For several years sewing has been a hobby of Andrey Kravtsov. Then the designer, who was making his first steps, worked as a car assembler at the Hyundai plant in St. Petersburg and spent all his free time at a typewriter. “My friends and acquaintances asked about plans, offered to do something, go somewhere, and I answered all this:“I sew”. It sounded so often that I thought it would be nice to use the word "sew" as a name in the future. " This idea came to mind two and a half years before the launch of the brand. Later, when developing the SHU logo, an apostrophe was used, but over time it was abandoned, which in some way even benefited: it emphasized the minimalist style of clothing.
However, according to Andrey, from time to time the name raises questions, especially abroad: “I understood that there would be difficulties, but we did not want to change anything. Now I just explain that there is an English verb "sew", well, and we - "sew". The moment of harmony plays into the hands. Usually I tell foreigners how I sewed my first models myself, and of course they are delighted."
The raincoat is the starting point for the SHU. Petersburg played a key role in its creation: “It is a gray and rainy city. In this situation, the raincoat literally became a fix idea. It seemed to me that this is exactly what will be needed and in demand: bright, waterproof and technological things. In my case, the city itself determined the direction of the brand. " This is how the first raincoat model appeared, which is still produced in large quantities.
In addition, the brand has a project called "SHU update". The point is that customers exchange the very first raincoats that Andrey sewed himself for new models. In case the designer confirms the authenticity, the client must write some message on the old raincoat or express gratitude, after which the raincoat is removed to the museum. Andrey says that there are already many such copies, so maybe someday SHU will hold an exhibition.
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Andrey has no specialized design education, he had to learn sewing on his own. He ripped open ready-made things, made patterns on them, and by trial and error improved his skills. “There was a wild interest in creation, in new forms. Every time I got better and better, some orders started coming in. At that time I worked at the Hyundai plant, and already there I began to have clients, - the designer recalls. - When, during a short week's vacation, I earned more than at the factory, I realized that this was the first call to the fact that it was time to end this automotive activity. So I went on a free voyage, in which I still stay."
The start-up capital of SHU was laid-off from the factory. According to Andrey's recollections, it was about 30 thousand rubles. He also notes that for two and a half years, all the money he earned was invested in fabrics, needles and other materials and tools necessary for work. In addition, Andrey had a small studio in St. Petersburg, which he rented with friends.
“What I was doing at that time can hardly be called a business. For two and a half years it was just a hobby. No one helped me, and, rather, those around me were skeptical. Every now and then questions arose: "Do you sew? Why do you need this?" There are people who are literally from birth predicting the glory of a designer. I have a different story: I chose this profession at a conscious age and was convinced that it was mine."
Collections and assortment
SHU has two collections: spring-summer and winter. During the year, the brand also releases new positions or re-releases previous models. Today, in addition to outerwear, SHU sells T-shirts, backpacks, bags and other accessories. This year, the brand resumed production of jeans: “We have already made them in the past, but now we look at them differently. More releases are planned for next year. In general, since this year, we have been doing something new quite often,”says Andrey.
At the same time, things replenish the brand's assortment not because in this way SHU moves away from seasonality, but primarily because of the team's desire to create something that interests them. However, Andrey says that outerwear remains the main focus of SHU.
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It is quite expected that in the conditions of the Russian climate the most popular SHU product is winter jackets. Andrey adds that he always liked to make outerwear: “It is multifaceted and always in sight. We live in Russia, where most of the year is winter and bad weather. That is why it is great to do this type of clothing. I even feel socially responsible in my work."
SHU has been making production in China for the past five years. Now Andrei recalls that moving there was a kind of adventure and breakthrough: “After five years of living in St. Petersburg, I left with great zeal and interest: to a new life, to summer, to experiments. At the same time, there was no such moment that I sat down and decided: we will immediately transport everything to China. It was a test drive. " Once in Guangzhou and seeing how everything is arranged there, the designer was convinced that it would be convenient to sew things there: “In one place, both zippers and fabrics are immediately produced. There are many more opportunities in China than in Russia. Of course, at first we had fears that some difficulties might arise, but we decided to try and were not disappointed. This is much more convenient for the brand, but perhaps not for my life: I go there every month for 5-7 days, or even more. But in general, everything is in its place."
SHU positions itself as a technology brand, which still sounds incredible in Russian fashion realities: very few brands, even when it comes to the outerwear segment, work with advanced materials. Each raincoat and jacket is made of membrane fabrics, synthetic material DuPont Sorona is used as insulation. Products with it can even be machine washed. “Fashion design means knowing all the ingredients. We go to exhibitions, look at new technologies. I understand how all this is done, and with each new collection we bring some new features to what we create."
