ALINA KACHOROVSKA ABOUT HER BRAND KACHOROVSKA, FOOTWEAR AND THE TODAY'S UNISEX TREND.
Alina Kachorovska is a Ukrainian shoemaker in the third generation. At the age of 16, she was involved in a family business.
How the family business was successfully turned into a fashion brand, she told us in one of the Kachorovska stores in Kiev, Ukraine.
First of all, let’s talk about your brand. How was it started?
It was more like it was continued than started. I took over our family business and at that point, it was not even a business to me. Rather, it was a kind of craft, a family deal because my grandmother, my mother and my uncle were also in it. And when my husband joined me, this really turned into a business. We brought it to a new level and we still are in process of building this company.
But at that moment, did you realize that your business will become a brand?
I didn’t realize this at the very beginning, but only 3-4 years later. The thing is that when you start, you don’t think about the representation of your brand. You just work. And we worked for about 8 years, so then we got some clients, practice and so on. Only then we could think about values we want to embody with our brand.
Brand development is complicated. It demands self-development at first and you always need to overcome your fear, to make decisions. This is nothing else than spiritual growth.
This is true, you definitely have to change all the time. It’s not just about making decisions but about growing, learning, and then changing the company and processes in it. This year was so dynamic for us and if you knew us a year ago, I’m sure you would see the difference. There were a lot of changes.
So what is the difference between Alina at the start of your business and now?
There are lots of it. At that time I was young, immature and a little bit self-confident, but this confidence was helpful. When you start, you don’t have a lot of experience. You just have honesty, sincerity, love, authenticity and, well, your confidence, because without it you can’t do anything. I think I still have all of these apart from self-confidence. And now I have much more experience. I mean experience at different levels of production, management and making it all work. I have developed the business part of me, so now I know how to make decisions, how to communicate with my team, how to incorporate changes and so on.
Your business model is direct-to-consumer. Is it a part of these changes or your business strategy from a very start?
This model has formed naturally because we didn't have any other options. Working directly with clients was the only way for us. If to talk about international analytics, direct-to-consumer model is quite new, but here in Ukraine, we have it for about 5 years. And this is not because we are so smart or far-seeing, but just because we don't really have a choice. In America, they write about independent designers who open their small showrooms, these small cozy spaces. They just start doing this, and here we already have lots of these stores, so now we want to create something bigger. But from the very start, we had this hospitality, we are open-hearted, this is a part of our culture. Our people have a different attitude and our company could only work using this model. And this also depends on the moment when I started doing this. If I had been 30 at that moment, I might have wanted to have big sales, lots of orders and the benefit right away. Then I would have rather thought about working with retailers, department stores, taking part in exhibitions for getting wholesale orders and so on. But I started at 16 years so I had this 10-year gap for development and all of these came naturally.
Everyone says that you need a business plan to start something. But if you don’t have enough experience, you just can’t predict how your business will work. What do you think about it?
I didn't have any when I was 16 and when I was 18 as well. And when we were about to open our last store, we counted with everything, but with no business plan again. Every day we discover something new we didn't know even a month ago. And you think: "Why? Why does it take 10 years and 21 days to understand this particular thing?”. It happens all the time. This is an ongoing non-stop process of perfection, kind of Kaizen philosophy. But if you talk about a completely new project or start-up or franchising, you want to have some calculation to understand whether you will have benefits and rewards or not.
And what is the best reward for you?
The best reward is a happy client. When you see their faces, you get their messages and comments. And getting praise from our foreign colleagues and partners is very important, as well. I mean these people who are in the industry for a long time, who saw lots of brands, who know it all. When we show them our product and they give a positive feedback, this is so pleasant.
Great. What does your work mean for you?
Firstly, I love my job. Every morning I go to work smiling, jumping, and this is very important. I can’t remember any moment in my life when I didn’t have this inner drive. I want to work every morning and every Monday. Sometimes I can get really tired, but then I take some day off and it’s fine. Do you smile when you go to work? This is the best indicator to understand if you are doing a right thing in your life.
And what is the indicator of a good shoe? Give us some tips on how to pick shoes correctly.
To be honest, I need a brief look at a shoe to tell if it’s good or bad. You just see it and then you can tell. It is the visual part, next to touch and leather quality. Also, you should pay attention to colors, lines, forms and if this piece is trendy. You should notice how a shoe is made, how is the sole, the lining. You should pay attention to each seam and backstitch. Sometimes I notice that expensive shoes, made by a famous brand, have bad seams. I mean, how is this even possible?
How many bags should a woman own in a lifetime? Any thoughts?
I think we all are so different. As for me, I change a bag once in 6 months. I don’t like changing bags every day and putting stuff from one to another. So I chose one bag, I carry it for half a year and then I choose another one. I prefer brighter bags for spring and summer and then darker ones for autumn season.
When you chose a bag, what is important personally to you? What is a good bag for you?
