Digital-native brand Nyden has no less lofty a goal than reinventing the way fashion is created.
Rejecting the New York-Paris-Milan-London axis, which it claims sees designers falling in line behind the prevailing trends of a particular season, Nyden is evolving toward a dual strategy: a collection that features high-profile cocreators such as pop star Dua Lipa, who has more than 14 million followers, and Justine Skye, a singer and songwriter with more than 1.3 million followers, chosen because they symbolize the brand, and a new direction that taps the followers of Instagram stars.
“We don’t work with anything that’s related to the traditional fashion industry,” said Christopher Skogfeldt, Nyden’s cofounder. “We’re purely going for inspiration and what the customer wants. We’re asking influencers to help us with the design and to show that the power in fashion and power in design is not in the hands of designers in Paris; it’s in the hands of the people.”
Too bad Nyden’s parent, H&M Group, which has been struggling with billions of dollars’ worth of unsold clothes, hasn’t taken a page from the young brand’s playbook. “We hope we can inspire H&M to do some of the things that we do,” Skogfeldt said. “That could be a positive thing for the entire group. We have our heritage with H&M, which gives us a leap forward in Europe and Nordic countries. The U.S. is our third-biggest market and one of our top priorities.
“We believe that people these days are influenced by other things than fashion designers living in Paris,” said Skogfeldt. “People are looking into their own communities, friends or someone you send pictures [of fashion items] for advice.”
Nyden eschews focus groups and market research in favor of tapping into the likes and dislikes of individuals. The brand is moving beyond Instagram influencers to their tribes, tapping into followers from whom it hopes to glean unique information about style preferences.
When vetting followers, the more outspoken, the better. A filmmaker whose work has a political bent? Bring it. Tattoo artist specializing in dark Medieval imagery? Yes, please. “We’re trying to give them a platform they can dance on top of,” Skogfeldt added. “We’re trying to convince them that that platform could be Nyden.
“By doing this campaign and other campaigns and initiatives going forward, we’re showing that you don’t need to be an artist or skateboarder to influence fashion,” Skogfeldt said. “Of course, we’re looking for people who have an opinion about the world, because that’s the most interesting thing. We can then facilitate designs through their opinions. We have an extensive process.”
The online brand over the last two weeks has worked with influencers on both coasts, including Alyssa in the City, East Coast Fox, Savvy Javvy, and Blonde Collective, surveying followers via Instagram Story polls that asked what their ideal dress would look like, and followed up with a series of questions with options for answers, for example, “Do you prefer a dress with sleeves or a sleeveless design?” “Do you like neutrals or bold patterns?”
With the results, Nyden will design and sell two dresses based on what the respondents say they are looking for. The brand continues to offer several dozen styles online that are part of its collection, which Skogfeldt said will grow in the fall. “If people see quality items, they want to buy them. They spend a lot of dollars on a Mac instead of buying a regular computer. In some cases, the price point isn’t the most important thing. In the future we’ll sell items from $25 to $2,000.”
A black T-shirt on Nyden.com is $25, and The Force leather jacket with allover metal studs, $2,000. Nyden plans to do at least 10 cocreator collections in the fall, with five to 16 pieces each. “That will show we’re getting more and more product out,” he said. “I think we’ve hit on something people can relate to. We want to grow from there through our cocreators. We wanted to use people who get inspired by people and let them also affect the direction and what kinds of products we should make instead of designers.”
Asked whether there are naysayers that question Nyden’s approach, Skogfeldt said, “We tend not to listen too much to that. We listen to creative people. A lot of companies outside the fashion world are challenging the way fashion is created today. I anticipate a lot of new start-ups that will change the way we think about fashion.”
Skogfeldt predicts Nyden’s approach will motivate other retailers and brands to pursue similar methods. “To the extent that we empower creativity, we’re a persona. If we inspire more companies to let people have opinions… Some people are super excited, and for others, perhaps another platform would be a better fit.
“We have a superstrong relationship with H&M and love them,” he added. “We do our own thing and are very independent. H&M has been in the business for 70 years and has been pretty successful so I think they’ll figure this out as well.”