10 Questions for Ksenia Schnaider
Image: Ksenia Schnaider
Upcycling is enjoying a resurgence in fashion circles and Ksenia Schnaider is the go to brand in Eastern Europe. We spoke to Ksenia and Anton about blazing a trail for reusing fabric whilst staying relevant.
Husband and Wife duo, Ksenia and Anton Schnaider are flying the flag for sustainable style in Eastern Europe. Initially born out of necessity, Ksenia sourced her denim from flea markets to cut costs. Her signature upcycled denim pieces were soon seen on Bella Hadid and other high profile influencers, making Ksenia Schnaider the brand to know. Whilst being a sustainable business is important to Ksenia Schnaider, they recognise the importance of style and timeless appeal. In their most recent collections, they are exploring knitwear and sportswear through reusing fabric scraps and flea market sourced vintage.
The Vendeur: When you initially began using thrifted denim in your collections, you kept it quiet because of the stigma around used clothes. Do you think that attitudes are changing now?
Ksenia Schnaider: Yes, absolutely, the attitude is so different now. I remember unwillingly answering questions from buyers for the fear of the stigma. I realized that the reaction was becoming warmer and warmer and suddenly it became a thing and everyone was doing it. Of course, it comes in waves to different parts of the world. For instance, it’s still at a stage of an interesting phenomenon in Ukraine, while in the UK, from what I can tell, reworking thrifted clothes has already become a widely-accepted option.
TV: Have you found it tough to convince your customer that reusing fabric and being more sustainable is the best way forward?
KS: Not at all, our target audience is an open-minded bunch, so if anything it has attracted more interest. You know, recent studies have shown that sustainability is slowly catching up with the design in terms of what young people are looking at when shopping. Still, in my own experience, people care about design more by a huge margin. Therefore our main goal is to create a good product and promote the idea that sustainability shouldn’t change anything stylistically.
TV: What made you choose to use thrifted denim for your pieces in the first place?
KS: Initially, the idea of thrifting denim came about because we were still a young brand and it was difficult to source off-the-roll denim that meet our criteria. So we decided to take good quality rigid Levi’s or Lee jeans and take them apart for our first prototypes. The result was stunning, so we decided to roll with it. Up until this point, about 35% of our collections are made out of thrifted materials.
TV: Now that your brand has grown in popularity, do you still search flea markets yourself? And how do you make this method of sourcing scalable as you grow?
KS: We go there from time to time to check what’s new, which is, admittedly, not often anymore. Instead, we have hired a person whose main responsibility is to go to the flea market and fill up the secondhand denim stock for our studio. There is no option for us to buy second-hand wholesale as not just any pair will do. We only select rigid heavy denim of certain shades and in a good state, so we have to be really thorough with sourcing.
“I think the combination of the familiar fabric and a brand new pattern is what makes people love it.” – Ksenia Schnaider
TV: You also create reworked sportswear, do you think that by reworking old clothes, people feel re-inspired by them?
KS: Of course! It’s especially evident with the patchwork items, like sport and knitwear – I think the combination of the familiar fabric and a brand new pattern is what makes people love it.
TV: When reworking the sportswear and denims, how do you minimise waste from offcuts or pieces that are soiled etc?
KS: Actually, we don’t waste anything unless it’s soiled or damaged beyond repair. We have items, which need large chunks of fabric, which we cut in the first place, and whatever is left is utilized in other items, which have smaller parts. We even developed a T-shirt with a hem stripe made out of tiny tracksuit scraps. And the small denim bits go to patchwork or denim fur. We don’t throw away the zippers either. They are not in good enough condition to reuse them for sale, so we donate them to sewing colleges for students to practice on.
TV: How do you transfer your sustainable sensibilities to your cotton pieces like sweatshirts and t-shirts?
KS: As we grow and gain opportunities, we are simultaneously working more and more to find sustainable solutions for everything we do. Recently we have discovered an organic cotton supplier, that fits into our criteria.
TV: How do you try to avoid the pitfalls of unsustainable and fast fashion?
KS: As a customer, the simplest thing to do when shopping is to prioritize staple pieces over trends and think about the quality of the item. If you’re likely to want to wear the item in a couple of months and you’re certain that the quality will allow that, then go for it. Otherwise we recommend to avoid buying anything at all, as it might be better for the planet.
“Our main goal is to create a good product and promote the idea that sustainability shouldn’t change anything stylistically.” – Ksenia Schnaider
TV: Being a couple, how do you balance work and home life?
KS: For the most part – work is our life, so there is no real division. We are always in conversation and can instantly discuss important issues, even at home. However if one of us needs some time to not think about work we respect it unconditionally.
TV: What’s next for Ksenia Schnaider?
KS: This season we are expanding, which is very exciting, as you may guess. Now we have a new menswear line where we are going to explore what a KSENIASCHNAIDER Man should look like – he’s cool, but also geeky. Stay tuned to meet him! And in the main line, we are going to dive deeper into what we think a modern woman should look like, combining femininity, effortlessness, and avant-garde.
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