At first, this is leather and how it is in wearing. I mean, any bag I own looks good even after 6 months of wearing. A good bag should also be comfortable – when you open it, when you close it, the size of it. During a few years, I used to like big bags, shopper bags, where I could put everything. But now I'm tired of it, so I carry my laptop in my hand and I wear a middle sized bag. But I don't like micro bags, they are not for me. What I like is a long good strap, because I prefer to wear cross-body bags.
What is the essential piece for woman's wardrobe? Does anything come to your mind?
For some reason, underwear came to my mind immediately. Nobody can see it, only you, but you need to choose it correctly according to your body type. Now unisex is so popular but we need to understand that unisex clothes erase our femininity, it makes us an object but not a woman. I even tried to buy some pieces in a male department in stores. And recently I bought a sweatshirt. Then I tried it on once more and I understood, that I don’t look good in it. It is made for the male figure, it is wide. And it doesn't look good on a woman even if it is pink. And then I decided that I won't buy male clothes anymore because they make me look bad. There are objective differences between male and female figure. There are clothes which highlight man and woman, and these clothes are not the same. Their construction is not the same as well. It's all about fit, and everyone forgot about it. Everything is oversized, straight or wide, and no one notices that this wide shirt makes your neck look shorter. These clothes make us lose our figure, we become shapeless. And I really don't like it. Yes, we need some comfort, but once more: there are differences between man and woman. By the way, I think men would like to see more of femininity in us. They would like to see that we are not similar to them.
Yes, this is a trend, but each trend has its explanation. These wide shoulders, male suits, oversize, it also depends on how the fashion industry is changing. I think that oversize is just simple. The same is with minimalism. These stylistics appeared not because everyone wanted it but because it was easier to do. Designers tried to create cheaper production, so they had to get rid of excessive details.
For sure, this kind of clothes is easier to create. I mean, an oversized dress is good for all body types. And when a dress has some waist accent, it might not fit every woman. But a woman in a good dress with a perfect fit looks so beautiful. Sadly, a good fit is trending now, but I think it soon will be. Soon everyone will talk about it, and it will become more popular than oversize because women will want to complement their figure again.
If not talk about clothes, what else can complement woman? I mean, what can undercover a woman and help her to show up?
What is it for you, personally?
I think that being a mother is an essential thing in a life of each woman. You feel the most feminine woman on Earth when you are breastfeeding. I had this moment in my life and this female power is something man won't ever have. Yes, men are great fathers, but they can't breastfeed. And it is the greatest thing. I understand that not every woman gives birth and not every woman breastfeeds, but for me, this moment is so special. When you feed your child you connect with them and to earth, to nature. You almost become mother earth yourself. For a wonder, another female power is our weakness including our physical weakness. However powerful you may be, you can’t lift up 25 heavy bags with one arm, and your man can. This is another moment of femininity.
What modern woman is inspirational to you?
I’m inspired by women who reach to you energetically even if you’ve never seen them in real life. You feel their energy through TV screen, and I think Beyoncé is one of them. I would love to meet her one day.
So you are attracted by this flow of energy, right? By this power?
I’m also attracted by charisma. If to talk about Ukrainian women, I would name Lera Borodina who is the owner of "Oh My Look!" and "G.Bar”. She is so charismatic, she is fire. She is always pushing, creating new ideas, she has that inner drive. There are also some girlfriends from university who inspire me. And, for sure, my team.
And what designer you would like to meet? Maybe you would like to collaborate with someone or to ask some question?
I want to talk to Miuccia Prada so bad. She is a fantastic woman and her business is fantastic. At first, her job also was a family deal, but then it turned into Prada and Miu Miu. These brands are amazing. I would like to have some casual dinner with Amancio Ortega as well. Iman Armed is great. He is founder and editor-in-chief of The Business of Fashion, and I like their analytics, idea and their feed.
Fashion is for people or people are for fashion? I mean politics. Now fashion turned into politics. What do you think?
There is lots of feminism in fashion these days, I mean Dior and other brands talk about it. Some analytics even explain current fashion trends with Donald Trump and Brexit. They also tell that nowadays designers start to hear voices from provinces, so they create no rules, rebellious and over-decorated collections. But I'm not a fashion analytic and I think that here in Ukraine fashion has nothing in common with politics. This is not a game here.
This question appeared to me when I saw a t-shirt in Mango store. The statement on it said: “You don't need a superman, when you are a wonder woman”. But we understand that a fulfilled woman in her thirties won't buy this piece, but teenagers will. And they think it's true. My point is, fashion should be responsible for what it does. Right?
It is right not just for fashion but for each industry. If you own some business, you have to be responsible and your business has to be socially responsible as well. When you create some product and put some logo on it, and this logo is a message to masses, this is your responsibility.
Text: Olga Beznos
Bild: Alexandra Serafimovich