Something big is happening on Instagram. From Kendall Jenner and Hailey Baldwin toand Hailey Baldwin to GQ Style’s Fashion Director Elgar Johnson and shoe king Patrick Cox, everyone who’s anyone in the world of fashion is being snapped (or snapping themselves) with a leather personalised phone case by luxury accessories start-up Chaos.
The brainchild of fashion editors and super-stylists Charlotte Stockdale and Katie Lyall, Chaos may only be a mere three months old – but it’s moving up from the inside fast. As is the way with the vast majority of successful start-ups, the project was conceived out of practical need. Stockdale and Lyall, who have worked together for the past 15 years and have a CV that reads like an issue of our magazine (they’ve worked with everyone from Fendi – they style the runway shows – to Gucci and Louis Vuitton, plus numerous stints at titles including Vogue, i-D and their current gig at Garage), realised that there was a gaping hole in the market for fun, luxury phone accessories.
It all started with the zip – with what Stockdale calls “our desire to be hands-free” and the all-to-familiar First World menace of “putting your phone down somewhere you’re not going to pick it up again”. When they turned their attention to the handsets themselves, the pair realised that “there was nothing out there that we wanted…nothing in the middle” that hit the sweet spot in between extortionately expensive alligator accessories and fun, near-novelty cases that tend not to last too long. Fast forward to the present, and as well as personalisable deerskin cases – which come in a kaleidoscope of colours and feature bold, pop-arty graphics – accessories and charms, Chaos is making luggage accessories and soon-to-be-released silk tracksuits, as seen on best buds Margot Robbie and Cara Delevingne at the Suicide Squad premiere after-party.
That’s the thing about Chaos – it feels conspiratorial. From the telling use of the world “club” – you’ll find Chaos at http://www.chaos.club – to the millennial marketing tactics the brand has so wonderfully deployed to get the products seen on the right people, the #ChaosClub is like an inner circle of fashion’s biggest influencers. The supermodel squad came out in force for the brand’s promo video, which Lyall calls “the funnest two days of shooting I’ve ever had”, where Taylor Hill, Stella Maxwell, Barbara Palvin, Karlie Kloss, Edie Campbell and Jasmine Saunders – to name just a handful of the models involved – cover one another in kisses, cuddle giant teddy bears (which are actually part of Chaos’s product line, by the way) and seductively unzip their tracksuit tops, all while showing off the bold, ballsy phone cases and luggage tags.
The branding is nothing short of genius. It’s loud, it’s lurid, it’s in-your-face-fun and it taps into the the obsessions in fashion for technology, for customisation and ultimately, for being a part of a cool and cutting-edge collective. Like any good lifestyle brand, Chaos is about more than the products it sells: “it’s all about working and having fun and looking good,” says Stockdale. And it’s the chaos itself that makes it so attractive, from the mishmash of merchandise Stockdale and Lyall are producing to the glorious union of fashion and function that defines the accessories themselves.
On the subject of whether Chaos will expand into menswear, both women stay relatively tight-lipped. There’s talk of “gently rolling out on both sides [accessories and clothes]” and “a few more very specific clothing categories”, but “it will never be a full collection” says Lyall. For now, it’s the phone cases that seem to be grabbing the most attention. The cases aren’t gendered, “girls go bonkers over the bright colours, but there are a lot of men buying them too,” according to Lyall. Both women are quick to point out that well-made, fun phone cases for men were few and far between before Chaos, and based on the popularity of Chaos among guys already, it clearly wasn’t for a lack of want.
For the gentleman that leans towards the sartorially serious, a pop-luxe tech accessory is a way to add humour and personality to a professional wardrobe. While you might assume that the personalised cases would prove to be the most popular among men, Lyall explains that actually, “guys love the broken hearts and the pills”, with Stockdale adding that where a lot of men “have gone for those two designs, lots of women have gone for the ‘blah!’ and the ‘ergh!’”. Read into that what you will.
The vortex of fun and disorder from which Chaos was born is now it’s very essence. True to its name, the brand’s trajectory is ruled by the Chaos Theory – underneath the seemingly random (“it might seem like a real leap from a phone case to a silk tracksuit,” says Stockdale, “but not for us”) there’s still a pattern, a purpose. “Because at the moment our categories appear quite disparate and we’re building our brand image, we have to go quite carefully into places and make sure that we’re presented in the right way for people to understand and for the brand message not to get lost,” Stockdale explains.
They may only just be in the first round of securing investment (the project has so far been self-funded), but brand expansion has been carefully thought through, with huge importance given to pop-ups after the success of Chaos at Selfridges and at Dover Street Market. Lyall sums the future of Chaos up succinctly, when she says “as we pop up in different places around the world, we’ll continue to tweak the way we look and it won’t always be the same. It will always be recognised as Chaos, but you won’t know what to expect.”
This piece was originally published on GQ.co.uk