Q&A | KSENIASCHNAIDER
Kyiv-based couple, Ksenia and Anton Schnaider are the masterminds of award-winning contemporary denim brand, KSENIASCHNAIDER. Combining passions of graphic and garment design, sustainability, and the city of Kyiv, the innovative brand seeks modern techniques to propel the industry towards change. While ethical fashion gradually evolves within the industry, Anton and Ksenia offer continuous ethical fashion without a style sacrifice. We spoke with Ksenia to discuss the brand’s inception and creative process, upcycling practices, and the future of KSENIASCHNAIDER.
Tells us about the inception of KSENIASCHNAIDER.
Before 2010 when I met my future husband Anton, I was already working in fashion with my own Kyiv-based streetwear brand. In the meantime, Anton had been working as a graphic designer in Moscow for a variety of clients, including Artemy Lebedev Studio and Yandex. After we met, we didn’t aim to create the brand at once. I continued to create clothing, only this time the ideas were both mine and Anton’s. The items I made at that time were for myself and my friends mostly, but eventually, we received incredible feedback and there was a demand for our clothing. That inspired us to start the KSENIASCHNAIDER brand in 2011. Since then it’s felt natural to continue to bring our ideas through clothing for more and more people.
What inspires your creative process from concept to creation?
We can’t ignore everyday reality, which we are living and working in. Both of us always find the beauty in imperfections; transform kitsch into utility, find inspiration in the ridiculous architecture of our beloved city Kyiv, nasty advertisements and so on. I’m sure that if we were living in Rome or Tokyo, our collections would be completely different. But we are here in Kyiv, and sometimes we may be mad at this city for its visual overdose, but we always find inspiration here and then unconsciously use it in our collections.
We are also inspired by people a lot. At every stage of our creative process –– from idea to concept to creation –– its the human interactions that always drive our creativeness further.
How has sustainability rooted itself in your brand DNA?
We live in a part of the world that is rarely viewed as environmentally friendly, and with realization that fashion has one of the most negative impacts on environment, it felt natural to become committed to sustainability. Around three years ago it became a significant part of our brand’s DNA.
For 2019, we are continuing to upcycle and experiment with vintage denim and textile leftovers from previous brand collections. We continuously discover the use of new materials like ISKO Earth Fit™ responsible fabrics made with organic cotton, pre- and post-consumer recycled cotton and recycled polyester from plastic bottles. We used this while creating the first KSENIASCHNAIDER eco-denim capsule made in collaboration with the global leader in denim production and textile innovation, ISKO.
As a designer, it’s important for me to create clothing not only with organic and vintage materials but also to make them cutting-edge. After all, people, especially the post-Soviet generation, are not buying something just because it’s good for the planet. They want to have something that they believe is cool and what makes them look good. By designing and producing truly original and signature clothing, I’m sharing the idea of sustainability with our customers and make this idea valuable to them also.
Explain the experimentation process of upcycling with denim and knitwear.
Our denim upcycling process begins with the purchase of the second-hand denim jeans, which are then thoroughly washed and dried. When choosing our denim, we pick only heavy 100% cotton denim. The treated jeans are cut by hand in a laborious process, sometimes at a rate of just eight pairs of jeans a day. Some portions of original needlework are preserved, combining with new stitching when creating the final pieces. Once deconstructed and cut to the desired shape the ends of the material is carefully shredded to achieve the line’s signature frayed appearance. The final stage involves changing zippers and pegs to new silver ones and lastly stitching on the KSENIASCHNAIDER label to complete the work.
When Anton mentioned the pile of denim pieces left unwanted after cutting vintage denim and made a joke that this pile looks like a fur coat, our team turned that joke into a real denim “fur” coat. It took time to find the right technology to create it; every single coat is made by hand only, and it takes five days to create one, KSENIASCHNAIDER proudly presented powder blue and dark blue denim “fur” coats in the previous collection and a black “fur” coat in Resort ’19.
As to upcycling experiments with knitwear, when largest Ukrainian textile manufactory Rito approached us last year and offered to share their knitted leftovers with us, it inspired me to create also sweaters and dresses with woven pieces of different colors and structures for KSENIASCHNAIDER FW ‘19-20 collection.
How do you remain sustainable in aspects of washing and dyeing processes?
We turned our Kyiv-based studio into a laboratory for washing, reworking, designing and creating new denim clothing in one place to minimize waste, water, and energy footprints. As for dyeing processes, since we use vintage denim that comes in various colors, we don’t dye it over but use the advantages of different denim shades (like the Rainbow Denim pants).
What role does functionality take in your designs?
Functionality is the core of all our designs. We believe that our brand’s uniqueness is in creating functional, kind of effortlessly cool clothing that is wearable and easy for understanding but still with hidden gems.
When creating any denim item, I think if I would wear it myself, and I honestly wear KSENIASCHNAIDER denim every day.
Which garment has played an instrumental part in your brand’s success?
After years of experiments in 2016, we invented the brand’s signature piece — Demi-Denims –– an unusual skirt, shorts & jeans combo that was one of 2018’s most viral trends with the stamp of approval from Dazed, Vogue, Highsnobiety, Refinery29, etc. Among the influencers spotted wearing them were Bella Hadid, Camila Cabello, and Eleonora Carisi.
Thankfully to the worldwide Demi-Denims success, our team decided to develop our emerging denim collection further and to focus on creating more sustainable denim items.
What can we expect next from KSENIASCHNAIDER?
We just recently launched the first-ever KSENIASCHNAIDER menswear line. Since KSENIASCHNAIDER brand’s launch, Anton and I have been working together so it felt natural to develop both womenswear and menswear.
Previously, we were not ready to create a separate men’s line because it’s a different market. However, every collection featured a reworked sportswear capsule, and unisex items, like the signature Demi-Denims. We started with ongoing Resort and SS ‘19 season, and are planning to develop KSENIASCHNAIDER menswear line further, as well as to add more accessories (for instance, this year we made Demi-Denim key-rings, and they were a huge success!).
Overall, we hope to expand the presence of KSENIASCHNAIDER globally.