Mere months after launching their contemporary evening- wear collection at retailers Matches Fashion, Opening Ceremony and Moda Operandi, the four ladies behind Galvan London woke up to the surprise of a lifetime.
America's sweetheart, Jennifer Lawrence, had worn one of the brand's satin silver slip backless prom dresses to an afterparty for fashion's biggest night of the year: The Met Gala.
"We definitely freaked out when we saw Jennifer in the dress," said Katherine Holmgren, CEO of Galvan London and one of the company's four female founders. In the months that followed, more ladies from Hollywood's perennial best-dressed list, including Sienna Miller, Elizabeth Olsen, Selena Gomez, Gwyneth Paltrow and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, hit the red carpet in gowns that, most of the time, they purchased themselves.
"It happened completely organically," Holmgren told Pret-a-Reporter of building their celebrity relationships, adding that many stars picked up their pieces at the Opening Ceremony store in L.A. "Sometimes we work with stylists, and sometimes — like with Jennifer — we would wake up and see that someone wore our dress."
"When I first met the ladies of Galvan a couple years ago, I instantly knew there was something special about them," said Carol Song, the buying director at Opening Ceremony. "What really drew me to them was their desire to offer beautiful, elegant and effortless dresses that weren't too 'out there,' and at the right price range. Once the collection arrived in stores we weren't surprised to see that it appealed to so many ladies, from the girl next door to celebrities."
Though Holmgren admits that Tinseltown has definitely helped the young brand grow at a rapid pace, founders Holmgren (CEO), Anna-Christin Haas (designer), Sola Harrison (creative director) and Carolyn Holder (sales, PR) originally launched the label as an answer to their own struggle to find high-quality, affordable evening wear (prices averaging between $500 and $2,500) for young and stylish women.
"We decided to start the label after years complaining that every time we had an event or a wedding it was struggle to find clothes that we liked," said Holmgren, whose former position at Serpentine Gallery required her to attend a lot of black-tie events. "Everything felt cheap or over-embellished. We wanted high-quality and versatile pieces that we could wear more than once."
Using '90s supes (Christy Turlington, Kate Moss and Cindy Crawford) as an influence, the women created a collection of fresh, minimalist gowns that are unfussy and effortlessly sexy at the same time. "A lot of stylists, like us were a bit frustrated that everything that they saw on the red carpet was too over the top — the dresses were wearing the woman instead of the other way around," said Holmgren.
Galvan London (the name stems from the word "galvanize") has found popularity on step-and-repeats across the globe — which is not surprising considering the four founders grew up in different time zones. Haas is German, Harrison is Icelandic (and married to the late Beatle George Harrison's son, Dhani), Holder is Swiss and Holmgren is American (ironically, none of them is British). "We opened the main office in London and we have a showroom in Dusseldorf in Germany," said Holmgren. "Sola lives part-time in L.A. and part-time in London; we all travel and Skype a lot."
Even as the trend tides begin to turn toward the maximalist, more-is-more aesthetic (think: Gucci), Galvan London has stayed true to its core minimalist modernity (as well as the original wear-it-more-than-once intention), with just a few added touches of fringe, lace or Swarovski crystal embellishments. "Everything is clean and timeless. There's an Old Hollywood glamour to our pieces," said Holmgren, adding that while they love special fabrics, "prints aren't really our thing."
That versatility, and the ability to dress up or backless evening dresses down the collection (Emma Roberts recently wore a silk top with cutoff denim) has led to rapid growth: The British brand is now stocked in multiple retailers, including Neiman Marcus, Harvey Nichols, Curve and Bergdorf Goodman, as well as online. "As the collection develops and grows, we're broadening into jumpsuits and separates. Down the line would love to look at accessories."