It makes sense that after pursuing careers in finance, media, advertising and, finally, fashion, Shoreditch-based Stefan Siegel’s website is a bit of a – stylish – mêlée. Part boutique and part design gallery, Not Just A Label was launched by Siegel with his brother Daniel in 2007, initially as a “virtual business directory” for nascent designers, but it soon expanded to include a shoppable edit of clothes, shoes and accessories from its pool of talent, which – at the last count – totals more than 5,000 designers from 88 countries.
With the aim of giving designers “the opportunity to cut out expensive middlemen and sell directly from their studio”, the free-to-use site allows designers to upload catwalk videos and lookbooks as well as to submit design ideas for the shop, and is used as a scouting ground by stylists and editors chasing the next big thing. Damir Doma, Mary Katrantzou and Peter Jensen are just some of the designers to find success after appearing on NJAL.
While the site might initially seem to cater only to the most fashion-forward consumer (Lady Gaga has sourced some of her edgier costumes here), NJAL’s products run the gamut from the outlandish and cutting edge to the surprisingly classic. Georgia Hardinge’s striking wool “cage” skirt (first picture, £680) might look out of place on anywhere other than the catwalk, but Minna’s organic cotton and vintage lace blouse (£140) is bordering on understated.
The shop particularly excels in edgy pieces such as UEG’s classically tailored shirts (£290), constructed from a thin crinkled Tyvek that perfectly resembles crumpled paper (despite remaining soft to the touch and being machine washable) or the delicate Congo bracelet, cast from real vampire bat skulls in solid bronze (£119). The Chinese-based designer Maryching’s Christine platforms with gold watersnake overlaid with ivory lace and signature purple suede sole (third picture, £260) are another highlight, as is Capulet London’s luxe eco-leather apple mint iPad clutch (second picture, £250). And despite the abundance of avant-garde on offer, the piece that most caught my eye was Katrarzyna Wojcik’s perfectly minimalist geometric amethyst ring (£150).