Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Welcome to the Racked Awards, our annual celebration of the best in fashion, beauty, shopping, and health. Below, see our nominees for the Brand That Gives Us Hope for the Future.
Promise, potential, ability: Young and so-called emerging designers are lauded on the regular for what they might become. What about the designers who have sustainably built real brands without licensing their name, diluting their product, or otherwise expanding like wildfire fueled by (too much) investor money? Here we're celebrating five labels that have grown slowly and logically, all of which are helmed by cool women actually filling a hole in the market.
Photo: Anna Sheffield
This tattooed designer has been quietly building a jewelry empire since 2001, when she founded Bing Bang in California. A year later, she relocated to New York City, where the spunky, affordable line—which you've shopped everywhere from Urban Outfitters to Saks Fifth Avenue—still produces most of its skull studs and rose gold stacking rings.
In 2007, she launched fine jewelry under her own name, balancing classic stone cuts with thoroughly modern details and building, among other things, a robust engagement and commitment ring business. To top it all off, the designer takes custom appointments, working with family and heirloom jewels or creating from scratch; her one and only storefront, a serene slice of space on New York's Lower East Side, was in part opened as a place for her to meet with clients. The shop also showcases her fine jewelry assortment, which has seduced at least one Racked staffer into self-gifting diamonds (not naming names!). We love that Anna runs so many distinct, directional businesses—not to mention, everything she does feels so authentically her.
The pursuit of the perfect leather jacket was founder Lyndsey Butler's goal when she launched Veda in 2008. Her no-frills biker styles were quickly picked up by retailers like Intermix, Lane Crawford, and Shopbop, capturing the hearts of girls shopping for the leather jacket just as fast.
Experiments with non-leather clothing began to trickle into collections circa spring 2012, and a full ready-to-wear line hit for fall 2013, accompanied by the label's debut New York Fashion Week presentation. Leather skirts, pants, and dresses sit alongside cashmere sweaters, silk blouses, and wool outerwear as well as those signature, infallible jackets. Veda has grown in a way that feels natural, including doing collabs that make total sense, like a foray into ankle boots with Modern Vice or a blanket-weave paneled jacket with Southwest-inspired hardware by jewelry designer Pamela Love.
Photo: Driely S. for Racked NY
We've known and loved Catbird as a jewelry store in Brooklyn's now-infamously hip Williamsburg neighborhood for nearly a decade. The teeny storefront stocks an incredible, always-evolving roster of emerging and established jewelry brands, but its in-house line has really taken off in the last year or so. Catbird owns the stacked ring game, and does it at a fair price.
The brand is sold at boutiques around the world now, and it's rare that we encounter an office of cool girls for our Working It series without spotting at least one Catbird piece, regardless of the locale. Next on the list to love for their rabid fans? An in-house line of engagement rings called The Swans, sold at their just-opened wedding annex, just around the corner from the original store.
Photo: Loeffler Randall
Jessie Randall launched her line of crush-worthy shoes back in 2005, securing the CFDA Swarovski Award for Accessory Design just two year later—not a bad vote of confidence early on. From flats and sneakers to ankle boots and heels and even rainboots, she hits the nail on the head with an even mix of great materials, high-quality construction, ease of wear, and that je ne sais quoi that inspires deep footwear lust. Best of all, it's done at a cost that isn't untouchable, and these babies last (trust us—it's one of the few sample sales that nearly every Racked staffer manages to sneak down to before the line wraps the block).
The brand expanded to handbags in fall 2012, and you've probably seen their signature Rider satchel on editors, bloggers, and other women that appreciate a sturdy, functional bag. They're also chock full of smart details (like convertible strap lengths and pockets that perfectly fit iPhones and iPads) and come in new colors and fabrics each season, making starting a collection a little too easy. The brand sells everywhere from Bergdorf Goodman to Zappos and for good reason: These are the shoes and bags girls can actually live their lives in.
At the end of it all, though, Reformation takes the cake. They are turning out incredible product and doing so sustainably. The entire operation, founded by Yael Aflalo back in 2009, is run from a lofted space in LA, where everything is designed, manufactured, photographed for the site, and shipped.
All of their cute crop tops, bridesmaid dresses, and blazers are made of materials that are either new (and sustainable), reclaimed vintage, or deadstock. They care about things like water usage when it comes to producing clothes, and are quick to share that intel with customers, all in their signature brand voice that channels your older sister's coolest friend ("We've always had a steady relationship with slip dresses because they never do us wrong. The Neroli Dress is a little something to slink around in all summer, or forever. It will always be there for you.").
Reformation makes a hell of a case for made in America with a fair price point and a supremely nimble production schedule: It takes them just a few short weeks to go from sketch to store (you can get the goods online or at one of their three boutiques). Five years into the business, they've really hit a stride, launching cheeky capsules on the regular (a selection of turtleneck tops and dresses for fall is called the Hickey Collection) and expanding into new product categories (suiting hit this month). Their product is so on-point that it'd sell even without the environmental do-good, but that's a crazy huge plus we can certainly get behind.