Silent But Deadly: Seven Feel-Good Brands that Sparked Consumer Excitement in 2021

While it’s hardly a secret that the COVID-19 pandemic dealt the fashion business a brutal one-two punch, it also made room for some exciting new players. Call them “sleeper brands,” but there’s nothing sleepy about the sales they’ve experienced. According to The McKinsey Report, retail has firmly repositioned to more on-line sales. Many of the brands below are online based and run a lean and mean operation. They’ve also all tapped into deciphering what consumers are wanting to buy during these uncertain times. Many have risen to the public’s consciousness thanks to social media spreading the word.

Below, Fashion Reverie highlights the lucky seven.

Image courtesy of Instagram

Gabe Gordon and his retro 70s knitwear

This RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) student created quite the buzz when Kim Kardashian wore one of his “Vortex” cut-out knit tops and posted a selfie on social media. Gabe’s design mission reads, “[I] create cut-out knits that explore the state of vulnerability that exists between comfort and discomfort.” The seventies retro tops are unisex and look great on all shapes and sizes with an updated Bee-Gees seventies kind of vibe. Visit Gabe’s Instagram, in which his friends and celebrities alike model the tops, showing that it is truly a unisex piece of clothing for all. IG: @gabesportsclub www.gabe-gordon.com

Image courtesy of glamourmagazine.co.uk

House of Sunny – the eco-friendly influencer favorite

London-based Sunny Williams founded House of Sunny in 2011 as a vegan sustainable fashion brand. “Our aim is to avoid wastage. We recycle or donate our textile scraps and samples whenever possible. Zero waste is our goal.” Sunny produces only two collections a year, which is in line with his mission to remain as sustainable as possible. Fans love his practical clothing in that it is transitional yet exciting, thanks to innovative design accents. One of the brand’s biggest hits is the Hockney Lillipads dress, which recently got a big boost when model/reality TV star Kendall Jenner wore the slinky dress and posted a selfie on her Instagram feed, garnering over 14,000 likes. Less famous fans also help promote the brand, sharing selfies of themselves wearing their favorite House of Sunny pieces. House of Sunny clothing is available at Selfridges and Urban Outfitters. IG: @houseofsunny www.houseofsunny.co.uk.

Images courtesy of shoppedbykroped.com

Kroped by Angel – the go-to guilt-free accessories splurge

Angel (like Madonna, no last name), explains, “Kroped is woman owned, and operated. It’s my full-time job and I’m the only employee!” Brand Ambassador Abby Ensslen shared that the Los Angeles-based creative makes her designs at home on a 3-D printer. The tiny brand is all about the quality of its goods: it boasts only five-star reviews on Etsy (71 at the time this article was published). Kroped began with a line of size-inclusive cropped tees, hence the name “Kroped.”  Angel expanded her offerings to include cute phone grips and earrings. Best-sellers include mini-Uno earrings, “vaccinated” bead hoop earrings, and Day-Glo Barbie boot and shoe earrings. Angel takes custom requests and with everything under $20, Shop Kroped is a great option for stocking stuffers and spontaneous gifting.

IG: @kropedbyangel www.shopkroped.com

Images coiurtesy of Instagram

Lirika Matoshi and her “strawberry dress”

The $490, yes, $490 “strawberry dress” was one of the big fashion surprises that emerged from the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic when we were in quarantine, and it continues to enjoy popularity. Designer Lirika Matoshi hit on the fact that women were sick of their Birkenstocks and sweats and wanted to look pretty, in a Snow White country cottage kind of way, even if they were only at home, socializing in their tiny bubble. Social media, namely TikTok, Instagram, and countless memes it inspired, blew up the gown’s sales. The tulle gown has a deep V-neck, and features red strawberry designs stitched onto it, making it a rather labor-intensive frock. Think of it as the beloved “Strawberry Shortcake’s” ultimate party dress. It is also size inclusive and is available up to size 18.

IG: @lirika.matoshi www.lirikamatoshi.com

Images courtesy of Steffi Whitmoyer

Steffi Jeans – sexy jeans that build a community of positive self-image

Virginia-based Steffi Whitmoyer is the one-woman band behind Steffi Jeans, (Steffi Inc.) The brand spreads a message about teens and women supporting one another and fostering positive self-image. The jeans’ anti-bullying messaging happened organically and was conceived when Whitmoyer’s daughter was being bullied in middle school. Coincidentally, at that time, Steffi came across Coco Chanel’s quote, “Don’t be like the rest of them darling.”

 Whitmoyer tweaked the quote to create her brand’s message, “We are not like the rest of them darling.” Five percent of each jean’s selling price of $135 is donated to Be Beautifully You and The Beautiful Foundation. In addition to positive messaging, the jeans are resilient and keep their structure. Says Steffi, “I want people to have a ‘hot damn’ moment when they wear my jeans.”

Whitmoyer took things to the next level when she applied to and showed at New York Fashion Week’s Flying Solo show space this past September. (Flying Solo champions independent brands featured in their downtown Manhattan showroom.) For the holidays, Whitmoyer is offering a BOGO deal (buy one, get one free) on her Instagram for pre-orders until December 10. Coming soon is Steffi’s $900 signature jeans featuring a platinum and Swarovski crystal bow button attachment that will be available at Flying Solo’s Copper Room. IG: @steffiiinc www.steffii.com

Images courtesy of Greg Elliott

Studio 24E – private label jewelry at an old school boutique

Greg Elliott is one half of a husband-wife team that has enjoyed success as a Baltimore-based brick and mortar gift boutique for well over a decade. Greg and Nina both worked at Nordstrom and deliver the same white glove service the luxury retailer was renowned for in the nineties.

Clients have traveled from out of state to the destination shop for years, shopping for a plethora of special occasions: graduations, weddings, birthdays, and anniversaries. Lately however, the spike in online business has created a whole new category—private label brand jewelry. Says Greg, “It’s priced right, and on trend, and can be changed up quickly as to design or category.” They launched their private label jewelry two months ago and have already sold 150 pieces between online and store sales. Prices begin at $20 and top off at $100. www.studio24e.com

Images courtesy of tracyturco.com

Tracy Turco – the Design Diva of the Desert

Tracy Turco, formerly Tracy Stern, was renowned for her Tracy Stern Shoe Collection, Salon Tea, and interior design work.  During the pandemic, she reinvented herself as the “Design Diva of the Deser,t” incorporating her interior design skills, fashion, and accessory designs into an all-encompassing midcentury retro glam experience—all housed under one roof at her new Tiki Hotel. Tracy updated the Carlton Hotel, built in 1961, and turned it into a Polynesian-inspired space that includes lava lamps, a luau pool, and art from New York City Street artist Damon Johnson. It has a boutique that sells Tracy’s eclectic mix of accessories, clothing, and bespoke home décor, including colorful Lucite heels and mod-inspired one-shoulder dresses with matching sunhats. Her unique garden accessories, such as a reindeer antler hose holder, will remind you of your trip to the Southwest long after you’ve unpacked. The Tiki is the first of a string of boutique hotels in the Palm Springs region Tracy is opening. Next on the list to open will be The Cheetah Hotel; ten dollars from every booking will be donated to the Cheetah Conservation Fund.

IG: @tracy.turco www.tracyturco.com

—Vivian Kelly

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