Born out of the simple desire for the perfect black dress, KATIMO is a brand in which artistry meets functionality. Founded by Katya Timoshenko in 2015, the Ukrainian brand empowers and embraces its wearer.
IN CONVERSATION WITH UKRAINIAN BRAND KATIMO
“If a woman wakes up in the morning, opens her wardrobe and sees clothes that make her feel more confident, this means that I have completed my task as a designer.”
Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind Katimō and its founding in 2015?
In the summer of 2015, I wanted to buy a dress, visited almost all available stores, but did not find the one I wanted. I was very surprised then. Why does it take me so long to find what I want to buy when fashion is such a competitive and developed industry? It’s a no-brainer, a simple volume black dress made of heavy fabric. I was so indignant that Vitaly (my husband) offered me to sew one myself if I knew what I wanted so clearly. On the same day, we went to the store, bought about 4 meters of fabric for 500 hryvnias (by the way, these 500 hryvnias were the only financial investment in the Katimo brand) and the same evening I sewed her first dress without any design, cutting and sewing skills. The next day, I wore it to work, where a colleague saw me and asked me to sew the same one for her. This is how the brand earned its first money, which we used to buy more fabric and sew several such dresses. The first clients found us through acquaintances and placed orders. For a while, we just sewed and sold this single dress model, and only after a month we realized that what was happening was like the beginning of our own brand, we came up with a name and started a Katimo Instagram page. Then there were the first uncertain attempts to understand a completely new industry for us. The purchase of the first sewing machine, the first tailors, the lease of three square-meters of the sewing workshop, moving, the lease of the basement floor for the showroom. A lot of things that formed this priceless experience.
How would you describe the aesthetic principles and design philosophy of Katimō?
It is always important to me how good design can improve a woman’s individual life. It’s not just about creating beautiful pieces of clothing. Everything artistic should have something functional, and that should serve the woman who wears Katimo.
Our collections exist outside of time, but at the same time always remain relevant to the current moment and sensitive to the dynamically changing world. When creating collections, I always think about the woman who will wear it. It is important for me how she will feel like, whether she will feel beautiful and confident, how comfortable she will be, for what events she can choose these clothes. The main goal of my work is to create new meanings and lay a personal story in every thing.
Fashion is about emotions, and they cannot be artificially created.
The brand’s collections focus on women’s authenticity and genuine beauty found in oppositions. Could you elaborate on this concept and how it is reflected in your designs?
Katimo is a hedonistic mindset based on a combination of two very different personalities: one open, bold and rebellious, the other reserved, calm and intelligent. The word “beauty” can be understood though this equilibrium, the balance of opposites. Whether they are used to representing internal or external attributes, when things are balanced and in harmony, they tend to radiate beauty. Fashion for us is just a starting point, because Katimo is a vision of life, not just style.
Could you tell us about the materials and craftsmanship standards that Katimō adheres to in its production process?
As for production, an uncompromising approach to quality is our highest priority. We work on each pattern until a perfect fit, choose the best materials and care very much about the quality of tailoring. The concept of “comfort” is very important for me – what it represents and how we can achieve it. If a woman wakes up in the morning, opens her wardrobe and sees clothes that make her feel more confident, this means that I have completed my task as a designer.
Katimō produces two main seasonal collections per year. Can you give us some insights into the creative process behind these collections?
The key task of the main collections is to build the foundation for creating a seasonal wardrobe. They always are built on the basis of one product matrix, which includes a basic set of models from casual to more exquisite.
When creating the main collection, I always make sure that the Katimo woman can find clothes here for any of her scenarios. All items from the main seasonal collections are timeless, but at the same time they always remain relevant to the current moment and sensitive to the dynamically changing world.
The recent Katimo Summer 2023 collection features soft and structured silhouettes. What was the inspiration behind this collection, and what are some key pieces or highlights from it?
The Summer 2023 collection continues the theme of the season dedicated to the water element. On the night of June 6, Russian troops blew up the dam of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station, and we are still trying to realize the consequences. Previously, the power of water captivated now it terrifies.
I thought about this for a long time before releasing our summer collection. I thought that water is life and it is a force that can give, and can take away. In June, it took away, albeit with man’s help. But there is no life without water. Nothing living can exist. It is a symbol of novelty, freshness, purification, it is dynamics, forward movement, strength and power. In the collection, all this is reflected in shiny fabrics that imitate fish scales. In soft silhouettes of dresses, as well as the main symbol of the collection – the fish, which is presented in the form of jewelry and fabric appliqués on tops.
Sustainability and respect for the environment are important values for Katimō. How does the brand incorporate these values into its practices?
