Exclusive Interview: NOT JUST A LABEL
Stefan Siegel, founder of Not Just A Label, partners with fashion brands and designers to offer a curated array of products to a wider audience. Siegel believes that limitations in the fashion industry often hinder the expansion and development of creativity, and aims to open up doors by highlighting unique and underserved talents. Good Journey decided to reach out to Stefan to celebrate and appreciate artists and designers in the fashion industry for their talent and craftsmanship, not just how many designs they produce and sell.
Jade Gleason: What past experiences in the fashion industry did you find problematic?
Stefan Siegel: If I may speak openly, we definitely need more brains in this industry. I’d love fashion to open its eyes much more: We need to look at what other sectors are doing, implement R & D departments in fashion companies, and lead with innovation. Fashion is known for implementing the lowest-hanging fruits in terms of innovation. I’d like to change that.
JG: What turning point led to your decision to create Not Just A Label?
SS: I was working for an investment bank, and our goal was to invest in up-and-coming designers with a minimum turnover of $15 million per year. I knew so many creatives who were struggling just to be recognized. Therefore, I thought there must be value in bringing them all together and creating a platform that values creativity and quality—not their financial status, background or network.
JG: How did you get started?
SS: This is where I differ from many people. I like to start fresh. Give me an opportunity, and I can leave everything behind to start again from a plastic chair in a garage.
JG: What criteria needs to be met for NJAL to work with a fashion designer or brand?
SS: We select designers purely on the basis of their creativity, quality of design and willingness to innovate. Basically, we do the opposite of what established and enshrined structures like fashion media and fashion councils do.
JG: What does ethical fashion mean to you? Where do you draw the line in what is and isn’t ethical?
SS: The subject of sustainable, ethical fashion is complex, and there are no precise ways of certifying what is what. We are keen to break it down and make it simple for both designers and consumers to understand. Ultimately, it is about designing better, long-lasting products that can be cared for and repaired; that are timelessly unique so that they aren’t outdated every season; and that transmit the love and creativity of the whole process.
JG: Did you have any role models growing up? Why were they inspirational for you?
SS: I grew up in the Italian Alps, and by following the footsteps of some of the most famous climbers and extreme skiers, I have learned to never give up, to be persistent and to be prepared to climb in solitude.
JG: Who is Stefan Siegel? What do you want people to know and understand about you?
SS: To be frank, I don't really care what other people think. If I did, I would probably be schmoozing with the fashion establishment, and that would hinder me from developing a system outside of the system. I am who I am. I do things differently.
JG: What is one question you get asked most often?
SS: “What inspired you to start NJAL?”
JG: What kind of foundation have you set in sustaining Not Just A Label?
SS: I’ve built a very lean structure around NJAL, one that relies on a global network of collaborators. I want to be agile and fast, able to break rules without having to ask for permission. I own 100 percent of my company, which is both growing and highly profitable. Most importantly, we make our money by supporting creative people, and allowing their business to grow as fast as we do.
NJAL is a leading designer platform dedicated to showcasing and nurturing today’s pioneers in contemporary fashion. You can learn more about Stefan Siegel and visit his website to gain insight to NJAL’s community and its impact in the fashion industry.
Written by Jade Gleason. Edited by Ann Lien.