If you love the sleek simplicity of brands such as Céline and The Row but weep at the prices, put Protagonist in your diary for a payday spree. Born in 2013 as a shirting brand exclusive to chic US e-commerce site The Line, Protagonist has evolved into a full ready-to-wear label that can now be found at Net-A-Porter and Joseph – and in the possession of Dakota Johnson and Lily Aldridge.
There aren’t many new labels that break through so fast, or can boast such a meteoric rise. So why is Protagonist turning every fashion insider’s head? ‘It’s about making more with less,’ says Alex Eagle, Creative Director of The Store x Soho House Berlin, who placed an order upon first sight in New York. ‘There are no grandiose statements, just some rare details, such as the triple-cuffed shirts and slit polo-neck sweaters.’
For spring, Collection No. 6 – all self-assured, super-neat and subtly sexy staples – was presented via a stylised lookbook, featuring Prada darling Amanda Murphy, instead of a traditional catwalk show. Taking cues from the Olsens and Phoebe Philo, Protagonist gives new relevance to classic styles: the versatile silk pyjama tops give off work-appropriate polish but look just as good shrugged on over jeans, and the hemlines on the slit-to-there skirts are wide enough to accommodate a dash for the bus.
The design team – who have taken on a collective anonymous front since founder and head designer Kate Wendelborn left this year – wanted to get back to the brand’s original raison d’être. ‘The process for the studio team is less about a theme and more about the woman,’ explains Protagonist (and Balenciaga) stylist Vanessa Traina. ‘This season, they explored the idea of a more sensual leading lady.’
Attitude is key; these are clothes for busy women bombing about the city wearing trainers with everything, but who still want to look pulled together. Easy elegance equals style nirvana; let the crush commence.