If you've been reading this website since its early, blog-ier days, you're likely familiar with Natalie Joos.
The stylish Belgian was one of New York's original blogger/street-style stars. She also actually worked — as a studio manager for Craig McDean, then as a prominent casting director and stylist. Her blog, Tales of Endearment, showcased her own excellent, vintage-heavy personal style and that of her fashion-world friends. When it took off, she parlayed its success into photography and styling work for everyone from Chloé to V Magazine, becoming an early participant in the creator economy.
Then, as so many of us do, she got tired of New York (and blogging) and decided to move to Los Angeles.
"I'd been there 18 years and I felt like, 'I've seen everything, I've met everyone, I've been to every party," she tells me from her loft-like studio, where she and her malinoodle Smurf are holding down the fort. "I was like, 'Okay, I need a change.'"
She made her way out west in 2016 without much of a plan, aside from writing the book version of her blog. ("Tales of Endearment: Modern Vintage Lovers and Their Extraordinary Wardrobes" was published in the fall of 2017.) It was during this unstructured time that the idea for JoosTricot was born.
"I just had more time to be creative and, all of a sudden, had this idea to do a fitted sweater," she says. "I was always looking for one and could never find it in stores. I was like, 'Why don't I just try and make the sweater myself?'"
Having never designed or manufactured anything (she dreamt of attending the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, but her parents forced her to attend a "real school"), it took her about a year and a half to figure out how to create what she wanted: super-fitted, sculpting, vintage-inspired sweaters that were thin enough to tuck into a tight pair of jeans. She started with three styles: silk-and-cotton solid in 10 colors, solid Italian lurex in three colors and a few different multi-colored patterns. Her parents helped fund the first collection.
The next part, showing the line to press and buyers, was where those years working her way through the fashion industry in New York came in handy. What she lacked in design education she made up for in contacts.
"Looking back, I really am grateful for the 20 years that I worked in fashion," she says. "Everybody knew me and it was literally, like, 'Hey, I'm thinking of doing this line. What do you think? Will you look at it? Will you come and see it?' Those doors opened because I had all those contacts in my pocket."
JoosTricot launched in fall of 2017 after a preview on Vogue. Today, Revolve, Fwrd, Matchesfashion and Shopbop are among its stockists, in addition to its own e-commerce. The offering has also expanded: There are turtlenecks, crewnecks, cardigans, polos, tank tops, crop tops, short shorts, bodysuits, dresses, pants and even sweats, all made from soft, stretchy knit blends and available in a wide range of colors and prints at an upper-contemporary price point. (Prices start at $215.) Everything feels fresh, playful and easy to wear, regardless of the season. The brand signature is the bodycon fit; there are also recognizable, vintage-inspired details, like an exaggerated collar on polo shirts and dresses, and a subtly sparkly lurex that evokes the '70s. Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner and Ariana Grande have all been spotted in the brand.
Joos is still in growth mode: "I would like to think of myself as the Benetton of the fitted sweater," she says. She envisions a retail concept featuring a full wall of cubes, each column housing a different color, each row a different style of sweater — "that's on my dream board."
When designing new collections, Joos continues to take inspo from the past, while also incorporating feedback from retailers and thinking about the women who shop there. She's still learning about knitwear materials and production methods; she currently manufactures in China, but has been considering moving some production to Portugal.
"I'm constantly learning about new fabrications that we can make, yarns that we can use, prints that we can do, different stitches," she says. "I think I've got maybe three more years to go before I can say, 'Okay. Now I know who we are, what we do and what works.'"
The pandemic has made it a little more tricky to navigate those next steps. She was planing to present during New York Fashion Week this September, but with the Delta variant putting a damper on travel, it became clear that the trip wouldn't be worth the investment. Joos is still financing (and doing nearly everything) herself, but would like to raise capital and hire more people. Collaborations with other brands are also on the horizon. A physical store, where she could make her Benetton-esque dream a reality, is a bit further down the list. There's also the possibility of another life-changing move.
"I've also been thinking about moving to Portugal myself," she says. "There's a lot of ideas."