Label to Watch: Protagonist

Protagonist is part of the Assembled Brands portfolio alongside Khaite, The Line, and Tenfold – and looks promising for that reason alone

A New York-based label with a confident name, Protagonist creates clothes you’d love to wear every day. The young brand’s designs exists somewhere between the quality of The Row, the sexiness of Nina Ricci, the cuts of Haider Ackermann, and the elegance of Céline. Adam Pritzker and Vanessa Traina – who belong to Alexander Wang and Joseph Altuzarra’s circle of friends – launched the ready-to-wear label in 2013. However, they handed the creative work over to a third person right from the start and the label is currently helmed by Georgia Lazzaro, an Australian who had previously spent four years working for Calvin Klein.

Protagonist belongs to the American conglomerate Assembled Brands alongside the luxurious concept store The Line and labels Tenfold and Khaite. Assembled Brands was founded by Pritzker and the brands were added gradually. The Line and Protagonist were there at the start – Tenfold came in 2015 and Khaite in 2016. The vision is clearly defined: Pritzker and his team rely on their own concepts and small brands, a strictly curated range, and high quality translated into timeless designs at affordable prices. This system draws a fine line between their conglomerate and those such as LVMH, whose portfolio mainly consists of globally active mega brands such as Louis Vuitton and Céline. While these companies pursue an iron strategy à la “the bigger the better,” Assembled Brands is deliberately taking a step back. And successfully.

Protagonist presented a collection on the catwalk for the first time at New York Fashion Week 2015. Shortly thereafter, the label’s designs weren’t just available from their own shop The Line, but also from luxury retailer Barneys. The debut stood out with timeless, luxurious designs and a fantastic cast of models. Nothing has changed since. The collections – which work according to the see-now-buy-now principle – always include perfectly cut blouses, timeless silk dresses, and suits that stand out through small details such as double-breasted plackets or interesting cuts. Current favorite piece: a kimono blazer.

Top models including Malgosia Bela and Maartje Verhoef present the latest designs and represent a modern and feminine image of women. Wonderful. Head designer Lazzaro explains Protagonist’s success story in an interview with Coveteur: “We all love story in layers and nuance and that’s really crucial in building a collection. But I think the difference with Protagonist, even though you’re trying to tell a beautiful enticing story every season, is that there has to be tangibility, there has to be functionality.”

Today Protagonist is available in 40 stores worldwide as well as online at Net-a-Porter and Anita Hass – and without running its own store. This is part of Pritzker’s strategy: “Not everyone wants to open 25 stores in five years.” But if they do open a store someday, we’ll be there.

Additional information about Protagonist, including photos, can be found on the label’s website here and on Instagram (@protagonistnyc).

Translation: Melissa Frost

Madeleine is a fashion journalist. For as long as she can remember she has been passionate about fashion and accessories, in particular cashmere sweaters and jewelry. After five years of working at Vogue Germany’s fashion department in Munich, she decided to encounter a new challenge and move to Berlin. Her role at hey woman! allows her to combine her passion for styling, creative directing and writing. Madeleine is also good at imitating a Swiss accent and trying to be a cook.

©Phillip Schlegel