INTERVIEW: NEW CITY + ELENA BOBYSHEVA
Q: How did you start your career in fashion design? What made you want to pursue it?
A: I went to design school where I received an Interdisciplinary Bachelor's in Business and Fashion Design. I launched my Ready-to-Wear line in 2013 using grants from numerous design and business competitions. The label was found with my own deeply-held values at its core - a commitment to sustainability, quality, and authenticity. I wanted to create a label that reflected a slower pace and process: where things are made with care and detail, where tradition is more important than trend, where there is a purpose to every piece, and things are made to last.
Q: What fuels your creativity? What makes you want to create a garment?
A: It starts from a passion for quality. When I start designing a piece the first thing that comes to mind is the fabrication and a silhouette, an idea. Then I do some rough sketches to get the idea onto paper so I can develop the proportions, color palette, design details, and so on. I have technical training in garment construction and patternmaking and through that process the garment is developed even more.
Q:What are the underlying themes of your collections? Why?
A: I like story telling. When I design a collection, I think of a character and the character is the same from last season, but more grown up and evolved though her experiences. Each collection is a continuation and a new chapter within the one story. I then think - where would she wear this piece and why? Does this piece have a purpose in our modern world?
Q: Who is your dream customer, and why?
A: I am inspired by women who are strong and passionate; women who are very intelligent and use their intelligence in service of others and bettering the world. The EB woman loves quality and understands fabrication and fit. She wants statement investment pieces in her wardrobe. I've yet to meet a woman that doesn't relate to my line.
Q:What is it like designing luxury ready-to-wear in Chicago? How do you produce, sell, and promote your creations?
A: Almost all of our products are produced in-house on a cut-to-order basis by professional tailors and are currently sold exclusively via our own e-commerce store on our website. We do not have a PR or Marketing budget. The label has grown through word of mouth, social media, and press coverage.
Q: How do you overcome the limitations of manufacturing in a city that’s not particularly known for its fashion scene?
A: I think that fashion is a global industry but there are different capitals for different things. I think Chicago is still in its infancy stage of establishing a fashion identity and infrastructure but it won't grow to be like New York, London, or Paris. Every capital has its particular strength but talent can come from anywhere. It's not defined to a specific geographical location. Plus with today's technology, I can design a dress in Chicago and the next day a woman in Belgium could wear it to dinner.
Q: What is the price range of your line?
A:I positioned my label in the designer price point. The clothes are not meant to be bought in bulk. The focus is on investment pieces. Full marked products can range between $700-$1,500.
Q: Where do you see your brand going in the future? What are your short and long term plans?
A: I think to get a wider audience to appreciate the product, you need to touch it and feel it so I want to start approaching potential retail partners next year for wholesale accounts. I think it would be wonderful if I could partner with a Chicago-based specialty boutique like Ikram or VMR. I follow them on instagram and I think their customer will appreciate my product - the aesthetic, fabrication, and fit.
Q: You are very conscious about the environment. How do you take it into consideration while producing your designs?
A: I am devoted to minimizing waste. I want to do luxury in a smart and transparent way. Our factories and our vendors for our materials are usually Italian, French, and Polish. They are family businesses, multigenerational that have dedicated their lives to their craft. We currently do not develop our own fabrics. 90% of our textiles are high-end spare stock that already exists in the market but have not sold elsewhere. The remaining 10% we wholesale from fabric mills. My Icon Collection, for example, features spare stock French Giupure lace and Italian wool-crepe. Having a finite supply of material, makes the Ready-to-Wear collection more exclusive. Certain pieces are limited edition. We also produce on a cut-to-order basis meaning we produce only what is ordered so to not contribute to dead inventory ending up in landfills.
Photography by: Matthew Sperzel