Type "vanguard" into Google and you'll first be directed to an investment website. Mistake. Add the word "dictionary" and the search engine nicely spews out a concise definition, "a group of people leading the way in new developments or ideas." When Net-a-Porter first kicked off its Vanguard program last season, the hope was to help these just-out-of-the-gates fashion brands with an innovative perspective find a mainstream audience. Now, the program is back for its second season, and Net-a-Porter has chosen four new vanguard fashion brands to enter into its incubator program, offering guidance on both the business and sartorial sides of things.
The Spring/Summer 2019 season's four brands are New York-based Peter Do, Comission, Ratio Et Motus, and Berlin's Anne Manns. Each occupies a very different slice of the fashion industry — Peter Do and Comission are both ready-to-wear brands, but approach ideas like tailoring and even brand DNA entirely differently. Ratio Et Motus, is barely a year old, but is already making waves with its structured handbags. And, as for Anne Manns, the quirky-yet-elegant statement jewelry feels unique to the market.
Though different, all four brands are in the midst of navigating the murkiness that make up the beginnings of a brand. "Like any other businesses, finance management is crucial to the success of a young brand like ours. And It has been a challenge for us to maximize and execute our creativity while staying business minded," explains Ratio Et Motus co-founders Daniel Li and Angela Wang share via email. "We are still learning through the whole process but keeping a healthy cash flow and planning budgets and projections wisely is a first step to grow our business." Meanwhile, for Commission, the learning curve arcs towards the manufacturing space. "Often times, for young and smaller brands who want to achieve exceptional qualities in order to match to other high-end and long-standing luxury brands, it requires a much higher volume which are almost impossible in the beginning," notes co-founder Dylan Cao. "Many good factories and manufacturing facilities with a legacy seem more reluctant to take on smaller brands, which can be understandable from a business and risk-taking perspective, given that trust takes a long time to build."
But, in part, Net-a-Porter's program is intended to help alleviate these early stressers, offering up the obvious financial security of a large order placement, but also the expertise to fill in any gaps in knowledge. "It was a whirlwind, with only one confirmed appointment, we flew to Paris and set up our showroom inside a friend of a friend’s apartment, hoping people would come by," Peter Do explains. "Quietly word got out, and all of the sudden we were inundated with requests and picked up exclusively online with Net-a-Porter." But, he notes that despite immediate interest, there was still much to learn, "Launching your own brand is almost like being a student again, and you have to be asking all the right questions," he says. "I spend equal time discussing sales, press, and production with my team to ensure I'm constantly informed of the brand's standing."
Needless to say, though the brands are still learning and growing, with Net-a-Porter and some of the industry's top trendsetters already in their corners, you can expect great things from each. Below, learn a little bit more about each of these emerging brands and shop their pieces too.
"After studying and working in clothing, I felt like trying something new and experimenting in a different field," Mann of the eponymous line she founded in 2016. "Personally, I believe that even though trends do exist in the jewelry industry, the industry is less controlled by seasons. Therefore, I feel that there are more opportunities to create long lasting seasonless pieces that stand out for themselves."
Mann's jewelry touches on both the natural and the sculptural, with soft lines and purposeful imperfections that keep it from looking fussy or overstyled. "My jewelry pieces don't serve as decoration or another addition to a wardrobe. I think they stand out for themselves in a natural way, while effortlessly complementing a modern outfit," she says.
Ratio Et Motus
"We were both in the handbag design field prior to the launch of RATIO ET MOTUS," share Wang and Li. "We think there is a void on the accessory market right now for a young brand to focus on premium quality products with timeless styles at a reasonable price."
Though it's still an extremely young brand (REM was founded in 2018), the polished designs quickly caught Net-a-Porter's attention as handbags that can pair just as easily with a suit as they do with jeans. "It’s quite easy for our customer to wear our designs with their established wardrobe for the simplicity and modernity of our bags," TK notes. "They can either be a statement piece with a simple outfit or just the cherry on the top for a strong look."
"I launched my own brand because I felt like I had a lot to express, that I couldn’t necessarily do under another label," Do says. "Both Derek Lam and Phoebe Philo taught me a lot, but I quickly learned I want to lead the conversation. Perhaps I’m just getting older, but I sense that the market is shifting away from streetwear. I see the need for well-constructed garments that are elevated but not dowdy. I want to satisfy that craving."
The aesthetic of Do's clothing is both forward-thinking and classic. Crisp tailoring reimagined with thoughtful details. "My clothes are designed to be worn by women of all ages," he says. "Though they are luxury garments, they are meant to be cherished like a favorite pair of jeans. I think my pieces whisper subversion and can easily be paired with anything." At a time where matter-of-fact suiting has come back into favor, Do's designs are deserving of careful inspection, because it's up close where you see the ways in witch he's moving the needle.
For the trio behind Commission, a shared cultural heritage served as a source of inspiration. "We hope to provide a more rounded perspective of Asia and especially East Asia, which has often been represented in a very singular vision across the fashion industry and its referential language," says co-founder Jin Kay "We aim to represent it through clothing and a visual world where we are in control of the image and the representation, not someone else."
Though at its core, the brand centers around timeless, tailored pieces, the design team's goal is to balance out clothing that can traditionally skew stuffy. "In contrast to our more serious choice of materials and constructions, there are injections of humorous and 'ironic' details. As our seasons will progress, we hope to slowly build a rounded wardrobe where a Commission woman would feel just as complete as she feels stylish."