There are few better feelings than knowing you’re the first of your friends to discover the Next Big Thing–whether it’s a tasty superfood fitness bloggers are going nuts for, a new bar in your neighborhood, an up-and-coming band, or an emerging fashion brand. When it comes to the latter, Rathna Sharad is always that person ahead of the curve. In fact, she’s turned her incredible knack for unearthing cool, niche fashion brands into a business–an online store called Runway2Street.
“I noticed the same pattern unfold time and again with my travels where it was not always easy to buy cool, niche brands I loved online or to send a link to friends who wanted the products I was wearing,” Sharad explained.
That thought–and an enviable eye for fresh design talent, led Sharad to reach out to emerging designers and discover that the niche labels she loved were great when it came to design, but not so great at online business: “I found all of them knew how to make beautiful products but did not have resources or expertise in retail technology, international logistics and creating brand awareness online.”
It was then, one year ago, that Sharad left a job at Microsoft to pursue her vision for Runway2Street: An exclusive, curated marketplace for independent and niche luxury brands.
Today that concept has turned into a full-fledged online store featuring designers from 20 different countries across the world across fashion, accessories, and beauty. Here, we chatted with Sharad to see just how she uncovers those up-and-coming fashion gems and to see if (hopefully) some of her keen eye for labels rubs off.
Used Unused Flores Neoprene Wave Mini Skirt, $539; at Runway2Street
StyleCaster: What does Runway2Street offer that other online stores don’t?
Rathna Sharad: We partner with luxury brands that sell high quality, non-mass produced products with a unique story, aesthetic or point of view. These brands are not typically carried by mainstream retailers online or in stores. Also, we like to tell the stories behind our brands and give women a direct connection to the source, all our products ship directly from our brands. We showcase entire collections and like to provide complete transparency to our customers on what makes the brand special, who makes the products and what they are made of.
How do you find niche, under-the-radar designers and labels?
We visit Paris and New York City trade shows and work with show rooms that focus on up-and-coming, cool and interesting labels from every corner of the world. We also get a number of referrals from our brand partners and are avid social media users, so often discover brands online through blogs, Instagram or Pinterest.
My Instagram and blog favorites are @stelouchebabouche, @manrepeller, @garancedore, @carolinedemaigret, and @elvira_abasova. I follow a large number of blogs, and a few of my favorites are A Portable Package, Gary Pepper, Le Catch, and This is Glamorous.
Jamie Wei Huang White Leather Row Edge Flat Sandals, $541; at Runway2Street
What are three of your favorite up-and-coming labels and why do you love them?
Jamie Wei Huang: She is one of the most talented designers, and was a student of Stella McCartney. Her clothes are impeccably tailored, wearable but fashion forward and seriously cool. Her accessories are fabulous too.
Bernard Delettrez: One of my favorite jewelry labels from Rome, Delettrez spent years making fine jewelry and now creates fashion jewelry with the same craftsmanship and detail. His bronze pieces are my absolute favorite, they come with a patented porcelain coating that gives it a dull gold finish and simply lasts forever.
Caroline De Marchi: A Parisian cult favorite handbag brand you should know. Caroline is a jetsetter, her designs are incredibly chic yet understated luxury and beautifully handcrafted.
What are the two latest labels you introduced to Runway2Street and why did you bring them on board?
We just launched exciting beauty and fine jewelry categories on Runway2Street. For skincare, we focus entirely on small batch, high quality organic and natural skincare lines, which draws from my personal philosophy.
Most recent addition in skincare is Christopher Courtney, a London brand–I love that their chocolate products like bath products, face cream and mask, smell yummy and are almost good enough to eat. For fine jewelry one of my favorite new brands is Christina Debs. I am so in love with her innovative and modern tattoo jewelry that injects a sense of cool in this category.