It was Iana Kuznietsova’s childhood dream to design clothes, and in 2016, that came true with the launch of OCHI. “We like to produce clothes that will remain relevant for years,” Kuznietsova describes her outerwear brand, with its timelessly classic silhouettes, supple fabrics, and rich complex colours. “The classic versatility of our collections means that our clients have the freedom to easily mix and match...to create the latest fashion look or to highlight their own style beyond fleeting trends.”
The designer began experimenting on a whim, designing and producing elegant outerwear staples from stock design fabrics. This spontaneous yet business-savvy beginning led to the brand’s organic growth, and Kuznietsova started selling her designs in limited quantities in her home-country, Ukraine. Two years after launching, she had developed enough pieces ready for international markets, debuting her first full collection for SS’19, including vegan leather trenches, velvety faux fur coats and sleek tailored blazers.
“We tend to find that buyers and customers are amazed by the quality of our fur and leather, and they often can’t believe that they are faux”
Like most young digital-first brands, Kuznietsova uses Instagram to broaden her audience reach, wisely believing it is a powerful tool to connect with potential customers. “As a 21st century business, it would certainly be a mistake to underestimate the influence of social-media,” she says. Strategically, she partnered with connected influencers and industry insiders – including model Coco Rocha, and Vogue Ukraine’s fashion director Julie Pelipas. It worked and the collection spread like wildfire, catching the attention of Net-A-Porter, who invited Kuznietsova to take part in The Vanguard (a mentorship programme for emerging design talent). On this venture, she comments, “We’re happy with the sales reports from [them] so far.”
Yet, while Instagram has played a major role in propelling the brand forward, the designer is eager to let the physical product speak for itself: “Instagram has been a strong visual tool for the majority of our customers to get to know the brand, however, I’d say OCHI’s real success comes from the tactile feel of our collections – everybody praises the quality of our materials.” While some of OCHI’s fabrics are sourced from neighbouring Italy, surprisingly, Kuznietsova gets the bulk of her materials – faux fur and leather – from China, believing that they are field-leaders.
“We tend to find that buyers and customers are amazed by the quality of our fur and leather, and they often can’t believe that they are faux,” she discloses proudly. “In turn, we are thrilled to be able to create such a strong product while endorsing and embracing sustainable processes ” - a cornerstone of OCHI’s ethos. From fabrication to slow production processes, Kuznietsova works with local manufacturers all over Odessa. “It’s important for me to support the development of small businesses in Ukraine, so we prefer to work with local producers where they prioritise quality over quantity.” This quality-led, made-in-Ukraine approach - soon to be applied to handbags and footwear- may well be what tops buyers wishlists next season.