Earlier this month at Paris Fashion Week, our Head of Buying and Merchandising, Felicity Brand had the opportunity to sit down with Budapest-based designer and fashion founder, Sandra Sandor. From the East meets West influence in her designs to responsible production and sustainable materials, get to know Sandor and her fashion label currently taking the world by storm.
FB: We understand you grew up in Budapest - the city is extremely rich in history, culture and tradition. Can you tell us a bit about how your designs are influenced by the city?
SS: The city’s character is defined by a very interesting atmosphere as it’s a fusion of the remains of the communist era versus the astro-Hungarian empire’s nostalgia. Nostalgia - from many aspects - is a main source of inspiration, not only in the city but in movies, books etc.
FB: You have previously spoken about “east meets west” influences in your designs. Are there any cities, countries, objects or other cultural references that you are particularly inspired by?
SS: What drives me as a designer is the challenge to create a bridge between distant cultural references from different times and places, resulting in a balance and harmony of cross-cultures. I grew up in Budapest and the city has always been an intersection between East and West. This duality has formed Nanushka’s culture, personality and aesthetics, and my perception as a designer. Budapest city was also influenced by distant cultures, from the Ottoman Empire and Germanic migration through the vivid cultural life of the Belle Epoque, in the turn of the century until the communist era of the second half of the twentieth century.
I also draw inspiration from my travels when I discover new places. For example I fell in love with the tie dye technique again on my recent trips to Sri Lanka where I visited a few family owned places. You will see the technique incorporated into upcoming collections.
FB: Can you tell us a bit about your approach to creating a new collection? Do you see clothes as beginning with the fabric or is it more complex than that?
SS: I think it’s both. Sometimes I will find a great fabric or texture that will inspire me, the vegan leather puffer for example, and sometimes I have a silhouette in mind and I need to find the right tools to create the vision. However, each collection starts with a planning session where I collect all the little details that could work, that could inspire the new collection and slowly build on that. It’s a working process and it’s constantly changing and evolving during the months based on new findings, ideas, influences.
FB: If you could choose one stand out piece from your new collection, which would it be and how would you style it?
SS: I think one of my favourite pieces from the SS20 new womenswear collection is the poplin dress, it’s easy but chic. It was inspired by Loulou de la Falaise and the Riviera. It’s classic yet modern at the same time. I like it because you can just throw it on, find a great headscarf and you’re ready to go.
FB: Sustainability is at the cornerstone of your designs. Can you talk us through some of the most important sustainability practices you always adhere to when creating collections? Particularly your vegan leather pieces?
SS: Sourcing was always important for us and we are taking further steps to find more sustainable fabrics to work with. Currently we work with Vegan leather (REACH certified) which became one of our signature and core fabrics. We also work with organic cotton, recycled cashmere and tech satin. When I choose fabrics it’s important for me to source good quality but also fabrics that support our sustainable approach and are also functional. For example we use tech satin and tech linen which are more technical and the fabrics don't crease and makes the perfect travel wardrobe. We also started working with Lenzing products in our menswear collection that contain TENCEL fibres and their very innovative EcoVero fibres (sustainable viscose). We are in the process of obtaining further certifications and to source more recycled and up cycled materials. We also just hired a sustainability manager, who will help us to make further changes in sourcing and manufacturing.
Nanushka currently works with 20 manufacturers, who are mainly local; 85% of the collection is produced in Hungary or in the neighbouring countries a few kilometers from the border, which is great as it gives us more transparency and visibility over their processes, that the workers are treated well with a fair wage. We often visit the factories as a transparent supply chain is very important for Nanushka. Sustainability also doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a step by step process and finding the best practices to suit the business takes time and research. In saying that, Nanushka is fully committed and sustainability is something that I feel very strongly about.
FB: Your signature vegan leather pieces really are so soft and incredibly made! They have become synonymous with your brand identity. Did you envisage this happening when you first launched the range?
SS: Currently all our RTW pieces are made of vegan leather. It’s a material that I enjoy working with as it’s very soft and easy to drape and experiment with different silhouettes. I never imagined having such a huge success and demand for it.
FB: Congratulations on your recent launch of Nanushka menswear. Can you tell us a little bit about the character of the “Mystery child” that has been created in between the lines of the two collections?
SS: Mystery Child is a collection where I wanted to explore the fluid bond and relationship between men and woman, and experiment with the masculine and feminine silhouettes. The main idea was to create a collection where the Nanushka Man and Nanushka Woman can share a wardrobe and swap pieces if they want to. For me the Nanushka Man is the perfect match for the Nanushka Woman, they share the same values and they balance each other.
FB: The brand has achieved so much in such a short space of time – what’s been your personal highlight to date and what can we expect to see next?
SS: The past few years have been really exciting and the brand has achieved so much, I feel it’s hard to pin point just one or two things as so many great milestones have happened. If I had to talk about one it would be our first New York presentation or the last Paris presentation – both moments really show how far Nanushka come has. We have many exciting things coming up in the next months, like our New York Flagship opening at the end of October.
Photography: India Hartford Davis