Some of the best pieces in any fashion lover’s closet are the ones that tell a story. The sandals you bought on your first trip to Bali, the earrings your mother bought you on your family trip to Italy or the dress you found in a nondescript boutique tucked away within the streets of Paris. Filling your closet with these treasured items can make for a one-of-kind wardrobe, but unless you’ve detailed exactly where you made your purchases, it can be hard to find any of these designers or brands again. To make it easier to access these little-known international names, Runway2Street curates a collection of designers and labels from around the world in one, easy-to-shop online destination. No 12-hour flight necessary.
Photo Credit: Caroline De Marchi
Founded by Rathna Sharad, Runway2Street is her solution to international shopping. An avid traveler, Sharad found herself building up a wardrobe that she loved and friends and family envied—the only problem was it was troublesome to try to shop some of her new favorite international designers. “I love fashion and I always have. My way of discovering places when I travel, which I do extensively, is finding a brand that’s local to the city or place that I’m visiting and really, that’s how I get to know more about the culture of the place,” she told JustLuxe. “As I was doing this I was always bringing pieces back, whether it was clothing or accessories or whatever, but if I wanted to buy another piece from the collection or if my friend or colleges wanted it, I found that it was almost impossible to just give them a link.”
Photo Credit: Runway2Street
After a three-month search for a necklace that she saw on the cover of Glamour—which resulted in meeting the designer—she decided to start an international online shop for up-and-coming labels. With a background that includes over a decade in customs, logistics and tech, she started Runway2Street as the go-to between smaller brands and international buyers. “If you look at the trends, five years ago this may not have been the right thing to do, but now one in three e-commerce transactions are cross-border,” she explained. “With Instagram and platforms like that, everybody gets to actually see a product almost instantaneously when a collection goes live or they launch a product. But it’s not as simple as just adding a buy button, because the underlying plumbing to be able to actually fulfill that order doesn’t exist, especially for the small guys.”
Photo Credit: Abcense
Designed for women that are avid shoppers and travelers, the site can be navigated by clothing category, designer, city or country so women can explore collections from their favorite destinations and designers—all delivered to their doorstep within three-to-five days. She’s hoping this brings a little adventure and life back into the modern closet. “Women like us, we love these pieces that are limited edition, that are hard to find. It’s the story that’s interesting, and somehow it’s all lost in this mass retail world,” she said. “Ultimately, I want to create an experience by women for women. I really want to encourage women to be themselves … If you like classic, clean silhouettes you’ll find brands that fit that. Or if you’re edgy, Goth, there are brands for you as well, and everything in between. We do the entire gamut, but our core philosophy remains that it’s about supporting these small and medium brands with great design that are not mass produced.”
Photo Credit: Justine Clenquet
Sharad often discovers new brands on personal trips or vacations oversees, but when she’s proactively on the hunt for new designers to host on the site, she heads to the showrooms of Paris Fashion Week. “They love emerging brands and there’s a lot of focus on brands from literally every corner of the world,” she explained. “I still love going there to source brands, but we get a lot of requests now from brands [asking to be featured on the site]. We get more requests now than we can seem to keep up with!” But it takes more than a cool look to get the attention of the Sharad and her team. “We still have a very stringent curation process. I think the appeal of Runway2Street and what we bring to the table is really because we keep it to high quality brands that we’ve personally vetted. We love a unique design point of view, something that really conveys the brand and what they stand for, but we also like strong collections. We are not a wholesale buyer, we don’t do just two or three pieces, we like to showcase the brand, most often entire collections, so it’s really important to have that really strong collection.”
Photo Credit: Moda & Estilo
If a brand has the look and direction that they’re searching for, they still need to make sure that all other aspects of their business can handle the upswing in commerce. “We want to make sure [designers] can work in our model and that they can scale and grow, and that they have production capability in place. We come in when [brands] have a great product, they’ve figured out the production and really are just looking for help with the technology, the logistics as well as the marketing and awareness,” she explains. When she first launched her site she struggled with finding brands that could accommodate the sudden increase and sales, and oftentimes partnerships she was excited about fell through. “Typically the reasons tend to be that they are unable to have stock in place or they don’t have the production cycle figured out,” she noted. Today, it’s no longer an issue. She has her pick of up-and-coming, locally established brands.
Photo Credit: Jamie Wei Huang
The site currently hosts over 150 labels from over 50 counties with customers from over 100 countries around the world. With such a large customer base, she understands the need for a selection of styles, designs, colors and sizes. “I have a certain women in mind when I’m curating or my team’s curating. I’m curvy, I’m never going to be able to wear that boyish kind of jumpsuit,” she explained. “The very sporty style, those are hard for me to do, especially given my body type, but there are a lot of women who like that so I really think about different women when we’re doing the curation.” To help her designers cater to such a diverse group, Runway2Street has started offering made-to-order pieces. “We get a lot of requests from customers to do customization and so we created a category of made-to-order for a lot of our brands,” she said. “We get these requests, especially from the Middle East, asking ‘can you add a sleeve, can you lengthen that a little bit for me’ and those types of small modifications. In most cases they’re small modifications, but it’s special for the person that’s ordering it.”
Photo Credit: Justine Clenquet
Runway2Street was built for women to explore international designs, but Sharad feels that they are just important to the small retailers who are trying to build their clientele. On their site, each brand has a page that showcases their label so shoppers can find out about their inspiration, how the product is made, what the product is made from and learn about what drives the designs. “For customers is incredibly exciting and they feel like they're a part of that—they know everything about the brand and their story and that seems to be a big appeal,” she explained. Through this information shoppers are able to connect and be inspiring by designers around the world. At the same time this allows brands to flourish, and globally grow their customer base. “Our mission is to be the launch pad for emerging brands worldwide and that’s a very big, bold vision,” she laughed. “But what’s wonderful is that we can be the place of discovery. You and me, we can just go to this place now and say ‘I’m interested in this, let’s see what’s designers are there,’ and [find] something exciting that you’ve never seen at another store.”