EDITOR'S LETTER 2009...

...wish list and thank you notes

by Stefan Siegel
As the Holiday Season is upon us, we find ourselves reflecting on the past year and on those who have helped to shape our business in a most significant way.

Dear designers, customers, members of the press and all supporters of NJAL,

We value our relationship with you and look forward to working with you in the year to come. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with peace and prosperity.

Looking back, in the past twelve months the NOT JUST A LABEL project grew from an idea to reality, from a slick website to one of the major independent fashion e-tailers. We started 2009 with many ideas in our head, a website which was attracting more and more emerging designers, but also an industry hit hard by recession.

Despite the ongoing financial crises and the implications for the fashion industry, we tried to think outside the box and wanted to push boundaries even further. Fashion stands where the music industry was years ago, holding on to antiquated systems and procedures on how sales, management and talent scouting had to work. Not much has changed in the past 50 years, emerging designers struggle to be seen, expensive hurdles such as PR agencies, showrooms, trade shows and distributors do not necessarily achieve the promised results and most talented designers leave the stage after two or three seasons.

On top, consumers are more and more faced with a homogenous range of items on sale, larger high-end brands are moving away from being aspirational and providing outstanding quality, instead it seems our choice as a consumer is limited and dictated by brands, as well as priced without reasoning.

“We are not going to be here next season”, one promising designer told us last March during fashion week in Paris. “If the Koreans are not buying this season, we need to find another job and close our shop.” Something had to be done, their designs were outstanding, unique, their quality comparable to every luxury brand in this world.

With these thoughts we came back to London, and started working on Project Number 7 from our business plan. We never thought the time for an online store would come so soon, but it had to be done. We needed an online store different from our competitors, something unique, and something screaming for individualism. Handmade, unique pieces nowhere to be found, selected by a key industry figure or celebrity was the solution.

Six months later we and the designers look back with pride. It is hard to change an industry, it is even harder to change consumer behaviour, but we feel we achieved something. Hundreds of designer pieces have been shipped around the world; by letting designers sell directly to customers we gave them the possibility to sell on a global basis, without even having to think about expensive middlemen. Each designer profile, at first only used as a showcase of what they are able to do, became an individual online store later this year.

And we can love or hate them, but a big thank you has to go to our supporting celebrities. In today’s society where celebrities are our opinion leaders, some of them had the courage to look beyond the run-of-the-mill designer brands, and instead to choose young and talented creatives. From fashion-revolutionist Lady Gaga, to supermodel Lara Stone; Paris Hilton, Taylor Swift and LaChapelle muse Amanda Lepore; fashion journalist Diane Pernet as well as Maria Luisa’s mastermind Robin Schulié, they have all made a difference! They helped us to dictate Individualism, they started to make consumers reflect on what they buy, and most importantly, they showed us there is an alternative to the high street.

After two years of hard work the NJAL team will, for the first time, enjoy a week off and we can not deny we will celebrate Christmas with a smile on our face. 2,711 designers from five continents, 67 million hits in 2009 and a pocket full of ideas, bring it on 2010!

Thank you and Merry Christmas designers, and everyone else who supported NJAL in the past year.