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Meet The Locals: Nathalie Kraynina

Images: Richardine Bartee
Nathalie Kraynina
Images: Richardine Bartee

Every now and then, you come across a talent that is downright undeniable and you cannot push it to the side, even if you tried. Adding fashion to that idea for me, it is even more of an infrequency.

Days after the Williamsburg Fashion Weekend, which I did not attend, I received a promotional email that included a look book. Before reading any of what was written, I wanted to know if her designs were worth my time based upon image alone. Some might digest it is as shallowness or crude behaviour, but I am in no illusion about what this business is about. Namely, fashion.

Recently, I visited her studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and I fell in love with her presentation and craftsmanship. Seeing her collection up close is a treat. Her collection shows me that though she might be a “new” designer, with tenacity, she is here to stay.

Reciting seeing her mother dress extravagantly as a little girl growing up in the late 80s early 90s, Kraynina remembers perfect strangers double-taking and complimenting her mother on the street all the time.

[quote]She was so beautiful.[/quote]

Luckily, her parents supported and believed in her career from the beginning. Later, Nathalie Kraynina attended Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC where she majored in fashion design and specialized in ready-to-wear and tailoring.

When asked about life after school and the importance of school, Kraynina replied, [quote]School gave me the foundations. I learned how to sew and make patterns the right way and it gave a true understanding of what it really entails to make a garment. I was really lucky to study under people who were in the industry for a very long time. I also had 2 internships with Badgley Mishka and Michael Kors, which really helped me to get the full understanding of a designer fashion house. I worked with the design teams and I was backstage at fashion shows as well in sales and marketing meeting. It was hard at times because I worked full-time and went to class at night but that experience really made who I am today. I love being in New York! I am grateful I had the opportunity to be in New York — everything is here![/quote]

As mentioned atop about her signature design style and swatch, it was her use of black and strong contours that pulled me in instantly:

Hand-dyed chiffon button down cropped top with cut-out back *Color may vary due to hand dye process. Fabric Contents: 100% Polyester & 100% silk crepe-de-chine. Care Instructions: Dry clean only . Click to order.

Whilst Kraynina would disagree and remain humble about her style being a signature one, we’ll do the honours.

Black is essential to her new collection and she loves to wear it. Factoring in that it is slimming and can be worn at any time of day, for any occassion and it is very New York. In fact, her S/S 2013 collection is all about reinventing black. It consists of interchangeable separates that can be worn together or can be added to any of your existing pieces. Kraynina wants you to think of your “little black dress” taken to a whole collection.

[quote]I wanted to make an effortless Summer line that plays with textures and silhouettes. I used easy fabrics like stretch denim and cotton and dress them up with leather, silk brocades, and embroidered some pieces with stones and jewels. Even though the whole collection is all black, it has touches of silver, blues and greens.[/quote]

Interview Highlights

On being a new designer and what makes her continue

Well, yes it is very hard. But once you start, you can’t look back and you can’t stop. Making clothes is truly what I love to do and I really can’t imagine myself doing anything else with my life. I learn and get better with every mistake and ultimately grow. It takes a really “thick skin” to make it in this industry. I know people always say that and I heard it so many times, but is actually so true. You just have to keep going and move forward. That’s how I look at life.

On her ultimate goal

I love creating wearable clothes. Fashion is art form that doesn’t really start to exist until someone puts it on and wears it out. It is kind of commercial, in that way, but that’s also the best part of it. You see people enjoying your creation. My ultimate goal is to be able to make clothes in a socially and eco responsible way and have women from all around the world be able to wear them.

On the importance of buying fabrics and garments locally instead outsourcing

Yes, this is one of the messages I am an advocate for and I like to talk about as a designer. It is not only that when you buy locally made garments you support local business and growth, but also you actually take a stand against the current standard. The more we all (as a collective body) buy garments that are produced in a socially responsible and eco-friendly way, the more the standards and regulations are going to change. The industry will change only if the consumers change their taste.

A friend of mine says this and I like to repeat it: “You vote with your money” every time you time you buy a $10.99 T-shirt there is someone on the other end that is paying for it with their blood.

I know it sounds dramatic, but it is actually true. And we are all guilty of doing it. After all, it is a great “deal” to find a super cute top for only $10.99, I know I have in the past; it is almost impossible to live in our present time and not have done that. But, if consumers get more educated on where things are made and how they are made and they ask more questions they will see that it is not such a great deal after all. Most things that are on sale are not left over stock or extra inventory that all of sudden you are getting a super exciting discount on, they are made to be sold at that discounted rate and in most cases they are made in very poor countries in horrific circumstances. I am not asking people to stop shopping, but just to start making small changes and make educated decisions. The companies will respond. Fashion is business and if want to change the way people make clothes we have to first change the way people shop.

On how people should feel when wearing her collection

I hope they feel beautiful and confident. I like to make pieces that are truly inspired by women themselves and that are very wearable. I strive to create pieces that are feminine and elegant and stay in women’s closets for decades to come. I want my clothes to say: Timeless elegance.

On I Can Too, Bulgarian foundation in support of children in need

Last year, I joined forces with them and created a line of t-shirts to be sold entirely on charity basis in support their mission. All profits from the sale of these t-shirts will go to the creation of the first Center for Autistic Children in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. The whole idea is that everyone does what he or she can to support. The motto is “Everyone CAN… create a better world… by doing whatever they CAN best.”

In our case, I designed the t-shirts, a factory in Bulgaria produced them and now, they are sold in a store front — all without anyone charging. We all donated our time, effort and resources to make this happen and I am proud to say people are now able to purchase these t-shirts spreading the message in support of the foundation. You can visit to learn more how you can be involved. (You might need a translator)

On her involvement with two great Brooklyn based companies in support of local aspiring fashion designers: Williamsburg Fashion Weekend and Manufacture New York

I have showed in WFW for the past 2 years (4 seasons). It has been great for me. It really gave me my start. As a new designer, fresh out of school, one faces many challenges. You not only have to design your collection, figure out how to create it and then produce it, but (and this is a “big” but) but spread the word out about it. WFW does just that.

Manufacture New York is a Kickstarter campaign that I just joined and I think we should all support and spread the word about. It is a fashion incubator dedicated to providing independent designers with the resources and skills to streamline their production process and transform local manufacturing into the most affordable, innovative option for all. Their headquarters will include a fully-equipped sampling room, manufacturing facilities, classroom space (open to the public), private studios for rent and a state-of-the art computer lab complete with the industry’s latest software for design + production. They will also offer a dedicated area for experimentation with environmentally-friendly fabric washes, dyeing, finishes and special textile applications. This campaign is big step in the right direction being that designers, like myself will be able to produce locally.

See more images from this feature by clicking here.

Written by Richardine Bartee

Her unprejudiced love for people, the arts, and business have taken her this far. Join Richardine on her journey as she writes history into existence, one article at a time. Richardine is a member of the Recording Academy/GRAMMYs, and a GRAMMY U Mentor. She is the North American Press Agent and US Business Manager for Oxlade; Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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