Whether or not you’ve heard the name, you've probably seen Nanushka on Instagram already. The Budapest-based brand has over 114k followers, and its ready-to-wear pieces, favoured for their contemporary cuts and feminine flourishes, appear on the feeds of everyone from fashion buying director Tiffany Hsu to mega-influencers like Marta Cygan and Camille Charriere. Nanushka was highlighted by Net-A-Porter’s Lisa Aiken at a recent trend presentation, showed at New York Fashion Week this February for SS18, and has spawned many a high street imitation.
The brainchild of Sandra Sandor, Nanushka has actually been established for over a decade, since Sandor graduated from the London College of Fashion back in 2005. Having more recently caught the eye of the buyers at Net-A-Porter and Browns, Nanushka is riding the same wave as brands like Ganni, Rixo and Staud, which also offer high-quality, directional, easy-to-wear pieces at a mid-range price point.
Ahead of the launch of the brand’s first all-important pre-fall collection (the longest-running season in fashion) we caught up with Sandor to discuss the best places to visit in Budapest, why vegan leather is essential to her as a designer, and running a family business.
You studied in London; what do you love about the creative scene here?
The freeness of the city very much helped me to evolve my style. It was completely different from Budapest. People dared to express their personality through clothing, while in Budapest everyone was much more reserved.
Where did you hang out and find inspiration in London?
I used to live around Little Venice. I think it’s beautiful, however London is huge and has so many different areas, and it’s really like a melting pot of all these different, sometimes clashing, cultures. This is very much present in all of my collections – juxtaposing different cultural elements, which then creates an unexpected harmony.
How was Nanushka born?
While working on my graduate collection in the final semester of university, I felt ambitious and truly inspired to start my own brand. The decision was born then, that instead of continuing my studies with an internship at a bigger fashion house – like most of the fresh graduates – I returned from London and started working on my own collection.
You're now stocked at Net-A-Porter and Browns – what was the turning point for you?
For the first seven years we catered only for our local market and customers. Around 2012 we started selling to international stockists, but we stayed under the radar until very recently.
At the end of 2016, Peter, my partner in life and business, joined me as the CEO of Nanushka, making it a family business. We have decided to pursue a more ambitious growth strategy with a more global presence, and a complete rebranding, to build a proper fashion house.
I also needed this time to shape my world, figure out my ethos, and find my voice. I think the market just simply noticed that the brand is ready, and it was time to put its trust in us, and for this we are really grateful.
Talk me through the brand’s name...
It was my childhood nickname! My name is Sandra so the typical nickname is Sandy, but Sandy became Nany, because I couldn’t pronounce Sandy, and then my father started calling me Nanushka.
You’ve talked about function being important to the brand, why is this?
The concept is to create a bridge between intuitive and functional design. The clothes that we will keep loving and will become our wardrobe staples, are those in which we really feel comfortable.
You’re based in your native Budapest – did you always plan on returning there?
I had always planned to move back home to Budapest where I have my family and friends, whose personal and professional support always meant a lot to me. The city is my home, this is where we live with Peter. And this is the place where we created our beautiful new concept store – the Nanushka Store & Café – to reflect everything that I like so much about Budapest, and the world as well.
Where should we visit in Budapest?
One of my favourite restaurants is Fama, one of Budapest's newest and most innovative eateries, where elegance, contemporary kitchen trends, and creativity mingle with a cool and laid-back attitude. Krisztian Huszar’s kitchen combines Hungarian cuisine with exotic spices and Asian influences. We also asked him to create our menu for the dinner which we held in LA to celebrate our new pop-up store at Platform.
We also have beautiful mountains, just a 15-minute car drive from downtown Budapest. Every tourist focuses on the city sites when it comes to the capital, and no one goes out to the Buda Mountains. It’s such a shame, as it is truly a wonderful place and there are many great hike tracks around.
Does Hungary inspire your design at all?
What drives me as a designer is how I can create a bridge between distant cultural references from different times and different places. How to create balance and harmony within the clash of cultures. I grew up in Budapest, and the city has always been an intersection between East and West. This duality has formed our culture, personality and aesthetics, and my perception as a designer. The city has been influenced by distant cultures, from the Ottoman Empire and Germanic migration, through the vivid cultural life of the Belle Époque in the turn of the century, until the Communist era of the second half of the 20th century.
You use vegan leather – is finding a cruelty-free alternative a big part of your ethos?
Cruelty-free is very important, but vegan leather is also important in terms of protecting our planet and being environmentally friendly. People often forget how toxic the tanning process could be when the protein has to be converted and extracted. By using vegan leather, we cut the tanning process out.
Now that bigger designers are shunning fur, do you think the industry as a whole will move towards completely cruelty-free fashion in the future?
I think so, I think the fashion industry is changing – we have to take better care of our planet.
You recently teamed up with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's initiative for a circular economy in fashion. What drew you to the scheme, and what part do you play in it?
Fashion is the second most wasteful and harmful industry in terms of polluting the planet. By joining EMF initiative we can really start changing the industry and protecting this beautiful place. The great thing about being a partner is that they help you connect with other fashion brands and try to find a solution together. Moreover, we can use more and more certified fibres, as one of their main points is to get the brands connected with suppliers that are fully certified and all fibres are traceable.
How would you describe the Nanushka woman?
I like to call the Nanushka girl a modern human, who is respectful of the life and cultures of others, cherishing the planet as well as being deeply confident in her femininity. She also dares to express her style, likes functionality and values spirituality.
You’ve said the brand "aims to create a new informal form of beauty" – what do you mean by this?
I believe that when you feel comfortable you will feel more beautiful and free. Clothes should elevate you and not restrict. The travelling state of mind really inspires me, when you are free and more receptive, almost with a childlike mind, when everything is new and exciting.
What's up next for you and the brand?
We have a very exciting year ahead of us. Just before our NYFW presentation, we opened our new Budapest flagship store and café and then we brought Nanushka to LA in April with our pop-up store at Platform. As we truly believe in the power of bricks and mortar, we’re looking for the next location to open our second permanent store in New York or London.