Our Under the Radar series regularly puts on some of our favorite up-and-coming brands, but there are certain labels that manage to rise above the pack, poised for a new level of prominence. Whether it’s by grinding through several seasons before finally finding the right groove, or a series of chance encounters that raise a brand’s awareness in the fashion world, we think some promising up-and-comers deserve a closer look before they potentially become household names.
One such label is BILLY Los Angeles. Founded by Holly Jovenall, the label specializes in easy-wearing, vintage-inspired pieces with a slouchy sensibility. Oversized tees, butter-soft leather jackets, and durable work pants mingle with cropped bombers and garment-washed coach jackets, resulting in the kind of clothes you can throw together however you like, yet still look good in.
Jovenall grew up in Western Pennsylvania, where she grew up as a dancer, dabbling in different styles, like modern dance, tap, jazz, and hip-hop, and even entering a few competitions. Eventually she was accepted into the prestigious dance program at Pennsylvania’s Point Park University, a liberal arts college with several alumni who have gone on to perform on Broadway and beyond.
She ended up minoring in dance, and discovered the fashion industry in college, where she also began to get into vintage clothing and developed her own sense of style. Some of her favorite vintage decades are the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, and her knowledge of fabric and manufacturing developed considerably. Her uniform often consisted of Maison Margiela trousers paired with perfectly worn-in vintage T-shirts.
“I can sit and talk about T-shirts—what machine was used in the ’50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and what the fabric content is—for hours,” she says.
Jovenall soon moved to Los Angeles, where she became the creative director of now-defunct retailer Kitson, a shop that was hot in the early-2000s and counted the Kardashian clan, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan as regular customers. She had a hand in the launch of Hilton’s clothing line, as well as Lauren Conrad’s, another reality TV star, but she soon left to style high-end clients and figure out her next move.
“That was never really my vibe,” she admits.
The initial idea for BILLY developed around five years ago. The line is named after her dad. Jovenall grew up in a predominantly male environment, and her dad and older brother remain pretty blue collar, with the utilitarian style to match.
“He’s a cowboy,” she says about her dad. “He runs the horse ranch, has a construction company, and he’s one of those guys who’s really no-bullshit and straight-to-the-point.” Jovenall even spent a summer working as a roofer.
After mulling it over with her friends and learning more about the production side of the fashion industry, Jovenall started BILLY. Thanks to her connections as a high-end personal shopper, Jovenall received a ton of support from her network, which includes musicians like Tove Lo, G-Eazy and Tiesto, as well as stylists for celebrities like Mark Wahlberg and Justin Bieber.
Bieber’s stylists took some of the pieces to him, and the label has since become one of his go-tos. Part of the reason, Jovenall says, is because he feels like he’s discovered something special before everyone else.
“He now feels like he found this brand that no one else is wearing,” she says.
BILLY’s debut collection just made its rounds during the global fashion weeks in New York and Paris, eschewing runway shows and formal showrooms in favor of more intimate hotel rooms. It’s a low-key strategy that’s worked for labels like John Elliott in the past.
On the one hand, it creates a more personal experience and allows the label to more clearly define how it wants to present itself. On the other, it can save some money (essential for young labels), and contributes to the overall sense of discovery that keen buyers, stylists and editors pride themselves in.
Select pieces have already found their way on the backs of guys like Luka Sabbat and Vince Staples, and there are several retailers that have picked up the line.
Though BILLY is a men’s collection, Jovenall has also worked some more feminine pieces into the mix, like a sweatshirt dress with a long slit that shows off the leg. And it isn’t like women are strangers into shopping in the men’s section either, a sentiment Jovenall agrees with.
“The collection is men’s, but does that take away from women being able to wear it? Not at all,” she says.
In the future, Jovenall hopes to share what she’s learned about starting a fashion line with a younger generation, informing them of the oft-overlooked details that are important to the foundation of a successful label.
“I like sharing everything I’ve ever learned, because I’m only here because I’ve had amazing mentors,” she says.
For more up-and-coming labels to know before they blow up, check out the newest installment of our Under the Radar series.