ONE SLEEVE AT A TIME
Reflecting on 2020 with emerging brand AYLAFAYE STUDIOS.
ALL CLOTHES AYLAFAYE STUDIOS
PHOTOGRAPHY ANNA ROSOVA
MAKE-UP DAVID GILLIERS
MODELS JASMINE J (PRESENT) AND XIAOYI LIU (FIRST LONDON)
It would be an understatement to say that 2020 has been a difficult year. We’ve been following Aylafaye Studios since their early days and, in a year where the world seems to be falling apart, Jekaterina Kazakevica has been building the fashion brand to an even stronger place – all while juggling a young family. The year has been full-on for this Latvian-born, London-based designer, and we spoke with her about the challenges and learning from trying to grow a small business in the fashion industry over the past 12 months.
I started out studying at the Riga Design and Art college – which is probably the best school I’ve ever been to. After graduation I moved to London, began my degree in fashion at UAL (University of the Arts London), and after 3 years and various internships… I decided not to pursue a career in the fashion industry.
I was very young and hasty, but one of the reasons I didn't want to pursue a career in design at the time (and this might sound ridiculous) was because one day I was walking down Oxford Street and saw so many clothes in every single store – the sheer quantity just blew my mind and I thought to myself, “Who needs another designer?”
So, I gave up on the idea for 5 years, and to be honest I feel like I was daydreaming for all that entire period. When I became pregnant with my daughter Ayla (Ayla Faye), I kind of ‘woke up’.
Once she was born and having naps I started to sew in the next room, little by little. Finally getting a taste for colours, shapes and imagining music, the idea of creating. Speaking with my brother a lot meant that naturally he became a kind of advisor to me and I felt he should be a part of this too, and to be honest I couldn’t do this without him anyway.
The idea of creating and finally ‘re-creating’ made me feel good and I decided that all my fashion pieces would be made from clothing that I can find in second-hand shops, or in my grandmother's loft.
As a designer these days I feel there is a huge responsibility to consider what sources you are using to make your dream come true, and to think smartly about sustainable practices that avoid harming anyone in the production process.
Our brand is still very new, and we are still sculpting it into something that we can be proud of. We’re excited when we have a chance to collaborate with other creatives and share those moments which drive our work.
My brother and I are from Latvia and we feel a need to produce and support manufacturers in our home country. There’s fantastic quality clothing coming from Latvia now, and I just hope that we can grow together and put out something that is meaningful and thoughtful.
It was and is a difficult time for sure – with all production deadlines and trying to make sure that it runs as it used to. However, you have to accept a challenge and move forward with a positive mindset to do what you can, instead of worrying about things that are out of your control. It definitely gave us more time to think, and we had time to discover new ways of producing and sourcing our fabrics.
It’s a non-stop process of constant searching, saving images on the phone, taking pictures, making notes, discovering a model on the tube and running after her (it makes it sound a bit like stalking people!). It all comes together when the deadline hits and I print everything out and start draping on the mannequin or sending files to print samples.
We started with a small capsule collection of jumpsuits that went really well, however, we didn't want to limit ourselves and started developing more ideas. I don't think there is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ product for us – it's about doing it our way more than anything else.
"Work hard, stay up late, wake up early, work again (repeat). This is my advice to anyone who wants to build a business. Creativity chooses when it wants to happen, but the more you prepare and work the more likely you will cultivate an environment that creativity can thrive in."
I don’t know why, but I really dislike the word "business", however – it is a business and in order to progress you have to make it work, otherwise it is a hobby.
The most interesting part in this whole process is when I can invite a model for a second fitting. The first fitting is more about roughly finalising the idea, but the second one is when you can more or less understand and see the whole look and you can start playing with it. That's when I get the feel of how things are going to look.
Everyone's approach and knowledge is so different – I can only talk from my point of view and experience however it's not the same as anyone else’s, so those paths can be very different.
Work hard, stay up late, wake up early, work again (repeat). This is my advice to anyone who wants to build a business. Creativity chooses when it wants to happen, but the more you prepare and work the more likely you will cultivate an environment that creativity can thrive in.
2020 was a strange year for all of us. When I decided to work on my brand, I knew it would be challenging and was mentally prepared for that – but this year took it to another level. One thing I definitely improved upon was my patience and resilience.
The more impatient you are the more stressed you’ll get. Who needs that?! You also have to learn to not take things too personally, which can be hard when you pour yourself into your work.
Finding balance within yourself and your work is key, which I can’t say I have achieved fully just yet. Like the brand, it’s a work in progress.
I had some good advice from a friend recently, “Do what feels right and trust your instinct.”
My brother always tells me to not stress about things I cannot control, and my husband tells me to remember to eat, drink water and exercise – essentially to not forget to look after myself. I think these are the things I always take with me.