From The Editor

Editor's Letter 2015

Driving home for Christmas always feels like one last, metaphoric, climb of a mountain – until I reach my hometown in the Italian Alps. While the winding roads take me through a picturesque landscape, it is hard to deny the exhaustion accumulated over a year, which has taken us to hell and back, but has most definitely left us a little closer to heaven. As one of my mentors put it, 2015 has been a breakthrough year for NJAL, and as such it must be celebrated.

Celebrating, however, is something nobody in my team is good at – least of all myself. We have learned to walk the path less travelled, never taking things for granted; resting on our laurels is something we have never done, and never had the chance to. But this year is different.

Last week, I saw a gigantic Not Just A Label flag hoisted on Manhattan’s most famous facade, the Waldorf Astoria New York. Flicking through my camera roll, I remind myself that we have indeed opened the world’s largest pop-up store in Dubai in April this year. We broke another record by flying 100 of our most innovative designers from 82 cities around the world to Vicenza, Italy, pairing them with 100 local manufacturers. And before we even left Italy, we were already working on a multi-disciplinary showcasing concept that would finally reinforce Berlin’s status as a creative capital, opposing the commercial waste that fashion weeks today have become.

While doubling both our online traffic as well as e-commerce sales, we were able to provide the global design community with thousands of showcasing opportunities, free trade show opportunities, awards and prizes. To round it all up, our focus shifted to the U.S. for the very first time. We took Los Angeles by storm in a specialist workshop in collaboration with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and finally opened NJAL’s second retail outlet in the American capital of fashion, New York City.

While one part of me is happy as a king, I must say I'm also grateful for having been given the opportunity to experience the human and political crises that have marked 2015 up close. In June this year, we brought together the entire creative community in a war-torn Ukraine, and over the summer we experienced the refugee crises through the eyes of our supportive and welcoming designers; when I travelled through a rapidly changing Middle East, young creatives made me understand the direct and negative consequences of policies generated in the very same cities we refer to as the world's ‘fashion capitals’. 

When one is given the opportunity to have access to talented individuals in 188 countries, it becomes evident how far we are from readily available and transparent information, as well as the free exchange of knowledge in this world. Our designers have become our source of information, and inspiration. When international visa regulations make it harder and harder for people without a standard 9-to-5 job to travel, we have to use the Internet to our advantage and ensure the global creative ecosystem is not controlled by governmental or corporate policies, not respecting the very basics of our co-existence.

With our success, therefore, comes responsibility. In my previous Editor’s Letter, a certain anxiety punctuated my thoughts, and that's not knowing where this journey might take us. This year, the global NJAL community, alongside my team in London, have put themselves in the unique position to steer and directly influence our impact on the global fashion industry.

While the sector currently faces enormous uncertainties, we have proven the importance of an artisan and artist-led ecosystem, connecting the makers with the end-users in an open source and transparent way. NJAL is now seven years old, and against all rumours, we are still independent, fully owned by myself and profitable – ideal ingredients for continuing to create our own system and making change happen.

As we wind down for the holidays, I dare to look back at a most incredible year, and I promise, I will attempt to celebrate—but not only our achievements as a community, but more importantly, our gained position that will allow us to do it all again in 2016 – much bigger and better.

Happy Holidays and to an unforgettable 2016,

Stefan Siegel, and the NJAL Team