A large number of today’s modern women are restless spirits and explorers, always seeking out new trends and items, which will transform them and add beauty and meaning into their daily life. A brand from Berlin challenges us to discover and adopt a mentality of conscious elegance and transfer it into our wardrobes. SVEEKERY infuses each and every item with love, respect and inspiration. Let’s navigate through the story of SVEEKERY, a small brand with a wide perspective, as Svetlana Sekerin, the brand creator, spared some time to speak with us.
EFW: When and how did “Sveekery” begin? What lead you to create eco-fashion designs specifically?
Svetlana Sekerin: The first idea for SVEEKERY to start my own label began in 2011, when I decided to go my own way and quit working for the conventional fashion industry – where sweat shops, child labour, poor wages and environmental damage through harmful and hazardous chemicals are the order of the day. For me it goes without saying that if I start my own company, it has to be in tune with my conscience. My wish is to make positive contribution business rather then conducting business at the expense of people, animal and nature.
I have been focusing on building up SVEEKERY. It was a long journey from finding the right suppliers for sustainable and certified fabrics over finding manufacturer with environmental and social standards. I started completely from scratch, as my previous fashion industry contacts could not help me with that.
At the end of 2014 I officially launched “SVEEKERY”. The label’s first appearance took place in January 2015 at the ethical fashion fair “GREEN SHOWROOM” in Berlin. EFW: Please tell us a little about your background.
SS: I am originally from Kazakhstan and moved to Germany at the age of six and grew up near Frankfurt am Main. By the time I was eleven years old, I already had a desire to become a fashion designer, so I studied Design-Engineering for fashion at Hochschule Niederrhein in Moenchengladbach. After graduating in 2008 I worked as a fashion and technical designer for fast fashion companies where I also got the chance to travel to manufacturers in Europe. In 2014 I went to South India by my own for a 2.5 months long trip to visit several ethical suppliers and manufacturers. I was especially inspired by a social project for women where they grow their own cotton, dye them naturally, weave it manually and manufacture it into kurtas (Indian shirts).
EFW: What materials do you prefer to use and why? SS: When I select the materials for SVEEKERY I am really strict and I do everything to find the fabric I need for my collection. The fabric should be of high quality, natural, sustainable and certified. In some cases, if the fabric is not or not yet certified, I ask the supplier for transparency of their supply chain. Transparency is very important for me, not only for materials, but also for manufacturing. On top of that I focus on European materials to ensure that the delivery distances are short and thus also CO2 emissions as low as possible.
Because of my explicit expectations on the materials and because of a market niche, it took me 2.5 years to find a certified organic wool fabric for my business collection. This wool comes from Argentina, is weaved in Italy and is mulesing- free.
In addition, I use organic cotton, linen, hemp and stinging nettle from Europe. I also use peace (non-violent) silk from India, where the silk worms are not cooked like in the conventional silk manufacturing process. The other materials I use, such as buttons are all natural, like ivory nut and shells, mostly certified and the zippers are free of nickel and chrome, made in Germany.
Every collection has also some vegan styles and we offer some on request, for example, by only changing the buttons. I would love to find a suitable organic vegan fabric also for the classic suits collection.
EFW: What is the target group of women for SVEEKERY and which unique characteristics can your customers find in SVEEKERY brand?
SS: SVEEKERY stands for elegant tailored business, evening and casual fashion made of high quality, sustainable and certified materials such as organic wool, organic cotton, peace silk, organic linen and organic hemp – made in Europe.
SVEEKERY is a premium brand for sophisticated, self-confident, responsible women who have a penchant for high-quality products. Our customer can find classic, elegant and timeless styles for work and after work occasions.
The basic women’s suits collection includes blazers, trousers, skirts and dresses in grey, black and dark blue colours and is independent from seasons. Seasonally there will be some new styles, in new colours and new fabrics to combine them with the suits or wear them independently.
Customers can also get customized clothing, individualization and styles in vegan on request.
EFW: What are the main sources of inspiration for your designs?
