It's no surprise that Instagram is now one of the most popular places for shoppers and fashion lovers to find style inspiration and discover new brands. While it's often the flashiest, most accessorized looks that earn the most "likes," it's the opposite in my case — the simplest, most effortless pieces that can do double (or sometimes triple) duty in my closet are what really grab my attention. That's what drew me to Datura, an online-only, Brooklyn-based label that's garnered a fan base of editors and cool downtown-types over the last few seasons. With luxurious jumpsuits, dresses and separates that can be worn multiple ways, it's a brand that appeals to women who want to shop smarter without sacrificing variety.
Datura was founded by Mallorca native Stefania Borras, who began her design career while studying in Barcelona and honed her skills working for brands like Marithé et François Girbaud and Burberry before winning a state-funded design prize in Spain, which she equates to the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. During the three-year incubator period, she launched her first, eponymous clothing line, allowing her to not only learn the business — she put on runway shows, attended trade shows and sold pieces to small retailers throughout Europe — but also to really develop her brand's message and personal style.
"The concept was not buying fast fashion," she explains. "I was buying it all the time to go out on weekends, just to feel like [I had] new clothes. I didn’t feel like I was buying anything special, but I didn’t have a salary where I could just go out and buy Céline every month." So, with the grant money she'd earned from the design prize and the profits from her first label, Borras moved to New York, where she started Datura. After enlisting the help of MBA students from NYU and Columbia who introduced her to the online-only, direct-to-consumer idea, she was able to create a tightly edited collection of convertible pieces in rich materials, while keeping costs down for shoppers and avoiding overstocking. For the current season, prices top off at about $350.
"[It's a] style that can work during the whole day: you wake in the morning, then might have a dinner after work, and then you might go on a date," Borras says of her collections. "You have a long day, but don’t have time to go home to change three times. So, you can just change your shoes." She brings this philosophy to life with silk jumpsuits that can be worn front to back or tied different ways with a belt; a kimono dress that can be left open or tied loosely as a robe coat; tops in fine linen and silk that can be cinched with a detachable tie any way the wearer desires; and easy shirt dresses that could easily translate from the office to a day at the beach.
According to Borras, this variety is all part of the fun. "I love just getting the feedback from customers; you really understand what’s working and what isn’t," she explains. She regularly replies to customer inquiries about how to style the pieces and how they fit, and to showcase how real women wear Datura day-t0-day, she started a photography blog on the website. "That’s when I realized that every time I saw someone in the jumpsuit, they all had a completely different way of wearing it," she says. "I thought it was really cool and interesting, and a great idea to show other customers how they can wear it. Also, since it's not a brand that's in stores, I think it's nice to see it not only on the model, but on real girls. We don’t retouch any of the pictures; it’s all done with film."
Word of Datura has spread through social media, referrals from friends and press placements sought through personal outreach. These are essential since customers are unable to see or feel the products in-store, though Borras sets up pop-ups periodically in New York, where her studio is based and her collections are produced. Every season, she expands her range by a few pieces — continuing to use only natural materials — and hopes to soon collaborate with a brand on shoes or other leather goods. Ideally, her customer will be able to have a complete wardrobe of mix-and-match pieces. "The more products we have, the easier it’s going to be to style," Borras says. Though she's considered showing during New York Fashion Week and is currently looking for investors, she's pleased with how her small-scale operation is working for now: she has repeat customers and sells out of key items each season.
Borras's passion for quality is summed up on her site, which states that the Datura girl is more into clothes than fashion. "There are some girls that you see and you know they haven’t put in super effort, but you know what they're wearing is good quality, they know about materials and they know about how things are made and where they’re made. They care about these kind of things," she says.
Homepage photo: Marc Regas