The brand has never used animal materials. Andrey says that for SHU this is an absolutely logical choice: “Now everyone has begun to think about the harm that people do to nature and animals. Anyway, I hope that conscious people do not want this. There are a lot of guys in our team who have given up meat for a long time. Not that we are fighting for it, everything happened naturally."
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In comparison with many domestic outdoor brands or even mass market brands, SHU has quite affordable prices. A classic raincoat costs RUB 5,900, an oversized raincoat made of lightweight and breathable membrane fabric - RUB 9,900, a raincoat with a hood and a zipper will cost RUB 8,900, and each of them comes with a special case for comfortable storage and transportation. Another plus is a detailed description of each product. The information indicates not only the composition, but also the manufacturers of the fittings, as well as the features of the thing (for example, what pressure of the water column the raincoat is designed for).
At the same time, Andrey believes that SHU prices are not that low: “Perhaps, other brands with similar products have higher costs. We try to make our jackets so that they are affordable. I cannot say that they are inexpensive if you look at the economic situation in the country. For Moscow, this may be low prices, but in the regions everything is completely different. However, the reason for our success, perhaps, lies also in the pricing. For example, North Face's similar products are much more expensive."
What started as a small studio in St. Petersburg has become a serious and profitable business. Now the actively growing brand team has about 30 people, SHU has three flagship stores: in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. In the near future, it is planned to open another outlet in St. Petersburg. In addition, the brand has more than 40 wholesale partners, and today SHU is represented in almost all major Russian cities.
This year, the brand began expansion into the European and Eastern markets. In January 2019, the SHU team went to Pitti Uomo for the first time. “It was a deliberate decision, and we have been preparing for a long time. We changed the identity, updated the logo, changed the visual part. We made a collection for the year ahead, which is very important for exhibitions,”says Andrey.
In total, during its first season in Europe, the brand has visited four exhibitions, completing a tour in Copenhagen at the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair (CIFF). Andrey says that the team was not ready for such increased attention from distributors and stores: “We chose for a long time and carefully who we would work with, because there were a lot of offers from distributors from different countries, and we did not understand who was better and who is worse. We went to numerous meetings, dinners and breakfasts and finally saw what a fashion industry is, which we don't have in our country. Recently we received a call from the Delovoy Peterburg newspaper and asked what, in our opinion, the Russian fashion industry was lacking. I honestly said that in fact it is not enough: we have no industry."
At the end of the season, SHU signed contracts for the supply of autumn-winter collections to Italy, Germany, Japan, Korea and Scandinavian countries. From September this year, the brand will be presented in over 100 stores. “In general, during these six months we have learned a lot, gained incredible experience. In June we went to Pitti Uomo again, and a few days later we are going to Copenhagen for CIFF - this is the last exhibition where we take part and close orders for the spring. In September we will start production of the 2020 spring-summer collection.”
Andrey notes that Pitti Uomo turned out to be the most effective platform: “This is our first exhibition, and now we have to be there always or for a long time until we understand that we have all the necessary connections. In fact, it was very pleasant to receive compliments not only from distributors, but also from the owners of the exhibition itself. We were with them at dinner, and they expressed their respect to me and our entire team, said that we were actively discussed and discussed a lot."
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Corporate orders and collaborations
For many local brands, large corporate orders are becoming a good, and often the main source of income. Work uniforms, identity, logos created as collaborations between companies and designers are not uncommon for a long time. “At some time we had a lot of such orders. They appear now. We discussed something, even thought to cooperate with Yandex: they wanted winter jackets for a food delivery service. But we realized that this does not suit us. In general, in my opinion, either you are serious about the brand and it remains your only source of income, or you take on such orders. It may be profitable commercially, but not very interesting."
As for collaborations, the SHU team is open to cooperation: “If a brand is close to us in spirit and we like each other, we feel a certain power of attraction, then we are ready to do something together. This year we have released a collection with the yacht club and school "Power of the Wind", and in 2018 - with the St. Petersburg beer company”.
In the past, Andrei was seriously involved in music and wanted to become an artist. Life has made its own adjustments, but the connection between the designer and his brand with the music world is still very strong.
At the very beginning of the brand's existence, Russian musicians appeared in SHU raincoats, which benefited the brand's popularity. “Initially it was my sincere initiative, I wanted to thank my favorite musicians, and especially Evgeny Fedorov. I never had an idea to dress everyone. At that moment I saw a reciprocal gratitude, he was very pleased to receive a thing as a gift. Since then, I have made such gifts only to those who I sincerely liked. " Among contemporary Russian musicians, Andrei does not see new and interesting heroes for the brand: “I don't even know who I would like to give something to. Now everyone listens to rap, but I don't understand this music and don't really like it. As far as Western musicians go, the only person I really want to see in SHU is Thom Yorke. That's so immodest. ">