In conversation with Not Just a Label Editor Mariel Reed

Established in 2008, Not Just a Label was created to help designers gain exposure and finance their progression independently by providing an easily accessible retailing forum via an online shop.

Last week, Made in Shoreditch contributor Jolita Abromaityte had the opportunity of chatting with the site’s editor, Mariel Reed.

J: Please tell us about Not Just a Label, and the inspiration behind the site

M: Not Just a Label (NJAL) is the world’s leading designer platform for showcasing and nurturing today’s pioneers in contemporary fashion. The site started in 2008 when NJAL founder Stefan Siegel and his brother Daniel realised that the Internet could 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 such a platform, and they (Stefan and Daniel) wanted recruiting and trend scouting for fashion designers to be carried out on NJAL without geographical limits – literally a global showcase. From an idea, it grew to one of the fashion industry’s most trusted resources, and in 2009, they launched the online shop as a new way to support young designers. By creating a space for designers to sell their collections, they opened up a floodgate of opportunity for emerging labels that needed an outlet to sell their pieces.

J: Who is your target demographic, and what do they look for when they visit the site?

M: The NJAL customer is a man or woman with a strong understanding of themselves and what it means to be an individual. The NJAL customer believes that individuality is the new luxury. People want to be recognized for what makes them different rather than attaching themselves to a brand name. NJAL provides luxury consumers looking for this individuality with the quality and uniqueness they are searching for. The NJAL customer knows that he/she is buying unmatched design and supporting young talent.

J: What are you expecting from the designer brands you work with? What can brands do to stand out?

M: It’s hard to expect anything from our designers because the one thing we do expect is that they create something completely unexpected. NJAL designers do not follow trends – they create them. I guess you could say we expect a high level of quality in construction, production and innovation, but that’s more of a standard than an expectation. To stand out, a brand must do something that causes us to take a step back or do a double take; something completely new, that pushes boundaries and breaks the mould is what truly stands out.

J: Who among the designers you feature are your favourites, and why?

M: To be honest, I have too many favourites to list! But I would have to say Eleanor Amoroso because her macramé pieces are out of this world and amazingly intricate. Alice Fern also continues to amaze me. I love her hand-bleached, Ombre silk pieces. Felipe Rojas Llanos is another favourite. His designs embody what I would aspire to be like if I were a guy. I would dress from head to toe in his pieces.

J: Why did you choose Shoreditch as the location for the NJAL headquarters?

M: Stefan chose Shoreditch because it really is the hub for creativity. There’s no place in London like it. Everyone works to create something new and exciting with the support of his or her neighbours here. We’re all working toward the same goal in the creative sector, which is to reinvent the wheel, as they say.

J: What advice would you give to those wishing to pursue a career in fashion and the arts?

To never hold back. There’s no need to tame oneself to be more approachable. That’s what turns a creative into one of the herd. Limiting your actions is never beneficial. Dream big, create big, and get a big response!

J: Any favourite spots in Shoreditch?

M: As NJAL is a community of designers, we all share a love for community in the neighbourhood we work in too. Leila’s Shop provides a real sense of cooperation and companionship in Shoreditch. My favourite pub in London is of course, The Owl and the Pussycat. There’s always an interesting crowd and a positive vibe. Columbia Road Flower Market is also irresistible. It’s like a sensory overload. And I love flowers. The difference flowers make in a room is incredible.

J: Any plans for the future?

Something massive, but it’s a secret!