Cutting edge fashion platform come online shop, Not Just A Label offers a lifeline for contemporary fashion designers launching their career at a time of economic instability. Since 2008, Stefan Siegel and his team have worked tirelessly in not just showcasing, but nurturing new brands from all over the world. Stefan’s hugely influential brainchild now features almost 9,000 pioneering and innovative designers in 93 countries – he spoke to Wonderland.

What inspired you to start the website?

Not Just a Label [NJAL] is based on an idea that came to me and my brother Daniel. We realised that the internet can act as a networking platform for future fashion designers and those who are ready to present and sell their collections to the world. The industry lacked this; we wanted recruiting and trend scouting for fashion designers to be carried out on NJAL without geographical limits… literally a global showcase. My goal is to demonstrate a new way of doing business, by being completely transparent and disregarding politics and borders, we simply erase old systems, and we take fashion out of the hand of corporates and put it back in the hand of talents and artisans. By doing so, we create a new form of luxury – authentic and sustainable.

How do you find new clients?

I have a great team that scouts designers, edits the page and maintains the relationships with the talents. NJAL has a face, it is not an anonymous website. The scouting team, led by Katri Salminen, meets the people and attends the trade shows and events. Most of NJAL’s designers have been handpicked at fashion weeks and graduate shows.

Are you approached by a lot of new brands?

Every day. Our “designer relations” team is amazing; not only at scouting for new talent, but also at coaching the designers who aren’t quite there yet.

Have you faced difficulties considering the current financial climate? Are people reluctant to buy luxury and new brands?

We couldn’t be more excited about the slow fashion movement and individuality as the new luxury. In today’s fast-paced world, luxury consumers are turning to the lesser-known brands for the more interesting and unique garments. From day one, we have been encouraging consumers to make wiser choices and to invest in their clothing. Buying fast fashion from the high street is destroying the fashion industry and seriously harming the environment. Impulse purchases don’t last. An investment purchase can last a lifetime.

Who are your top three current designers? 

J´Ai Mal À La Tête is an amazing menswear label from Munich. The designer, Anja Pawlik, has a keen sensibility to create classic shapes with a youthful feel. Claudia Ligari, whose latest collection is so modern, but so simple at the same time, is based in London. She has an amazing ability to make sportswear more elegant than evening-wear. Mal-Aimée is a design duo based in Paris. Léonie Hostettler and Marius Borgeaud have been working together at Nina Ricci and I think their poetic yet very elegant style is something we don’t see often from young designers.

What are your top tips for new labels? 

The times of government funding, sponsorships and free support are definitively over, and talents have to think how they can set up a business that brings art and design together with all aspects of running a business. Nobody but them are responsible for wanting to learn how a business works – it is a survival of the fittest, but I strongly believe that with the right attitude, a hunger to learn and professionalism, everything is possible.

What are your plans for NJAL in the future? 

We’re shooting for the stars…

Words: Shannon Mahanty