PARIS — Up-and-coming labels have been struggling to stand out in a saturated accessories market, particularly when it comes to handbags. Retailers and consumers alike are back in favor of big-name brands and timeless styles — or hunting down the latest Bottega Veneta pouch.
Yet during this market season, a handful of exciting names emerged. They’ve cut through the noise by adopting a clear point of view, independent of seasonal trends and a more premium positioning.
Here, WWD rounds up the up-and-coming players worth watching.
The fine-jewelry label by Milan-based duo Chiara Capitani and Romy Blanga has been going from strength to strength since its launch just over a year ago. It became known for its trendy, neon-hued diamond snap hook earrings, but now the label — which has already built an impressive retail network with the likes of Browns, Le Bon Marché and Mytheresa.com — is broadening its offer.
Capitani and Blanga are committed to craftsmanship and for fall 2020, they’ve expanded their fine-jewelry offer to intricate ear cuffs, more traditional gold and diamond chain-link bracelets that can appeal to the label’s more mature clientele and a series of modern engagement rings that play with color and the idea of women purchasing jewelry for themselves.
The response has been positive from buyers and launches with Net-a-porter and key U.S. partners like the Webster are in the works.
Despite their commitment to traditional craft when it comes to fine jewelry, the duo is simultaneously making their first foray into bags.
“We want to be known as a fine-jewelry brand, but who says we can’t also play with other accessories?” said Blanga, pointing to a series of miniature totes, neatly displayed in a rainbow of colors at the label’s showroom at Le Bristol hotel in Paris. The new bags are done in bright pops of color and feature the label’s signature snap hook on the handle. They range from 500 euros to 1,200 euros for a cool bejeweled version and will launch later this year with a more limited distribution.
Marina Raphael might be luxury’s youngest name, at 21 years old, but over the last year she has established herself as a name to watch. She set herself apart by positioning her namesake label in the premium luxury sector from the get-go: She works with top-end Italian manufacturers and employs a lot of hand-made techniques when designing her bags.
She’s also put her name on the map by linking with the right influencers, retailers and design collaborators: She recently hosted a pop-up shop in Harrods as part of a ready-to-wear and handbag collaboration with fellow Greek designer Costarellos; created a sustainable capsule with LuisaViaRoma.com; opened her own pop-up in her home of Athens where the majority of her current season stock sold out; posed as the new face of Vichy in Greece, and is plotting another collaboration with Atelier Swarovski.
Her fall 2020 collection, presented during Paris Fashion Week, highlighted her luxury and sustainability ambitions with a tightly edited lineup of classics ranging across day and evening styles. She reworked her popular Riviera oversize tote with leather instead of Plexiglass handles, which are more sustainable, and played with materials like tweed, interwoven suede and eco-wool.
Stée Atelier is a name worth paying close attention to, given founder Estelle Orilland’s résumé. She cut her teeth designing bags for Phoebe Philo at Chloé, as well as for Saint Laurent, Marni and Stella McCartney, where she was the one behind the now-famous Falabella bag.
Orilland decided to go out on her own in 2017 and Stée Atelier was born. It has had a steady upward trajectory since, with retailers like Galeries Lafayette, Selfridges and Printemps recently picking it up.
Orilland positioned her label in the more accessibly priced sector of the market, but aware of the challenges of the category she is staying focused on carving her own niche with bags that feature striking hardware and jewelry elements. She also chose to forego showing a main collection in favor of intimate lunches hosted during Paris Fashion Week and is delivering two larger pre-collections a year, where buyers tend to spend the majority of their budgets.
“There is too much in terms of contemporary offer, that’s the feedback we’ve been getting from buyers during the pre-fall market in January. Retailers bought into too many brands, a lot of them doing the same shape, so business is slowing down,” said Orilland. “As everything is changing, I wanted to find my own space, which this season is all about hardware and looking at bags as jewels. When you haven’t been around for 10 years, you have to be contemporary, but there’s contemporary and [then there’s] contemporary. We’re not selling bags for 200 euros, there’s a range from 250 euros, which is the entry level, all the way to 900 euros.”