses are their bread and butter, with knits peppered in that offer a downtown eclectic appeal.
My Take: The fit was the first thing I noticed when I tried on a Les Rêveries, which was actually back in August (pictured here). A lot of newer brands have exciting concepts and design, but the technical aspect can take more time to nail. Not so with Les Rêveries: The brand’s dresses fit like a glove (a glove you can still dance and move in, that is). The floral prints are appealing, and I love how the brand also produces tees and hoodies to cut the sweetness. Also of note: a turtleneck so sumptuous (perfectly thin and just formfitting enough) that I didn’t want to take it off after the shoot. Instead, I styled it with the jumpsuit I had worn to set that day and snapped a pic. The brand also offered a (now–sold-out) version in on-trend highlighter green, too. Hey, Les Rêveries, how about bringing it back?
The Elevator Pitch: Rūh is produced out of a family-run factory in Naples. Focused on craftsmanship and quality, the brand is intended to be worn layered. Take it from Net-a-Porter: “Founded with the desire to retain a private sense of identity in the current age of overexposure, Rūh is a womenswear brand that champions intellectual beauty and refined silhouettes.”
My Take: When I first saw some of Rūh’s imagery, I sucked in my breath sharply. This is my kind of brand, I thought. It’s for grown women with distinctive style. Not trying too hard and inherently interesting. It’s got long pointed collars and patent finishes punctuated with unique details (e.g., a curious amount of buttons sprouted along a sleeve). In person, the quality and craftsmanship take center stage. It was with reluctance that I took off that crisp white suit. It made me feel invincible.
The Elevator Pitch: The bag brand was founded just a couple years ago by South Korean designer Ji Hye Koo. The collection references the ’70s and was inspired by Korean customers’ thirst for newness.
My Take: I got to take a Gu_de bag for a spin early at NYFW to test out the reception of the new-to-me Korean brand. Spoiler alert: Everyone was instantly obsessed. We’ve dubbed the chunky chain strap the detail every It bag has this fall. It’s true there’s something about the “candy links” that’s quite eye-catching, especially in the tortoise colorway. The bag also comes with a matching plain croc strap, which I appreciate for versatility. While croc bags are everywhere, as the Net team correctly predicted, there’s something about the Gu_de editions that really stand out. And for the even trendier girl, the clear plastic iterations are an easy choice (and a more affordable pick too).
Souliers Martinez Menorca Woven Leather Pumps ($640)
The Elevator Pitch: Julien Martinez launched his namesake shoe label last year after learning about hand-lacing techniques in Alicante, Spain. The woven shoes come in classic silhouettes all adorned with his signature metallic pin heel.
My Take: Upon first reviewing the brand, it’s clear that Martinez has cultivated a distinctive aesthetic. Spanish artisans hand-weave the shoes, and you can sense the level of craftsmanship involved when you hold a pair in your hands. I’m especially taken with the black-and-white mixed iteration, as it displays the weaving technique to great effect. Best of all, after taking them for a spin, I found the woven leather molds to your feet, resulting in supreme comfort.