‘Sexy, modern, relevant’: why Nancy Dojako is London’s fast-rising star

LONDON — Nancy Dojak’s eponymous label is only two years old, but her second solo outing during London Fashion Week could be one of the most anticipated shows of the week in a season devoid of usual headliners like Burberry and Victoria Beckham.

On Saturday, the designer, best known for her flesh-baring mini dresses and sensual lingerie-inspired designs, will show her new collection at the derelict Selfridges Hotel behind the famous luxury department store. Shades of pink and pastel green flow into her favored palette of black and mauve, while casual cut-out mini dresses and whimsical bustiers are joined by more appropriate items such as jackets, swimwear and knit dresses.

“This moment is important because there is a lot of attention on the brand,” Dojaka told BoF at a preview in her studio in North London. “So it’s important to keep going, to show something new, to show a little bit more of what the brand can be.”

It’s been a whirlwind of a pandemic for Dojaka, whose breakthrough moment has come amid one of the toughest business environments the industry has ever faced. After amassing a celebrity following and winning top retailers such as Matchesfashion and MyTheresa, she won the Fashion Award for New Design Talent as well as the prestigious LVMH Award. The latter earned her a €300,000 grant and a year’s mentorship from LVMH chief Sophie Brocard.

Dojaka is now looking at the next phase of his label’s development, ramping up production capabilities and gradually expanding distribution, while building his collections to include a wider range of categories. She hopes to balance the two goals by strengthening her brand identity and commercializing her aesthetic to a wider audience.

“I wouldn’t describe it as sexualized,” she said of her signature look. “This use of sexuality is almost like a power play; it’s more about a woman taking control of the gaze. The clothes are sexy, but they are for women, about women.”

Originally from Albania, Dojaka moved to London as a teenager and went on to study underwear design at the London College of Fashion. After an internship at Peter Pilotto’s dressmaker inspired her to pursue a career in womenswear, she completed a prestigious MA in Fashion at London’s Central Saint Martins, where her experience with underwear was immediately recognized in her designs.

In 2019, Dojaka’s graduation collection, a mix of sensual mini dresses and lingerie, featured a solid nod to the culture of the 1990s and early 2000s, just as the millennial nostalgia fashion trend was gaining momentum. Ssense bought pieces from the collection, and by the time London Fashion Week kicked off in February 2020, Dojako had secured a place on the official roster as part of Lulu Kennedy’s Fashion East program to nurture up-and-coming design talent.

Dojaki’s work stood out “for its super-high aesthetic and technique,” Kennedy said. “It didn’t feel like student work; it already looked on its way to becoming a brand.”

While her spring-summer 2021 show with Fashion East had to be moved online due to coronavirus restrictions, the collection was nonetheless a “turning point” for the young brand, Dojako said. On the creative side, she has gone beyond mini dresses and underwear to create a more expansive offering.

And as luck would have it, the collection coincided with “Bella Hadid’s moment,” when the model wore the designer’s full look at the MTV Video Music Awards, sending the internet into a frenzy. “It got attention, I think that’s how a lot of buyers learned about the brand,” Dojaka said.

Before long, a number of It girls — including Dua Lipa, Rihanna, Hailey Bieber and Zendaya — were championing Dojaki’s designs on their Instagram pages and on the red carpet. When the world came out of lockdown, the demand for festive clothes has increased dramatically and Doyak’s star continued to rise. Last year, its products twice cracked the fashion world’s quarterly ranking of the top 10 fashion brands, alongside major luxury brands such as Gucci and Balenciaga.

“It’s about using sexuality almost as a power play, it’s more about the woman taking control of the gaze.”

Retailers have also taken notice. In the past 12 months, Dojaka has grown her list of stockists from 25 to 60, and orders for her Spring/Summer 2022 collection — the first to benefit from a solo show — have more than quintupled in a year.

At Browns, the brand was an “instant success,” according to the retailer’s womenswear buying director Ida Peterson, who first acquired the brand for Fall/Winter 2021.[ed] in-store or online for hours before selling out,” she said.

“It’s never vulgar,” said Marco Vianello, vice president of sales and business development for Tomorrow, the showroom that became the accelerator for the brand that now handles sales and distribution for Dojaka. “Her clothes are actually extremely sophisticated and feminine, but also very precise attention to detail, which strikes the perfect balance between something that’s a bit more vulnerable and sensitive to something that’s a bit more serious.”

Certainly, Dojaka is growing in an industry that strives to do so break more young indie designers than it does. Turning industrial noise into a viable business is not easy. The wholesale system, which Dojaka relies on for 100 percent of its revenue, is under tremendous pressure.

While Dojaka’s self-started brand is still in its infancy, with an in-house team of just her and two colleagues, last fall’s LVMH Prize gave her a chance to think bigger. According to her, Dojaka moved its production from the UK to Italy, where the factories are more specialized in producing high-quality clothes and can handle large series. Working with Tomorrow, she hopes to gradually build distribution, adding one “star” retailer per season.

She is also investing in moving beyond the flirty dresses and underwear she is best known for to create a more holistic universe for the Nensi Dojaka brand. For the first time this season, she dons outerwear and knitwear, paired with other pieces such as tailored jumpsuits and a beige sequined maxi dress.

Swimsuits are also making a comeback (“I pass them off as show tops,” she laughed, “it’s a secret!”). According to the designer, this category attracted a lot of attention from buyers last season due to its ease of wear and lower price.

Developing the Dojaka category could help the brand cater to a wider range of women, not just those with model physiques. Her upcoming collection includes new materials that offer more stretch, such as velvet and ribbed knits, allowing her to translate her aesthetic into pieces that women of all body types can wear with confidence, while adjustable straps are designed into , to accommodate a variety of breast sizes. Outerwear could open up the brand to customers who prefer a less revealing look.

“If I was in a dress, I would never wear it like this,” she said, referring to one of her skin-baring designs. “I’ll wear it styled with something, or a little more covered up. So I’m trying to think more in terms of showing people how they can wear it. There and the rest of the clothes [in].”

Shoes that Dojaka first introduced last season are also in the spotlight. In the meantime, she’s dipping her toe into the jewelry space with a capsule created in collaboration with jewelry brand Andrew Bunney.

Buyers are betting that the brand will continue to resonate with their customers.

“Obviously there’s a strong sexy young customer that really resonates with the style and look of the product, but the collection is so sophisticated that we see a wide range of customers really engaging with [it]”, said Leanne Wiggins, head of womenswear at Matchesfashion. “Nancy has an amazing talent for offering sexy, modern, relevant clothes to make women feel empowered.”

https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/luxury/sexy-modern-relevant-why-nensi-dojaka-is-londons-fast-rising-star/ ‘Sexy, modern, relevant’: why Nancy Dojako is London’s fast-rising star

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