Business of cousins. Creating travel coats.

March 25, 2020
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Cousins Nataliia Aleksievych and Oksana Sventah worked for many years at a dressmaking and tailoring studio, where they made custom-tailored clothing. Demand for Ukrainian-made goods grew drastically after the Revolution of 2014, giving the craftswomen courage to make clothing under their own brand. In just a few years, their jackets and raincoats have become one of the most recognized brands in Ukraine.

In 2015, the designers created S-cape, a Ukrainian brand of outerwear that makes jackets, raincoats, trench coats, and winter accessories for both men and women. According to the brand’s concept, these clothes have to protect from bad weather and inspire more people to travel. The desire for the designers to apply their own experiences and to create something different helped them in developing outerwear that is being bought in Ukraine as well as abroad.

Trusting Ukrainian product

Until 2013, tailoring in Ukraine existed mainly as tailoring workshops for worldwide manufacturers. A significant percentage of textile goods made in Ukraine was shipped abroad with brand labels.

Textile industry workers gained immense experience, but not many could set up their own production. The situation drastically changed in 2014 after the Revolution of Dignity. A lot of interest in Ukrainian manufacturers stimulated the development of the fashion industry. Tailors got a chance to establish small and medium businesses, create famous brands, and provide other professionals with job opportunities.

After a few years of forming a popular industry of goods made in Ukraine, fashion designers continue to improve their products and now face new challenges. In 2019, it is not exclusive anymore to have clothes by a Ukrainian manufacturer in the closet. It is not enough to be a Ukrainian brand to deserve the affection of buyers. Designers are increasing quality standards, selecting materials more carefully and working on recognition as the competition gets tougher.

Since the moment S-cape was founded, thousands of Ukrainians started wearing the brand’s jackets and raincoats. The founders say the road to success in the Ukrainian market is not an easy one. The craftswomen tried to create their own collections, but that experience was not successful from the beginning. Through trial and error, the designers have found products they consider their own. Oksana says that demand for Ukrainian products is increasing with time:

— Trust in Ukrainian products is becoming very stable. When the boom of Ukrainian products started, people were buying anything that was made in Ukraine. Now people are paying attention to the quality and materials. They are ready to spend money not because of Ukrainian manufacturers but because of consistent quality.

The beginning

Up until 2015, Oksana and Nataliia had their own atelier. For six years, they were hand-tailoring clothes. Trying to create their own interesting product, the craftswomen started making jackets and raincoats. That’s how the S-cape brand was founded. Oksana says their love for travelling has inspired them to make raincoats:

— We often travel around Ukraine and abroad. We were looking for a raincoat for attending music festivals, mountain hiking trips. We wanted to buy it but could not find it in Ukraine. We realized that our market didn’t have it; we had experience so we decided to try to make one.

In their raincoats and jackets, they tried to embody their experience gained over the years. Later, they started posting pictures of their works on social media, saw a demand for this product, and continued making it. Oksana and Nataliia started to bring their products to different markets. An important step for brand development was creating their own website to process the majority of the sales.

The most difficult decision for the designers was to turn down regular orders in the atelier. The craftswomen were not sure that S-cape would become popular and profitable. That is why, during the first year, they made raincoats and jackets while at the same time completed orders in the atelier. Later on, Nataliia and Oksana closed up their atelier and concentrated on S-Cape, and today they do not regret that decision.

— We noticed an interest in Ukrainian manufacturers in 2014, but the desire to create something on our own appeared much earlier. We were connected to tailoring clothes for a long time and constantly searching for our own product

How S-cape is made

An office and a workshop of S-cape are located in a small facility in Rivne. They develop new models, create test patterns and samples, and select fabric. Nataliia says that the most important process for S-cape is selecting a colour for new models of jackets and raincoats:

— We pay attention to future tendencies and trends. We also make sure that the shade suits both men and women. Colour selection is a difficult moment in the creation of the collection. We are very passionate about it. We receive up to twenty fabric samples, and we choose only three or four.

