Eastern European designers parade the haute couture catwalks



  • Social media, the key to global recognition
  • Young designers bring their know-how home
  • Small fashion houses target China

PRAGUE / GDANSK, October 19 (Reuters) – With celebrities including Rihanna, Justin Bieber and Billie Eilish wearing her designs, Hungarian fashion house Nanushka has stardust that many designers can only dream of.

Yet the company is just one of many early-stage designers from Central Europe making their way to the top of global fashion, showing off their collections on catwalks in London, Paris and New York as they target lucrative markets such as China and the United States. .

Once a struggling local brand, Budapest-based Nanushka has seen its annual turnover increase 33-fold to 33 million euros ($ 38.32 million) since the arrival of a capital company. investment in 2016.

By focusing on sustainable designs, including its vegan leather garments, Nanushka has become the fastest growing fashion company in Europe, according to the FT 1000 annual list of high growth European companies.

Other ready-to-wear designers who have emerged from Central Europe onto the world stage include Slovakia-based Nehera, worn by Hollywood stars Keira Knightley, Tilda Swinton and Marion Cotillard, and Poland’s Magda Butrym, worn by Megan Fox and Hailey Bieber, among others. .

For these companies, creating a niche in high fashion has been made easier by Facebook Inc (FB.O) Instagram and other online platforms that help young independent designers outside of international fashion centers to be seen by a global audience hungry for something different.

“Without social media, you probably know that 15 to 20 years ago it would have been almost impossible to build a global fashion house from Budapest,” Peter Baldaszti, managing director of Nanushka, married to Reuters. to founder and designer Sandra Sandor.

The brand – which opened a store in New York in 2019 and another in London in 2020 despite the pandemic – counts the United States as its biggest market but says China is the future. Parent company Vanguards Fashion Group, of which Baldaszti is also CEO, also bought Italian fashion brand Sunnei for $ 7 million in 2020 as part of a strategy to build a fashion portfolio across Europe.

Central Europe has a long tradition of craftsmanship in the textile industry dating back to the days of the First Republic between the two world wars, when the region was an epicenter of culture and design.

After the fall of communism in 1989, Western luxury brands and fashion houses settled down to produce bags, scarves and clothing in the region, capitalizing on proximity to Western European markets, lower costs and a skilled workforce.

Today, local luxury brands in these markets are moving in the other direction to tap into a global luxury goods sector that is expected to reach around $ 383 billion in 2025, up from $ 309 billion this year, aided by demand. in China and among Millennials, according to Hamburg. Statista database company.

“We started out by showing in Paris… but Instagram is something that has really opened the door for brands from countries that are not on the fashion map at all,” the founder of the bag maker told Reuters. Polish hand Chylak, Zofia Chylak.

A Chylak handbag, made of Italian leather, costs around 200-250 euros, and the brand’s popularity with some Polish influencers living abroad has helped it become a global name.


Bratislava-based Nehera – named after Czech businessman Jan Nehera who in the 1930s was the first in the world to pioneer ready-to-wear – presented his spring 2022 collection in Paris and plans to return to New York after pulling out during the pandemic.

“We aim to re-enter the US and European markets,” Ladislav Zdut, founder of the brand, which opened a showroom in Milan last month and is in talks with local investors to help fuel expansion plans, told Reuters .

“But we have significantly increased orders in South Korea and China and we have increased during the pandemic. “

A young generation of designers from small countries – many of whom have worked or studied abroad – have also amassed the contacts and knowledge necessary to serve an international luxury market, said Achim Berg, the group’s global leader in clothing and fashion. McKinsey fashion.

“Big luxury brands dominate market trends, but there is a desire for new brands for preservation and authenticity,” he told Reuters.

Scandinavian brands such as Acne Studios, Ganni and Toteme show how businesses in a small region outside of fashion capitals can establish themselves, according to Berg.

In central Europe, rising incomes have also created a stable local customer base able to afford luxury items that help young designers establish themselves before moving abroad, according to designers and companies.

Poland’s Magda Butrym took the local approach first when she started up in 2014 before going global, chief executive Jakub Czarnota told Reuters.

Lady Gaga was seen wearing a short Polka Dot Magda Butrym dress in a recent Instagram post and the brand, also favored by social media influencers, is now present in 40 markets. Asia and the Middle East offer strong growth opportunities in the future, but the company will continue to dig its regional roots to create something different, Czarnota said.

“Consumers around the world are eager to see what’s new and this gives brands an opportunity.

“Eastern European designers can take inspiration from their regional culture and heritage and translate them into distinct products and collections,” he said.

($ 1 = 0.8611 euros)

Reporting by Michael Kahn and Silvia Recchimuzzi, editing by Susan Fenton

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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