NJAL. Behind these four letters, Not Just A Label, the website that discovers and supports pioneers in contemporary fashion since 2008. Stefan and Daniel Siegel, the brothers at the initiative of the project, have helped launched the career of over 25,000 designers amongst who Mary Katranzou or Damir Doma. JDEED interviewed Robert Cavell-Clarke, the Head of Scouting, who, as its position tells it, is in charge of discovering the talents of tomorrow.
Tell us a bit about your role at NJAL and your mainobjectives as the Head of Scouting?
As Head of Scouting I have the honour and privilege of travelling around the globe to find and meet the world’s most pioneering fashion talent. Our primary objective is a simple one; to provide a spring board for creatives who run their own fashion businesses. We are there to support our community of over 25,000 designers in order to help them run and grow a successful business and ultimately help them to do what they love.
What are the requirements to be featured on NJAL?
As NJAL is free of cost platform for designers, it means we can work with the brands that we love and not only the brands that can afford to pay, so that already gives us a lot of freedom. There are three key elements we look for in a brand:
How would you evaluate the growth and expansion of NJAL since its 2008 debut? Do you observe a significant evolution in terms of variety of designers and countries featured?
There has been a big evolution in emerging label’s (especially recent graduates) embracing the digital tools available to showcase a brand globally. There was a stage when Creatives mistrusted technology and wanted to keep purely analogue.
When I look back my time with NJAL, I remember spending hours and hours speaking with designers about the importance of professional images. As NJAL has an online community which showcases labels to an international pool of industry leaders, a label’s imagery has to be as professional, creative and as well executed as the clothes themselves in order to get discovered in a virtual world.
At the beginning of NJAL’s story, social-media didn’t exist in the same it does today. But now, thanks to Instagram, I see 100 high-quality images before I have even had my breakfast. Because of the overwhelming amount imagery we are all exposed to in our day-to-day lives, labels have had to compete with the $250,000 (and the rest) photo-shoots commissioned by the big fashion houses.
I am pleased about this because it set a challenge to young labels, to create incredible imagery without big budgets and since then the creative quality of images we see at NJAL are just going up and up!
The other big evolution we have seen in the NJAL community of designers is the decentralisation of cities. If a label can have an international presence online, is it so important about where a label is based? In-fact because the major “creative” cities are pushing their artists out due to rising living costs. The world will see big change in creative capitals. It’s been our pleasure to discover thriving creative communities the world-over, sometimes in the most unlikely of places.
At JDEED, we focus on the emerging designers in the Middle-East and NJAL has been a great mean for us to familiarize ourselves with a few of them. What is your point of view of the new talents coming from this part of the world? Are they key players among the NJAL designer base?
NJAL opened the world’s biggest pop-store for fashion in Dubai through a collaboration with the Dubai Design District and it was fascinating experience because Western labels want to gain more exposure in the Middle-Eastern market and many Middle-Eastern brands want to showcase across Europe and America, so there is great opportunity to exchange knowledge and collaborate. We have been big fans of Middle-Eastern talent since the beginning and it’s wonderful to see a new generation of designers develop and we can’t wait to see what’s next!
What are NJAL’s ambitions, current and future?
With the opening of our second office in Los Angeles, we plan to expand NJAL’s reach around the world and provide a democratic space for all pioneering labels to come come together and learn from one another. NJAL has been focusing on physical events such as stores, exhibitions, trade shows, and educational workshops around the world and we plan to keep standing up for the Black Sheep of fashion and challenging everything about the industry.
Stefan Siegel, Founder NJAL
Special Thanks to Robert Cavell-Clarke & Charlotte Spencer