INTERVIEW: CS MODERN LUXURY + ELENA BOBYSHEVA
1. How did you decide to get into sustainable fashion?
It was natural that I applied my own values to the heart of my business because I am a vegetarian and environmentalist in my personal life. I didn't want my label to contribute to the excess the fashion industry produces so I build my business around a sustainability mantra from day one without sacrificing on quality or design. I don't think that ethical standards and high-end fashion should be mutually exclusive of one another.
2. Besides your pieces not including any animal products, how else do you operate a sustainable brand? Any specific ways in operating, etc.?
There are several ways that we are putting in effort to be a more sustainable label. When I first started out, I focused on only make one strong collection per year. What's more sustainable than making less clothes? Now we have moved on to making collections for both seasons. For production, we do everything in-house in very limited quantities so we are not over-producing. We keep a very tight inventory to offer our customer exclusivity and generally only produce the styles that were pre-ordered. In our first season, we strictly worked on a cut-to-order basis but adjusted our business model as the collections expanded.
Other areas that we aim to be more sustainable in is our packaging, labeling, green shipping, and textile recycling. Our branded boxes are made out of recyclable material and are reusable, recyclable, and bio-degradable. They are high-quality rigid boxes so they are meant for more than a one-time usage. Our hang tags are letter-pressed on 100% cotton, tree free paper, which is made from recovered cotton that comes from textile industry waste by-products. Similarly, we practice textile recycling by either donating our fabric scraps to textile recycling companies or we try to re-use fabric remnants in future collections in new ways. Finally, we started doing green shipping when we launched my e-commerce store in 2014 in an effort to minimize waste and lessen our impact on the environment.
3. I read that all your pieces are organic. Is this correct? If so, why do you think organic clothing is important to a customer?
We don't make our own fabric so we have to use what's available on the market. Colors can be very limited in organic ranges – often they are not the same richness, texture, or quality. We are always researching more sustainable material options to use in my collections but we often find that the market hasn’t caught up with the demand. My goal is to create luxury fashion out of 100% sustainable materials, and although that isn’t really possible today, I hope that suppliers will continue to move towards more sustainable options. We try to use organic fabrics as much as we can, but I won't move forward with a fabric unless I can achieve a high-quality product.
4. I understand with your new collection that this will be the first time that you will give your customers more options with "statement separates" that transition from day-to-night. Can you explain what went into this decision and provide a few examples?
I noticed there was an opportunity in my collections to offer more casual options for day time. I've created a signature around designing statement dresses of a particular silhouette but no woman can live in dresses alone. For Spring Summer 16, I created (in my opinion) the perfect statement tee that is cut from a luxurious stretch crepe so it feels as comfortable as a cotton t-shirt but looks more upscale. It's something I would throw on over tonal leggings to run errands in. I was mindful of my customer's lifestyle as well - some of my clients have demanding careers, as well as kids, and although my dresses satisfy their need for work and social events, they needed something that is more appropriate for running around or down-time on the weekends, which is where these statement tees come in. It's the high-fashion version of the classic white tee + jeans look.
5. Your pieces are inspired by geometry and art. How did this become your inspiration?
Geometry and art was my inspiration for Spring Summer 16 but it changes for each collection. I'm naturally drawn to clean lines so pulling from geometry allows me to experiment with the silhouette while staying true to the overall minimalistic aesthetic of my brand. I enjoy playing with asymmetry, different pleating techniques, and textile combinations. For spring summer 16 it was the first time I worked with bright colors like yellow, girasole, and turquoise, so that's where the contemporary art influence came from - I'm a fan of Imi Knoebel's work and I pulled some inspiration from his archived exhibitions for this collection.
6. Who is the quintessential customer of your line? (i.e., the business woman, the chic fashion-minded girl, busy yet fashionable moms?)
My woman is the "new luxury" customer and I think that type of client is still widely not catered to in the industry. The new interpretation of"luxury" of not using fur, leather, or exotic skin is a concept that is more relatable to women of my generation rather than the "traditional" luxury customer. My generation is definitely the one that is more conscious about climate change, preserving eco-habitats, recycling, using cruelty-free products, etc. but the luxury segment of the industry hasn't entirely caught up to this demand yet. I cater to women that understand fashion, are investment dressers, and desire high-end, statement pieces that are ethically made.
7. If you could dress any celebrity, who would it be?
I would love to dress Rachel Weisz, Rose Byrne, or Natalie Portman.