SS: I like to design long lasting elegant styles out of the most sustainable fabrics that aren’t going to get burnt after one or two seasons, so the main sources are classic tailored styles combined with new details, fabrics, colours or shapes.
EFW: Please share some milestones for SVEEKERY.
SS: My aim is to strengthen the brand, establishing the SVEEKERY brand in Germany and Europe. To reach this goal I have to focus on offline and online distribution, PR and marketing. The online shop is currently in the works. Furthermore, the continuous improvement of product development and its production are my top priorities. One goal is to have a 100% transparent and traceable supply chain.
EFW: During your career path, was there a difficult moment of distress that lead you to consider quitting your efforts? If so, how did you recover and what were some of your thoughts and feelings about this?
SS: Oh yes there was! To be quite honest, that happened a few times, as the fashion industry and fashion market has strict rules and time frames. You have to follow them, if you like them or not. The most killing points for a young brand, especially in a niche market, are such operative details as minimum orders for fabrics and the manufacturing of the products. You have to pay everything in advance, while the delivery of the products is 6-8 months ahead, and further time passes until you can actually charge your costumers for their orders. But before you even get orders from retailers, you need to stay on the market for several seasons. One has to prove oneself as a brand before the risk-averse retailer decides to take your brand into their product portfolio.
I would like – and I think this is a justifiable demand, that the retailers would go beyond their established rules and give small ethical brands a chance to prove themselves to the customer, especially because we are putting so much effort to change the fashion industry into a better one.
Another point is to find reliable partner/s to collaborate with, whom you can trust to getting the products within the deadlines, who are willing to work with a small brand with small orders and who fulfil my quality expectations and quality opinion for a reasonable price.
EFW: Which characteristics/ values do you believe an entrepreneur in ethical fashion should have in order for his/ her venture to have a long-term scope of life?
SS: Firstly, it is important to love what you are doing, to believe in your ideas and to keep setting new goals for yourself, even against all that numerous obstacles in your way. Goethe said: “You can create something beautiful even from the stones placed in your way for you to stumble on”. You need to have an attitude of responsibility for economic, ecological and social behaviour for the long-term economic success as a company. Only if you are eager to develop continually and have the courage to go new ways, will you reach new shores. Furthermore, you need a deep understanding of the fashion market and business management skills, creativity and perpetual power to convert your ideas into marketable products.
EFW: Please share your mantra with us.
SS: “Be the change you want to see in the world” – Gandhi
EFW: What is your perception about the future of ethical fashion and eco-brands globally?
SS: I think that there could be a big change in consumer’s purchase behaviour, if the big players would change their manufacturing process to an eco and social friendly one. Aside from this, I have already noticed a change in consumers’ behaviour, preferring to choose quality over quantity. In addition, more and more consumers are interested about the origins of their clothes come from and how they were made.. This is a clear depiction of the current situation, which sustains that we, as ethical fashion brands are on the right way to be the change in the fashion industry. I hope that one day ethical fashion will become something obvious.
EFW: What is your vision for SVEEKERY and next plans?
SS: I would love SVEEKERY to be a worldwide known and affordable brand, which stands for long lasting designs, high quality and social and environmental responsibility. With Sveekery I would like to set a mark within the fashion industry and, to “be the change you want to see in the world”.
Moreover, I would like to have my own independent charity project similar to the People Tree Foundation, which supports capacity building and social welfare projects.
To grow SVEEKERY in this direction I will need more manpower, money and a partner. So the next steps are focused on marketing, distribution and investment.
Starting a new business, is not –and maybe will never be- an easy-to-go venture. Everyone who decides to invest in an idea needs some core character qualities, such as courage, trust, high profile energy and so forth. What’s more, he/ she needs to inspire other people to follow and create a well-knitted team of same-mentality people. SVEEKERY represents an initiative of a decisive person, who perceived the fashion industry differently, believed she could contribute to the change and is doing it – creating the change. No matter the difficulties, we are the designers of our own future and our actions and activities affect next generations. Ultimately, what matters most is the depth of the life we live and not merely the length of it.