When selecting colours, the craftswomen pay attention to the options that will suit the majority of people. For example, cold colours usually suit almost everyone because they make faces look warmer. For some time Oksana and Nataliia were making only bright coats, refusing grey and black colours since there were plenty of those on the market. But clients were constantly asking about black clothes and requesting this colour. Designers listened to the customer requests and gave in:

— Grey colours are often selected because they are handy. When we tried to make one black coat, we were testing it ourselves. We were taking turns wearing it and realized it was very stylish, that this colour adds something special.

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S-cape designers constantly communicate with customers and take their suggestions into account. Every season, they try to develop new models and make the old ones more functional. For example, based on customer demand, S-cape makes maternity inserts for the brand’s outerwear, so mothers can be mobile and have an active lifestyle together with their babies.

For one working day, every craftswoman from S-cape can sew two or three items, depending on the complexity of the product. During the winter season, the little tailoring shop gets a heavy workload, so some of the orders are given to a subcontractor. Within a few weeks, the whole batch for the winter season is sewn:

— The girls are sewing, thoroughly checking every zipper pull, making sure everything is made to a high quality. After that, we check whether everything is OK one more time and then ship it to the stores or clients. Every piece of clothing is made here from the beginning to the end. This way every tailor is responsible for their choices because everyone is creating their clothing items by themselves.

At first, we were worried sick about giving part of the orders to the factory. We were searching for a long time, went to many places, and were lucky to find good subcontractors. They have their own controllers so their clothes are of the same quality as ours.

Dreams and plans

In 2018, S-Cape interested not only customers but also business students. The brand became a participant of the international educational project X-Culture. In this project, students from 40 countries research stories and opportunities of real companies to offer their strategies on business improvement and entry of the global market. A lot of foreign students have chosen S-cape for this project.

— The main topic of the project was launching our product in the foreign market. Students were interviewing us about our brand, asking what we want to achieve in other markets. A lot of students have worked out a strategy of entering foreign markets for us. They have sent us a lot of reports.

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The majority of S-cape orders are made online by clients from Kyiv and Lviv. Oksana and Natalka dream about having a showroom or office in Kyiv, but they have already established manufacturing and cooperation with good tailors in Rivne, and it would be quite hard to find the same in the capital of Ukraine. Despite constant communication on social media, the designers dream to have more engagement with their audience in the real world:

— We would like to organize events, meet-ups with clients. It should be done in our own showroom in Kyiv. Maybe it will be like that in the future.

Natalka and Oksana think a lot about product line expansion, and they have already started to create winter accessories — hats, gloves, and more:

— We want to expand our product line a little bit but in a way that doesn’t go beyond our concept of outerwear and weather protection. Moreover, if you want to start producing something new you have to fully immerse yourself into the specificity of creating this product, needed materials. It takes time. And we already specialize in outerwear, and we are sure we can do it very well.

The designers will continue learning how to make outerwear even more functional and of better quality. Natalka says that in order to do so they plan to use modern fabrics:

— It would be interesting to make a technological product using modern fabrics that feel touch and react to it. For example, you could build in some gadgets or something like that. Maybe we will try to go in that direction.

Natalka and Oksana have a background in design and economics. They think they complete each other, combining creative and rational qualities:

— One of us counts more and the other one creates. That is why we have this tandem. Probably none of us could make it on our own.

The material is prepared by

The author of the project:

Bogdan Logvynenko

Author:

Maryna Odnorog

Editor:

Natalia Ponedilok

Producer:

Olha Schor

Photographer:

Oleksandr Maiorov

Cameraman:

Oleg Sologub

Pavlo Pashko

Film editor:

Liza Lytvynenko

Director:

Mykola Nosok

Photo editor:

Oleksandr Khomenko

Transcriptionist:

Myroslava Oliinyk

Translator:

Ilona Badenko

Translation editor:

Kaitlin Vitt

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