Celebs are in love with Eastern European designers. But is it really good for business? 

Celebs are in love with Eastern European designers. But is it really good for business?
Sonya Esman wearing a denim fur coat by Ksenia Schnaider

You may have seen these Eastern European brands worn by A-list celebs, but how much do likes translate to sales?

11 March 2019

Fashion success is a numbers game, with the industry buzzing with ever growing figures of followers, likes, and shares. When Kanye West launched his Yeezy 6 collection in 2017, he did so via Instagram, sharing a series of paparazzi-style photos of Kim Kardashian against a backdrop of store fronts, gas stations and Californian sidewalks. “Kanye West Made the Runway Show Obsolete,” GARAGE magazine wrote soon after. The photos looked not unlike stills from Paris Fashion Week — further proof that the catwalk can be anywhere, if you’re famous enough.

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Stylish snapshots of the rich and famous has always played an important role in fashion, but in the 21st century, celebrity endorsement is the industry’s real bread and butter— or so Instagram will have you believe. It’s nothing new for A-listers need unique looks. But as celebrities see their each and every move streamed and uploaded online, stylists have to search for brands beyond the fashion capitals in a bid to keep up with the demand for new looks. That gives emerging designers a rare chance for mass-scale world exposure.

Every designer dreams of the 15 minutes of fame for their garments which could catapult their business to instant success. But does celebrity endorsement really bring the Midas touch? The Calvert Journal asked five emerging designers from the New East how dressing big stars has impacted their business.

Ksenia Schnaider

Ukrainian label Ksenia Schnaider, run by Ksenia and her husband Anton, is well known for its innovation in denim. Their signature pieces include the demi-denims, a hybrid of trousers and shorts, denim “fur”, and asymmetrical jeans which offer a skinny and flared style in one. The designs have sparked discussions about the power of clickbait fashion and recycled denim as an eco-friendly option.

“Adwoa Aboah wore our denim blazer and even Monica Bellucci has a patchwork bomber”

“Lady Gaga wore our hat for the cover of a single, Camila Cabello and Bella Hadid have both appeared in demi-denims, Adwoa Aboah wore our denim blazer and even Monica Bellucci has a patchwork bomber,” Ksenia Schnaider reveals. “Dua Lipa’s stylist reached out to us and requested a selection of looks that were then used for concerts, music videos, and street style.”

She admits that celebrity endorsements, like Dua Lipa’s love for double denim, definitely have an impact: customers tend to trust labels more if they’ve already seen your designs on someone they love. It’s the job of the designer, however, to develop this relationship. “The correlation is very obvious. As soon as a celebrity appears wearing something there is an increase of attention from buyers and, most of the time, it translates into orders and new stockists. From there, it’s our job to keep their trust and their attention in future seasons.”

George Keburia

For Georgian designer George Keburia, one pair of tiny sunglasses change everything. A sleek Matrix-inspired take on the classic cat-eye shaped lens, his glasses became popular on Instagram in 2017. Kourtney Kardashian’s stylist was just one of the people who took an interest, besides scores of fashion influencers. The red pair appeared in an editorial for Dazed&Confused featuring Rihanna, and were worn by Solange for her shoot in Surface mag (the latter, the designer says, was a complete surprise). Kourtney Kardashian and Rihanna have spotted wearing George Keburia eyewear ever since. “Celebrities of this high rank are the biggest influencers and trendsetters. The number of our stockists and attention from international press grew tremendously thanks to their help,” the designer says.

“Celebrities of this high rank are the biggest influencers and trendsetters”

Glasses are just a small part of Keburia’s take on futuristic and, at times, almost theatrical femininity. Instagram’s knock-on effect is more complex when it comes to clothes. “Usually celebrities choose outfits that are impractical and extraordinary, so it doesn’t necessarily mean guaranteed growth in orders. But it undoubtedly draws media and public attention to the outfit or product. I remember it very well, Lady Gaga was one of the first celebrities to wear my dress, the demand for that dress grew, and we even sold the original one to a collector.”

​Situationist

Established by Irakli Rusadze in Tbilisi, situationist fuses sharp tailoring and exquisite inventions in leather. It’s the leather pieces — a black trench coat and beige thigh-high boots — which have become the favourites of Bella Hadid and propelled the label into paparazzi spotlight.

“Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Jessie J are some of the biggest celebrity names who have sent us requests”

“Elizabeth Sulcer, Bella Hadid’s stylist, first showed interest an interest in Situationist when she attended Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi. This was the start of our cooperation,” Rusadze says. “Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Jessie J are some of the biggest celebrity names who have sent us requests. We try our best to send out requested items, however shipping costs in Georgia are very high, and usually requests are last minute, which it even more complicated.”

While being appreciative of the media spotlight, Rusadze admits that this kind of attention is perhaps not the main goal. “I would prefer press to speak more about the brand, its creative style and techniques, not who is wearing it and where. That said, Bella wearing Situationist, indeed helped us to establish our niche in the international market. With all eyes on Georgian fashion of late, I think more and more celebrities are wearing Georgian designers.”

J.Kim

Back in 2018, Moscow-based designer Jenia Kim started following the world’s first virtual influencer, Miquela Sousa, otherwise known as Lil Miquela — a digital art project created by LA-based startup Brud. J.Kim designs have always incorporated influences of different cultures: Kim’s Korean heritage, Uzbekistan where she grew up, and the hectic environment of contemporary Moscow. After getting in touch with Lil Miquela, Kim sent her one of the brand’s most experimental designs — the fish bag — inspired by fish sellers at Korean markets.

“When it comes to fashion, your customers should make their own choices”

“It drew more attention to the label but didn’t influence the sales that much. However, being the first Russian brand endorsed by a virtual influencer, strengthened our reputation,” Kim says. “I think celebrity endorsements are important but we don’t pursue them very actively. I personally got in touch with Deena Abdulaziz, a Saudi-American businesswoman and editor, and she wore a J.Kim trench coat to an Armani show. I can’t say it influenced the sales of this exact trench coat but it definitely attracted more attention from her fans. On the other hand, I still believe that when it comes to fashion, your customers should make their own choices.”

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