LONDON — Instagram labels may no longer be a novelty, yet Copenhagen-based influencers Thora Valdimars and Jeanette Madsen have been able to identify a niche in the saturated digital space and turn their nascent concept for dress label Rotate into a success.
Their recipe? Focusing on a single category, sweet spot price points, and a hefty dose of glamour and drama. They also have the backing of retailer Denise Christensen of the Danish retailer Birger Christensen.
They introduced the label just over six months ago, with a tightly edited collection of seven pieces, including short mini dresses with dramatic, puffy sleeves, wrap dresses in candy colors and crystal-embellished blazer dresses. All are priced between 240 pounds and 420 pounds.
The label quickly caught the eye of retailers such as Net-a-porter, Browns and Moda Operandi, which are now the brand’s three main international stockists. Just one season after launch, Rotate Birger Christensen became one of Copenhagen Fashion Week’s hottest tickets, with Mary, the Crown Princess of Copenhagen and influencers galore attending the show and sharing snaps of themselves in the brand’s attention-grabbing dresses. The hashtag #makeitrotate has given rise to a community of its own on Instagram.
“We have this opportunity and we thought we should use it now, because you don’t know how long Instagram will last. We have this whole audience, so the platform offered us a good way to come out to the whole world,” said Valdimars, who previously worked as a fashion editor of the Scandinavian fashion magazine Costume and simultaneously built an online following of 58,000 by sharing snaps of her colorful Danish style on Instagram.
Madsen, also a former Costume magazine editor and fellow influencer, said that they saw an opportunity to use their platforms to market the new label in a less traditional way and to build on the trusting relationship with their followings: “We only make what we want to wear ourselves, that’s the key. People follow us because of who we are, and because that personal element comes out in the collections.”
The appeal, outside the reasonable price points, is the sense of fun and maximalism associated with the label’s bold patterns and body-hugging silhouettes.
“Every time we would go to a wedding, everybody was wearing the same dresses from all the Danish companies. We wanted to stand out with something that’s feminine and more sexy. Everything has been very sober and minimalistic lately and we just wanted to show off the female body and embrace that we are women,” said Madsen.
They might have started off small, but Madsen and Valdimars said they are now “trusting each other and themselves more” and are ready to have some more fun.
That’s why last week during the city’s fall/winter 2019 fashion showcase they hosted their debut catwalk show inside a dimly lit Chinese restaurant, with sexy R&B music in the background and models strutting in vinyl minis or metallic pink wrap dresses.
“You couldn’t help but be drawn in. At the end of the show, we all felt ready to go out wearing one of their dresses,” said Moda Operandi fashion director Lisa Aiken, pointing to the advantage of brands having such defined points of view. “When you enter the marketplace this way, it helps cut through the noise. The girls are staying true to their personalities, so you want to buy into that lifestyle.”
Another determining factor in the label’s quick-fire success comes down to Madsen and Valdimar’s decision to not go it alone and find a backer from the get-go.
They partnered with Denise Christensen, who has also been on the lookout to expand the scope of the company and use it as a launchpad for a fresh, digitally native label that would tackle a single category and propose a clear message with broad appeal.
“Everyone we spoke to loved our idea but we knew we would need someone to help us get started. Also Birger Christensen has a background in production, which meant we could work with a pattern-cutter closely to ensure the dresses fit perfectly — it’s one thing to send a sketch to a factory and another to send samples and patterns. That’s what made such a difference, that we had very talented people behind us,” added Valdimar.
From her part, Christensen saw Valdimar and Madsen’s modern aesthetics and online followings fitting into her vision for the future of Birger Christensen, a 150-year-old retailer best known for its stylish multibrand store in central Copenhagen and in-house line of fur coats and accessories.
“I found that the girls were trustworthy, on their way, yet not huge. They were in a place where they would fit well into this company, as it was going through a relatively big transformation in terms of how the stores looked, the brands that we stocked and its overall strategy,” said Christensen during an interview at the company’s flagship, which has been reimagined into a bright, modernist space filled with furniture by Danish designer Finn Juhl, modern art from the Birger Christensen family’s private collection and Instagram-friendly Memphis mirrors.
Its in-store edit brings together luxury heavyweights such as Valentino, Dior and Givenchy with contemporary hits such as Wandler, Ganni, as well as Rotate — a mix that has sat well with the retailer’s luxury clientele.
“The brand has actually catered to more of a luxury customer than we anticipated. It sits next to the best luxury brands in the world and even though we didn’t intentionally position it like that, because it’s an entry-level price brand, it resonated with this whole modern mindset of mixing premium luxury and street style-friendly, contemporary pieces into your wardrobe,” said Christensen.
Despite grabbing the attention of the luxury audience and some of the biggest global retailers, Christensen wants to remain focused on entry-level price points and the dresses the brand can do so well.
“We didn’t want this to be a niche brand, we wanted to reach a global audience and create what we call everyday glamour — that has become the tagline for Rotate,” added Christensen, pointing to the importance of the dresses being versatile. “This is not just a wedding outfit that you are going to wear once, but something that you can actually integrate into your wardrobe. That’s why the price point was so important for me and obviously, we’ve been seeing many other Scandinavian brands doing amazingly at that price point.”
Her vision is already taking shape as Instagram girls globally are joining Valdimar and Madsen in layering their maxi Rotate wrap dresses over jeans or tucking the brand’s mini dresses into wide-leg pants and mixing them with luxury staples, from Loewe handbags to Attico shoes.
As the label continues to grow, the focus will be on scaling its production facilities and continuing to grow its wholesale distribution, profiting from its global appeal. So far, 95 percent of its turnover has been international, according to Christensen.
“It goes back to Instagram, the strength of the platform, of influencing and this whole digital world. It started with the girls and their following and from there it just expanded with other influencers and everyday girls that wore the brand and shared the love online,” she added.