A Gen Z brand looks beyond the year 2000
Last September, despite presenting the official New York Fashion Week schedule, Sintra Martins had to start turning people away at the door minutes before her show started.
“It was a really big surprise,” Martins said of the show. “It’s been a really fun snowball.”
As the relevance of New York Fashion Week has waned, with further challenges brought on by Covid restrictions and supply chain issues, some brands have opted out of Fashion Week, Martins is at the vanguard of a small wave of independent designers to enter the bend.
She managed to translate the momentum from that September show into big accounts with retailers like Dover Street Market and Ssense, production deals and celebrity placements including Olivia Rodrigo, Kim Petras, Sydney Sweeney and Willow Smith.
In the past, that kind of attention warranted a big first show and significant financial backing. However, the current fashion landscape has forced designers to be more careful when trying to translate viral moments into business plans and equity deals.
Now presenting on schedule and in season, Martins, a Parsons and Thom Browne alumnus, is looking to cement a business model and scale that would put the brand on a path to becoming a long-term sustainable business. It’s a tough task for any independent label, and one that will include more cohesive and cohesive pieces, moving away from custom orders, ramping up production to meet order minimums, and finding the right kind of investor.
It’s a big step for a brand that only launched in January 2020, when Martins released a collection of six circus-themed looks. Next, she hoped the eye-catching designs would provide enough momentum to set the brand in motion.
“It was custom made but it was really made for the press,” Martins said.
Enough good people noticed, which led to custom orders and then led to higher press placements and wider buzz. For her latest fashion show, she was inspired by the celebrity zeitgeist of the early 2000s – see-through dresses and dazzling accessories – that became a staple on social media and on the streets of downtown New York.
Martins, however, managed to find more depth in the aesthetic, honing the look towards something more subversive through sleek silhouettes and materials that feel both mature and playful.
“Designers like her are really trying to redefine what New York fashion exists like today,” said fashion journalist José Crisales-Unzueta, who named Saint Sintra as one of her brands. favorite risers. “Saint Sintra, you want them to win. You want them to succeed.
After landing the first wave of wholesale accounts, which also included H Lorenzo in Los Angeles and Cafe Forgot in New York, Martins took out short-term loans in order to fulfill orders, producing most of the collection in New York. .
“Challenging is an understatement,” Martins said of finding the right factories with a small number of orders and a tight budget. Currently, the brand is privately funded, including loans from family and friends, but Martins hopes to find an outside investor.
There were also other takeaways from the past few months, marking both a big change financially and aesthetically for Martins.
On the one hand, she’s moving away from the spandex, sheer pieces that defined her latest collection, towards pieces that are more eco-friendly and more everyday for consumers.
“For special events, these clothes are fun…where people maybe like more ephemeral clothes,” Martins said. “But I think going forward I really want to create a good product that can really stand the test of time.”
And despite the buzz and interest from celebrities, Martins decided to stop custom orders in order to focus on wholesale accounts.
“I realized very quickly that it wasn’t sustainable,” Martins said. “Not only is it not profitable…it costs a lot of money. We really can’t handle it. »
His next collection will be more masculine, with a focus on suits inspired by the bicycle suits worn by women in the early 20th century. It’s a big departure from the style she debuted with and a risk for the brand.
“It’s a big leap, it’s actually a little nerve-wracking,” Martins admitted. “I’m a little concerned that it’s so different from the last show that it will throw people off.”
Saint Sintra catwalk stylist Ron Hartleben described the development in different terms: “It’s like a baby being born and waking up immediately.
Still, Martins is betting on longer-term business with consumers looking for fun and playful wardrobe staples instead of more edgy designs for editorial shoots and album covers.
“We learned from last season what people wear and what our limitations are with fabrics,” Martins said. “Our goal is to be a long-term, sustainable design house and business.”