Osome2some is a St. Petersburg-based clothing brand, founded by Anna Andrienko and Natalia Buzakova.
The story began in India where the aspiring designers headed in search of fabrics for their debut collection. Next stop was London, and the hard-working team of two hit the road to success. The designers opened a studio in Hackney Wick and received training from a pattern maker who worked at Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney. Their line was sold at Spitalfields Market, Portobello Road, Brick Lane and in selected concept stores.
In 2009 Anna and Natalia moved back to St. Petersburg to woo the refined yet sensible St. Petersburg crowd with their sophisticated outerwear designs. Evgenia Dorofeeva spoke with the awesome duo about building a successful fashion business in Russia.
Unlike many designers starting out today, neither of you studied fashion design at university, opting instead for a degree in business. What motivated you to delve into fashion rather than any other creative or non-creative field?
Fashion was a childhood dream for us both. All this craving for fashion came from the very first glossy magazine, being inspired by mom’s clothes, the list goes on. There was always a desire to change something in the already existing things; to add, remove and alter.
Our education in Economics was practically impossible to apply anywhere when we just started. Everything in fashion seemed like magic to us: travelling with our first collection to London, for example. The thought of using a markup formula didn’t even cross our minds! We were so engrossed in this new page of our life, and it was difficult to imagine osome2some as a fully-fledged business project. To be honest, what helps us most along the way is experience and intuition.
In the course of the brand’s existence, you had a chance to work in India and the UK, and now in Russia. Were their any particular challenges specific to every country and how did you overcome them?
Yes, particularly the experience of working at the London markets like Brick Lane and Spitalfields. For our first market, we set the table to separate us from our potential customers, with whom we talked hesitantly, almost blushing. To earn for a living in London, though, we had not only to learn to love what we do, but also to not be ashamed of it, openly talking about our ideas, inspirations and fabrics. As it turned out, this experience of communication with customers can inspire you and teach you a lot about simplicity and ease in life and work.
India was also an invaluable learning experience when it comes to our first wholesale orders of fabrics. Varanasi is still one of our favorite cities in the world. The silk that was used to dress the members of the French court back in the 17th century was produced here, in small family factories. There is so much history and magic in it. We hope that in future we will have more opportunities to visit the city and purchase outstanding local fabrics.
What do you think a young independent designer needs to do in order to succeed in Russia? How do you evaluate the current situation in the local fashion industry and how does it affect your brand?
The situation on the Russian market is more than favorable: there is more interest in the local designers, who are taken more seriously by public and professionals alike. Big shopping centres create corner-stores to accommodate Russian designers, while regional outlets show an ever increasing interest and subsequent ever expanding orders. For a brand, it is crucial to have a reasonable production budget, a good pattern maker, a size range, an opportunity to participate in international trade-shows and to show collections on an international schedule (a season ahead). It all prevents the brand from being provincial and local, limited in a way. This is what we strive for: building a brand based on those factors. What sets us apart is our unconditional love for what we do, our understanding of goals and customers, and a bit of luck, of course.
Osome2some is geared towards a certain segment of the market. How do you define your selling point? What are the challenges in competing with independent designers targeting a similar customer base?
Everything fell into place quite naturally, once we started to get recognised for our outerwear designs. Our coats became a fantastic base to preserve the vitality of other products. Presently, we work on 4-6 coat designs per season, always in line with our own understanding of sophisticated and utilitarian urban chic. It is quite difficult for us to compare our work to that of other Russian designers; we don’t see them as our competitors. The cut of every osome2some creation has a touch of lightness, a new vision of simple and wearable clothes. In a way, it is a combination of Scandinavian minimalism and French refinement, enhanced by production quality and a careful selection of fabrics. The advantage of our brand is its constant evolution, its ability to be flexible, yet true to its DNA.
For a small independent company, it is crucial to find and sustain ways of promotion and reaching the customers. How do you promote your brand and what method has proven to be the most effective? How do you build a dialogue with clients?
For us, it was the Internet that played an important role. We started with a small public group in VKontakte, and this is where most of our customers came from. These days many of them follow our updates on Facebook and Instagram; only then do they visit our online-shop and place their orders. Face-to-face contact and personal communication are undoubtedly important. The face of our store in St. Petersburg is our mother, who is always there to tell customers about the history of the brand, its concept, letting the people feel the energy of the brand. At the moment, we are planning to open a new store in Moscow and are looking for a person to fill the role of osome2some representative there. Direct sales long remain in people’s memories. I (editor’s note: Natalia), remember almost all shopping assistants from my favorite stores in Paris, London and Berlin, and always come back to them with a certain feeling of joy. The communication route of our brand can be described in three words: subtle, warm and friendly.
This year marks the launch of your new premium line AWESOME by osome2some on top of the already existing basic lines, osome2some and B.E.R.L.I.N. What was the motivation behind this expansion, and how do you see each line developing in the near future?
AWESOME by osome2some was long our dream of a premium line that would offer more complicated and refined cuts synonymous with sophisticated “neo-classics”. The introduction of this line is a new step in the brand’s life and a new opportunity to work with stores of a different calibre. We plan to ground our seasonal collections in this line and are presently working hard on our F/W 2013-2014 collection.
Osome2some is a casual favorite, in other words, a line where we want to introduce classical models of the brand, re-interpreted in various fabrics and enhanced by new silhouettes.
B.E.R.L.I.N. is a line that was inspired by the city of Berlin, and is an embodiment of posh punk. This line is sold exclusively in our stores. It allows us to keep the prices down, while using less expensive fabrics, essentially making it accessible to everyone.
AWESOME by osome2some
Juggling more than one line is not an easy fit for a young independent designer, especially in regards to production. Where do you produce your lines and how difficult it was to find/set up a production facility?
All lines are produced in our own production facility. Our attempts to produce the collections elsewhere negatively affected the quality of products, which goes against our brand’s core identity. Our production team currently included five members: four of them are highly-qualified tailors, joined by one constructor-technologist. We also work with acclaimed Grasser Design Bureau, which creates some of the samples for AWESOME by osome2some.
Finally, what is next in store for osome2some?
This summer we are opening our first Moscow store in Krasny Oktyabr as well as a corner-store in Tsvetnoy Central Market. We will also present our collection AWESOME by osome2some in Paris as part of the young project NBNC.fr. The most exciting part is our autumn/winter collection, of course!
Photo courtesy of osome2some
Interview by Evgenia Dorofeeva