Back in 2015, Sarah Staudinger acted on a simple but profound idea: Give women an elevated aesthetic and quality at an accessible price point. With this in mind, the Los Angeles native founded the now-beloved clothing and accessories brand STAUD alongside co-founder and artistic director George Augusto. You may forget that, at the time, there weren't many designers doing this. You had your choice of high-end handbags or fast fashion brands — not much in-between other than contemporary. The arrival of similar labels like By Far, Danse Lente, and Wandler would happen in the years directly following. It was a perfectly timed entry into the underserved market, and for the last handful of years, STAUD has positioned itself as a leader in the reborn contemporary category.
Over the years, the brand has celebrated some notable wins; some of which include a shoppable showroom in New York, a footwear category launch, gargantuan success of its Shirley, Moon, and Bissett bags, and memorable runway shows during fashion week, including Fall 2019, when the models literally danced down the catwalk to the 1976 disco tune "More, More, More." Though the company doesn't discuss specific numbers, Staudinger shares with TZR that between year one and year four, the brand saw a 3000% increase in financial growth. It also has an impressive roster of celebrity and fashion clients who run the gamut of personal style, including the classic aesthetic of Meghan Markle, the effortlessly cool Alexa Chung, and even the more youthful street-ready looks on Kendall Jenner.
In other words, it's been a massively successful few years for Staudinger and Augusto, which begs the question: what's next? Ahead, Staudinger reflects on the momentum of the brand, the inspiration behind her cult-favorite collection pieces, and what to expect from STAUD for 2020.
"2015 was just about staying in business and being thought of as a lifestyle brand," Staudinger begins. The designer shares that becoming a multi-category brand has been the long-term goal from the very beginning. Fast-forwarding to 2020, "that goal continues, as does finding the balance in direct-to-consumer versus wholesale and in categories as well." STAUD currently offers a mix of ready-to-wear separates, handbags, and footwear both on its own website and through its retail partners, including Moda Operandi. "The brand can be worn every day, on vacation or dressed up for any occasion," Moda Operandi buyer Valerie Hsia shares. "The Moda girl is constantly moving and STAUD's pieces fit their lifestyle." Hsia shares that the brand sold the most units of all emerging designers for their Spring/Summer 2020 Trunkshow. (The label's first foray into wholesale was in 2017 with a capsule collection on Net-A-Porter.)
On top of offering reasonably priced bags, another factor that played into STAUD's quick success was its swift acceptance from the fashion community. "The influencer has served us really well," Staudinger says. Leandra Medine, Lisa Aiken, and Alexa Chung are three women she references as some of the first clients when the brand launched that made her realize they were doing something right. All it takes is a few scrolls on Instagram before you encounter one of STAUD's highly photographable handbags carried by flocks of digital influencers. And although they feel of-the-moment, they're not fleeting. These are items worth holding onto season after season after season.
Messaging — built by both wearers and internal creative — is a critical part of cultivating a new brand. The initial impression anyone gets from surveying STAUD's offerings is that it has a distinct point of view. The imagery is saturated with idyllic backdrops and models in effortless poses while dressed in vibrant separates. One of the most recent snaps on the brand's Instagram account showcases a STAUD girl (model Georgia Fowler, no less) dressed in an off-the-shoulder crop and matching voluminous skirt trotting down the stone steps of an outdoor garden — it's subtle, but persuasive. "Understand yourself first, and work on communicating that authentically," Staudinger suggests to emerging designers on building a brand image. "Don’t be so concerned over what the audience is going to respond to. You have to trust that you have something unique to offer and stay true to that."
"It generally starts with inspiration that may not even be related to fashion and then we just keep honing it until we feel like we’re getting to a place where we can build a whole collection," Staudinger shares, explaining that from that inspo the four-person design team builds the whole STAUD world. For Fall 2020, the inspiration nods to nature. "After a Hawaiian paradise for summer, the STAUD girl has returned to California, this time NorCal and the Redwood forest along the ocean," Staudinger shares. "She’s looking for a moment of calmness and warmth before traveling to the Upper East Side for work. After an exhilarating year, the right look for now is a relaxed polished-ness."
The brand opted out of a runway show during New York Fashion Week this season and chose to present the collection via private appointments with editors. "We don’t feel beholden to doing a show every time. We’re still a pretty small team and we’ll do them when it feels right and works with the creative flow of the season," Staudinger shares. Though Staud will do a show for its Spring/Summer 2021 collection during fashion week in September, for now, it'll be focusing on an upcoming launch. "We have a really big collaboration coming out in April and we want to give that the attention and bandwidth it deserves," she adds. "It's a full capsule with RTW, handbags, and footwear."
You'll have to wait until April to find out what it is, so in the meantime, continue ahead to see more looks from the Fall/Winter 2020 collection and shop current favorites available now.