LONDON — The newly launched label Borgo de Nor has been rapidly garnering the attention of global retailers who are buzzing about its colorful printed summer dresses.
The brand was launched by two fashion industry veterans: Joana de Noronha, founder of the London-based sales showroom Barefoot Chic, which represents luxury resort and swimwear labels, and Carmen Borgonovo, a consultant and stylist who previously held editorial roles at WWD, W Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar.
The first collection was introduced for spring 2017 at retailers including Browns, Matchesfashion.com, Net-a-porter and Moda Operandi, as well as a number of brick-and-mortar stores such as the Webster in Miami, Kirna Zabete in New York and Tsum in Russia.
Borgo de Nor is all about bold, custom-made prints — and sometimes multiple layers of prints — inspired by art and dresses that blur the lines between ready-to-wear and resortwear. The loose, fluid silhouettes are also a signature.
Noronha said she felt launching her own label was a natural next step after setting up her showroom business: “I always thought that after you develop a sales platform, the next step is to capitalize on that with your own brand. I had a very chic resortwear brand in mind, but it then developed into ready-to-wear.”
Borgonovo drew on her editorial background to create a vision for the brand and define who the Borgo de Nor woman is. “I have been noticing there is a niche in the market for statement dresses that are below the 1,000 pounds mark,” she said. “So the idea was to create bold statement dresses and allow the customer to always be able to come back to the brand to buy a second or third dress and eventually create a wardrobe with some of these dresses.”
As for the customer, Borgonovo and Noronha said they have seen traction from women of different backgrounds and ages, with customers ranging from 20 to 60 years old.
They describe their customer as “somebody who doesn’t look like she has ever made much effort to dress up, but she always looks incredible because she has this inherent class,” Borgonovo said. “She also travels off the beaten track. She doesn’t always go to the obvious places, she’ll go to Greece but will choose Symi rather than Mykonos. She’s got an intellectual side to her, a woman who’s well-read, well-traveled and well-educated.”
The idea for a summer-focused collection was a natural one for both founders. “Joana is Portuguese, I’m from El Salvador and we love color and this type of product. I always spend way too much money in the summer when I shouldn’t because in London we have it for three months,” Borgonovo said.
She added that even though there are slightly darker prints and long-sleeved styles in development for the fall and winter retail drops, the intention is to stay true to their vision of lighter, printed dresses throughout the year.
Prints in the debut range include an abstract leaf print, florals and big dotted patterns over wrap maxidresses, loose slipdresses or more covered long-sleeved pieces. Among the highlights is a print incorporating the surrealist motifs of the painter and novelist Leonora Carrington. Illustrations of pairs of cobalt blue hands are scattered over a bright floral print.
The designers are based in London’s Chelsea and produce their collection in British factories, allowing them to control quality and avoid the negative impact of the weaker pound.
“We sell everything in pounds, so we are not exposed to currency fluctuation or import duties. We’re not importing anything, we’re just exporting, which is a different story, and it keeps us a little safer for the next year or two until we see what Brexit is going to be all about,” Noronha said.
As the brand goes into its second season, the plan is to expand its offer and develop its current retail partnerships, while at the same time making strategic additions to its retail network.
Prices vary from 555 pounds to 805 pounds.
New products are also in the works as part of an overall vision to create a lifestyle concept. The designers said they plan to test certain categories such as footwear or handbags, via collaborations.
Drawing from her experience as editor of the former title W Jewelry, and most recently her work for the biannual magazine On the Rocks, Borgonovo has developed a collection in collaboration with jeweler Sian Evans to use for the styling of the brand’s first lookbook.
After receiving positive feedback from the surrealist rings and earrings that feature oversized hoops or drop earrings in the shape of hands (once again referencing Leonora Carrington), the duo plans to develop the line further with more commercial styles focusing on gold-plated costume jewelry.