We use deadstock textiles to create our collections. Much of the manufacturing process is done by hand. We have almost no leftovers from the collections of past seasons, as we avoid overproduction, making exactly the amount that we can sell, and we also produce items on pre-order. We do not use plastic for packaging, designing it in such a way that the bag or box can be reused. And also, every year in July we have a special limited collection, created entirely from the remnants of fabrics from previous collections. Currently we are preparing the release of such a collection and it is always a very exciting and difficult job for the whole team.
Katimō’s new collection includes tops made from modal, a fabric derived from eucalyptus cellulose. What are the advantages of using modal, and why did you choose it for these pieces?
Again, based on the thought of the comfort of our clothes, we try to work with fabrics that, in addition to a beautiful appearance, also have excellent properties.
The peculiarity of modal is that its production is practically waste-free and does not harm the environment, and the fiber itself is a symbiosis of natural and synthetic fibers. Advantages of this material are: it is pleasant to the touch, environmentally friendly fiber from eucalyptus, hypoallergenic, durable and wear-resistant, combines the best qualities of natural materials, freely passes air (“breathes”), perfectly absorbs and evaporates moisture (better than cotton), has antibacterial properties, retains its shape after repeated washes, does not fluff, practically does not wrinkle and does not accumulate static electricity.
Minimalism is a key aspect of Katimō’s design approach. How do you ensure that minimalistic designs remain interesting and captivating, rather than becoming boring?
Simplicity is the highest complexity.
In our collections, we explore the beauty of simple things and celebrate the power of femininity. Intuitive design is close to my heart, mainly because it gives our clients the freedom to express themselves, which, in my opinion, is the most important task of fashion. Our clothes are made by women for women and I know very well what they don’t want – they don’t want complications. Answering the question of how to make minimalistic design not be boring, I will say that I believe that the energy of any clothing comes from the person who wears it, and not vice versa. When a woman is confident in herself, feels comfortable, likes herself – at that moment she is the most beautiful in the world, even if she is wearing a simple black dress. Our clothes are designed to give exactly these feelings.
The brand offers both basic and seasonal lines. What led to the decision of providing these two distinct collections, and how do they cater to different customer needs?
Each season, following different concepts and themes, the general vibe of Katimo is more than just clothes. The main collections have more basic models. In small capsule collections, we allow ourselves more creativity. In short and metaphorically, basic collections are the foundation, while capsule collections make it possible to repaint the facade in a brighter color, while maintaining the overall concept and architecture of the building.
Looking back at the six years since the brand’s inception, what has been the most significant lesson you’ve learned as a founder?
You should always be honest in your work and open to new things.
You should not be afraid to make mistakes, because mistakes make us stronger.
You should never stop and you always have to be a little dissatisfied with your work in order to do it better and better every time.
The surest path to success is through absolute love for what you do.
Could you share some insights into the importance of teamwork and the role it plays in the success of Katimō?
From the first day of existence – Katimo is about working in tandem, in a team with my husband. With each subsequent step in the brand development, we are convinced of how important teamwork is. At some point, you just realize that no matter how multitasking you are, defocusing in business does not bring the proper result. We are maximalists by nature, therefore, if we do something, we do it to the maximum. At this stage, it is a well-chosen team that plays the most important role. Everyone is important. Cleaning service employees, tailors, logisticians, and the office are equally important… Everyone is involved and extremely important in their position. This is the only right way.
What are your plans for the future of Katimō? Are there any exciting developments or expansion plans on the horizon?
Right now, despite the ongoing war in Ukraine, assessing all the risks, we continue to move forward, invest in business, build a new store, expand the team, prepare to launch new brand lines. Answering a question about plans, I think that now we cannot not build them. All Ukrainians live in permanent stress, when it is very easy to fall into the postponed life syndrome, so moving forward right now is the main life-affirming force. In addition, we have a common goal – we want the whole world to know what a strong, freedom-loving and talented nation we are.
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about Katimō and its position in the fashion industry?
Continuing my answer to the previous question, I want to talk about what gives strength to me and the team to work in these turbulent times. We are all familiar with the saying “beauty will save the world”, and so, right now, we are all deeply aware of the meaning of these words. Beauty is our backbone. This is what helps us move forward. I have a couple of stories that illustrate well what I’m talking about. During one of the massed shelling of Kyiv, our client spent several hours in a shelter near the store, because she needed to try on a dress in which she was going to go on a date that evening.
And the second one. On the eve of the new collection release, the whole country had a sleepless night due to a long air raid and massive rocket attack. And we even thought about rescheduling the release, but at the last moment we decided to release the collection as a symbol of invincibility. And what was our surprise when in the morning at 11 am a queue gathered at the entrance to the store for the presentation and start of sales of the new collection. That day we set a sales record.
This is a shining example of the strength and love of life our beautiful women have. Just imagine, Friday, 8 am, air raid alert, 70 missiles fired at Ukraine, blackouts, cuts in water and heat supply. And we go for a new dress, because we live our best life here and now.