Talking With The Designers Behind That Kylie Jenner Bikini

Many might say that a fashion brand hasn't "made it" until it's been engrossed in a celebrity scandal. For Melbourne-based Di$count Universe (cofounded by designers Nadia Napreychikov and Cami James), however, finding themselves in the midst of two highly tweeted about scenarios with two major teen stars was really just the beginning. Though the Australian label has actually been around since 2009, its momentum began to pick up after it was a part of the annual V Files runway presentation in New York City in February 2015 (oh, and after Miley Cyrus, a once-avid Di$count Universe wearer, was accused of ripping off its designs for her VMA performance just a few months later). But, those who hadn't heard of DU a year ago certainly know the name now. When Kylie Jenner sported one of its sequined bikinis to Coachella in April, the look went viral — that is, after New Zealand-based blogger Brit Day called out the world's #mostpopularteen on Instagram, claiming Jenner had copied her look. And though the brand confirmed with us that neither suit was gifted, and that the copy-cat ensemble was actually just a coincidence, it became impossible to not pay close attention to what DU was going to be up to (and who would be wearing it) next. All controversy aside, however, the label certainly deserves all of the recognition it's been receiving lately: There's obvious craftsmanship behind the colorful embroidery; the decorations are quirky and eye-catching, and fans include Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Rita Ora, and Katy Perry. The duo also happens to be creating pieces no other brand in Australia is producing, setting them on a path to serious domination. Want to learn more about (what we're betting will be) your new favorite clothing company? Below, we chatted with Napreychikov and James at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia about designing in the social media age.
Photo: Lucas Dawson/Discount Universe.
Let's start at the beginning. Where did the name Di$count Universe come from?
"The name is a parody of the fashion industry itself, bringing to question concepts of exclusivity, mass market, and luxury. We worked very hard years ago when we were still studying to create a concept for the brand that broke down traditional ideas of the way the industry is structured, and how it could be instead. The name Di$count Universe encapsulates these ideas, as it goes against the grain of high-end marketing and desire, while being simultaneously desirable and well-made." How would you describe the brand's signature aesthetic? And how has your latest collection (shown at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia) taken that one step further?
"Our aesthetic is constantly evolving. We use a lot of embellishment and color, mixed with subversive concepts and humor. [Our resort 2016] collection embodies that signature, but this season we have developed some sophisticated tailoring, embellished boots, and new beading techniques and leatherwork."
Photo: Lucas Dawson/Discount Universe.
What was the inspiration behind the collection?
"The collection is a second coming of age, an inquiry into love, sex, desire, art, and destruction, hence [the title] 'Sin Is In.' The motifs and concepts embrace feelings of recklessness, self-discovery, hedonism, and debauchery." When Kylie Jenner wore your bathing suit to Coachella, the press went nuts. Did you see that publicity affect your brand?
"Kylie was definitely helpful, and she wore the set incredibly well. The press was wonderful; honestly, we are so grateful for anyone wearing our pieces. "People may find this quite surprising, but celebrity placement isn’t always as effective as you’d expect, which is why we’ve never relied on it solely. We are, of course, really excited when a celebrity wears DU, but we’ve never gone after anyone and got them to wear it. Just like anyone else who wears our clothes — if they want to wear it on their own accord, great! You can’t orchestrate this stuff deliberately; it needs to happen organically, or there’s no gratification. Sometimes, a style will sell out immediately, simply because it hit a cord with our followers; other times, a celebrity may have worn something, and it will still sit in the store for a while. Being receptive to your audience is far more effective — brands have such amazing access to feedback now that design can become almost collaborative if you let it."
Photo: Lucas Dawson/Discount Universe.
How important would you say social media is to the success of your brand?
"Everything helps. Social media is crucial to brands trying to forge their way today. Our path has been completely embedded in the internet and its ability to provide immediate contact with your followers and customers. We started in a very grassroots way through blogging, when it was still in its early days. There was only a handful of people doing it globally, so we managed to get a lot of leverage and support through that community. Some of the biggest names in the industry were looking at those pages back then. Now, it's a lot more saturated, and the market is much more flooded. But even still, without Instagram and other available platforms today, you're cutting yourself short."

What has been the most exciting moment of your careers thus far?
"Having the most amazing fans that support us daily and push us to further our creativity. Having people who believe in what we do inspires us to make our brand the best it can be."

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