Are Lines Designed by Street-Style Stars Here to Stay?

Today BoF looks at Caroline Issa, Ulyana Sergeenko and Natalia Alaverdian, street-style stars who are leveraging their visibility and personal brands to support the sale of clothes and accessories.

Caroline Issa for L.K. Bennett 'Parrot' shoe | youjustgotspotted.com

LONDON, United Kingdom – In the three weeks since launch, the accessibly-priced, folk-meets-uptown capsule collection of shoes and bags designed for British footwear brand L.K. Bennett by street-style star Caroline Issa has already been a success. “The customer response has been phenomenal since the collaboration was announced in November and we had a waiting list from then on,” L.K. Bennett CEO, Didier Drouet, told BoF. “The collection launched in key locations in UK, US and France as well as on [the company’s website] and we have sold-out of product in some locations already.” Drouet is no doubt referring to the ‘Parrot’ shoe, the capsule line’s signature item of which only 300 pairs were made and which almost sold out in the first week.

The success was the combined result of a marketing effort by the brand, which included a Twitter campaign as well as a traditional advertising campaign — and Issa’s profile. Indeed, the Canadian-born, London-based Issa, who is fashion director of Tank magazine, is one of the most photographed women on the international fashion circuit, fervently followed by street-style blogs for her idiosyncratic style — at once sophisticated and playful. It’s little wonder, then, that staid mid-market shoemaker L.K. Bennett turned to the stylish role model to attract a young, style-conscious and media-savvy customer.

But Issa is just one of a number of street-style stars who are leveraging their personal brands to support clothing sales. Some are launching fashion collections of their own. It’s important to note that many of these women are hard-working fashion professionals who do a lot more than dress well and pose for cameras. But until not too long ago it would have been easy to dismiss their collections as ephemeral vanity projects. The new crop of ventures, however, seems to have more potential.

During the last round of haute couture shows in Paris, the Russian socialite and street-style star Ulyana Sergeenko, who launched her self-financed label for Fall 2012, held a show on the same day as Chanel and Armani Privé. Sergeenko’s show attracted a number of influential editors who gave her collection of fairy-tale looks, heavily inspired by the designer’s Russian heritage, a very positive reception. Sergeenko has attracted a base of couture clients, though the brand declined to reveal sales figures.

Meanwhile, last fall, Natalia Alaverdian, fashion director of Russian Harper’s Bazaar and also a street-style star, launched a collection of statement-making, 70s-inspired womenswear named A.W.A.K.E. Like Sergeenko, Alarverdian is using her street-style credentials to get her collection into stores and magazines. It’s an approach that appears to be bearing fruits: Alaverdian’s line has been covered in The New York Times. And while the label could not confirm current stockists, last week Alaverdian presented her second collection, for Fall 2013, to prospective buyers in Paris.

But whether Alaverdian’s and Sergeenko’s lines will ultimately generate the same kind of commercial success as the Issa-L.K. Bennett collaboration remains to be seem.

For her part, Issa explained that she saw the project as a natural extension of her styling career: “I relished the opportunity to see a product through from sketching to sales, given that I have spent most of my career curating products I love for my magazines. And I felt I had a point of view when it came to shoes and bags that I’d love to express and build a little world for and that the consumer might relate to.”

Despite the success of her capsule collection for L.K. Bennett, however, Issa doesn’t see herself launching her own line anytime soon: “I would love to keep working with product, but I will currently stick to consulting and publishing magazines.”