Pop culture

With Chaos, Self-Branding Takes Center Stage

The luxury tech brand's founders, fashion insiders Charlotte Stockdale and Katie Lyall, discuss their Insta-famous monogrammed phone cases and memories of working with Karl Lagerfeld.
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Photo credit: John Akehurst

These days, it's as important to accessorize your technology as it is to pick out the perfect outfit. Everyone is spending their lives on iPhones with ever-increasing glitzy features, and while that most obviously means social media and the digital sphere are now just as real as in-person environments, it also means that small device with a world within it becomes a part of your personal aesthetic. As integral to visible identity as a certain bag, lipstick, or pair of shoes, phone cases have become a true outlet of expression.

Enter Chaos. No, not literal chaos, though the interest surrounding the brand has certainly blown up. After two decades of experience in the fashion industry, working with several publications as well as a slew of brand projects including all of Fendi's shows and campaigns since 2008, stylists Charlotte Stockdale and Katie Lyall set out to create their own line of luxury, digital-focused accessories in 2016. Over the past three years, Chaos has developed a cult following thanks to their monogrammed phone cases, which fashion favorites like Cara Delevingne, Kendall Jenner, and Victoria Beckham have celebrated through Instagram selfies galore. The brand's publication, Chaos Sixtynine, is full of models including Delevingne, Jenner, Adwoa Aboah, and Gigi and Bella Hadid, and the duo's Fendi relationship with Karl Lagerfeld led to collaborations as well as showstopping moments of the fashion icon rocking their merchandise.

Photo via Instagram

From all of the above, Chaos has evidently developed an ultracool, fashion-insider identity. Models and designers have become the brand's most visible customers as they collaborate with the well-known stylist duo, bringing the luxury tech accessories to fame through viral selfies. But the nature of the monogram also means the brand fits into any style, putting whoever owns the phone case at the forefront of their moment. This concept melds the current logomania obsession with the digital need to self-brand, allowing users to promote themselves and the brand in a way that's cohesive but celebrates individuality.

With brands, social media strategy, and publications having a closer relationship than ever before, it seems the world is Chaos' oyster. Stockdale and Lyall's blend of glamorous worldwide celebrity with the artsy aesthetics of London and Paris make their vision relevant, and their focus on monograms means that in addition to adapting to the wearer, the tech accessories have the power to transcend surrounding fashion moments. 

Chaos just launched a new personalization font, in a maximalist circus design inspired by a popular line of 3D stickers, and also has collaborations and other surprises on the horizon, so expect to see a lot more of them inside and outside of devices everywhere. Stockdale and Lyall talked with L'Officiel USA about the importance of form and function to their brand, what all the Instagram hype has meant to them, and their favorite memories of Lagerfeld.

Photo via Instagram

How did you come up with the idea to start Chaos?
Chaos came from a love of fashion, of creating great-looking things with a function, living life fast, taking on more than it's sensible to do, loving pressure and creativity, and having a great time pushing yourself hard to be your best.


Can you talk about the concept behind the brand and what you hope it contributes to the luxury tech industry?
For many of us, our tech is in our hands, on the table, or laying around where we can see it all the time. Three years ago, we saw tech needed some focus. There were plain phone cases, low-priced, fun cases, or very high-priced cases out there. Few of these, then and now, have covered and protected all four corners of the phone, as ours do, against falling out of the case when dropped. We wanted something in the accessible range of small luxury leather goods, that was also high-quality and fashionable or customizable. We often lost our phones, so we also wanted to be able to hang them around our necks, to keep them safe and to be hands free in between needing them. So, we developed the Chaos case that could be attached to a jewelry-like lanyard, the Chaos Zip. This is further customizable with cool and practical designs including lighter holders, bottle openers, and lovely gold alphabet charms that clip onto the slider. So many of our friends and customers say they simply cannot live without the zip once they have used it!


This original tech category soon expanded into travel. As stylists traveling for shoots, we have many suitcases packed last minute, and we often couldn't remember which was ours. We would misplace passports and generally needed travel accessory help! This is why the range has opened up to the necessities of the lifestyle that we live and will continue to do so. Chaos isn't called Chaos for nothing! Don't expect too many rules. As Hans Ulrich Obrist said, "Chaos is chaos and everything else is everything else!" The concept is to bring fashion to the function of tech and the modern lifestyle.  To bring to the customer the ability to play, personalize, mix and match.

 

Photo via Instagram

You worked closely with Karl Lagerfeld over the years, styling Fendi as well as collaborating on pieces for Chaos. What are some of your favorite memories of him? 
Our relationship with Karl started at work. Work is what we love and so did he and we found a deep trust together here. Karl became our friend, mentor and collaborator (and self-elected President of the Chaos Club) and our benchmark for excellence. Our favorite memories of him are laughing with him and learning.

Logomania is having a major moment, and you’re offering something related but different through your monogrammed products. What do you hope your line brings to modern aesthetics?

Our monogram is, in fact, your initials, in your choice of colors. The graphic that represents the customer creates the brand. In this way, the customer's individuality creates the Chaos Club.

Your phone cases have really taken off thanks to so many high-profile figures flaunting them out in public and on Instagram. What has this meant for the brand?

It’s simply amazing and wonderful. Because we know well from past experience that people only wear something if they really love it. It’s been such a big show of support from such a discerning crowd and we will never take it for granted, that all these influential people would choose to wear our product, when they didn't have to, is an enormous compliment. Starting a business is not easy, and knowing people out there are loyal fans helps so much!
 

Photo credit: Alexander Kent

The digital age has really allowed tech accessories to flourish. What do you think a person’s choice of phone case says about them? 

It's an outward show of their taste and mood. It becomes a part of your fashion wardrobe statement – be classic or be flamboyant!

What’s next for you? Do you have any exciting projects in the works?

We are looking forward to expanding upon our categories and creating further items that you didn’t know you needed! Be prepared for a few surprises, collaborations, another magazine or two…and lots more CHAOS.

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