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PORTRAIT: Viktoria and Kathrine Nasteva, Founders of eco-fashion label LOZENA

20. Juni 2016
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Meet the Nasteva sisters, Viktoria and Kathrine!

Founders of LOZENA, an eco-fashion label based in Indianapolis in the United States. Inspired by their grandmother, who was a master of sewing, leatherwork and embroidery in Bulgaria, and their mother, who designed and created her own garments, the sisters started LOZENA two years ago. With their clothes, the Nastevas are redefining responsible fashion for the modern and sophisticated woman; their fabrics are ethically sourced and their designs inspired by their Slavic heritage.

We spoke to Kathrine and Viktoria about ethical fashion and the challenges of siblings starting a company together.

How would you describe each other in three adjectives?

Viktoria:              Kathrine is driven, savvy and resourceful.

Kathrine:            Viktoria is chic, talented and a visionary.

Please finish the sentence: „When I get up in the morning, I…..“

Viktoria: I make a cup of cocoa or tea and enjoy it while watching live tennis, browsing the internet or flipping through a magazine.

Kathrine: Drink coffee and catch up on the day’s news.

What is your vision and the story behind LOZENA?

Kathrine & Viktoria: Our vision for LOZENA is to redefine the way consumers perceive eco-conscious, socially responsible apparel. As a company, we strive to uphold the highest degree of quality and to create innovative and culturally inspired designs fit for style trendsetters. LOZENA does not just make clothing – we’re a fashion brand. We intend to grow our business into a worldwide, recognizable name in the high-end market while at the same time staying true to the values that inspired us to start LOZENA in the first place – sustainability, fair trade, and transparency.

What are the biggest challenges as a start-up? And especially as a start-up in eco-fashion?

Lozena2

From the 3.0 Lozena Lookbook

Kathrine & Viktoria: One of the biggest challenges for any start-up is staying organized and focused. We do so many things at once, so having a clear understanding of our strategy and prioritizing accordingly is key. Building and engaging a customer base is also very difficult, but crucial. The social media boom has forced every business to include content production in its scope of work. A great product is not enough anymore; you must generate photos, videos, blog posts, etc. consistently in order to maintain consumers’ interest and build loyalty.

The eco-fashion market also has inherent challenges. The cost of high-end, organic fabrics and hand-woven materials is often more than triple that of their conventional counterparts, which indicates a lack of supply. Product variety is also an issue in the sustainable market. Lastly, responsible fashion seems ubiquitous to us because we work in this sector, but the truth is that it has not yet received the attention it deserves in the mainstream, making the shift toward buying slow and presenting an additional barrier to new brands.

Do you think it was easier or more difficult for you being siblings to start a company together?

Viktoria: It has definitely been easier and more fun! We have certainly hit roadblocks, but we know, support and complement each other so well. We really are best friends, and both want this for each other as much as for ourselves.

When you disagree on something – how do you solve it?

Kathrine: We both have strong opinions, so this is a challenge! Ultimately, we maintain a clear understanding of our roles and responsibilities in the business and respect each other’s strengths. We’re each entitled and encouraged to share our thoughts with the other, but when it comes to creativity or production – anything to do with the product, Viktoria is the key decision-maker. I handle the business end – financial, marketing, and operational decisions.

What are the next steps for LOZENA?

Kathrine & Viktoria: We are excited to launch our first Kickstarter campaign in early summer! We’re also planning a round of pop-up shops in our favorite cities in the US and Europe. We are excited to introduce LOZENA and bring eco-fashion directly to consumers around the world.

How does a normal business day look like for you?

Lozena2

From the 3.0 Lozena Lookbook

Kathrine & Viktoria: The best part of having a start-up, especially in the fashion industry, is that every day is different. We are always looking for innovative companies whose values match our own to partner with; events and marketing opportunities; working with our producers in Bulgaria; designing and developing new products; growing our team, etc. The adage about fashion that it’s not always glamorous behind the scenes is very true – it seems like we’re faced with a crisis almost every day! But, we love fashion and we’re passionate about re-shaping this industry into one that has respect for the environment and people who work in it – and that’s reason enough for us to get out of bed every day.

What motivates you not to give up in difficult situations?

Kathrine & Viktoria: Knowing we have the right idea. We have entered this market the right way, and we believe sustainability is not only the future of fashion, but the future of business.

Do you have a motto you live or work by?

Viktoria: … You never know how close you are.

Kathrine: ‘A dame that knows the ropes isn’t likely to get tied up’ (Mae West)

Who inspires you personally?

Viktoria: Many people – my family, which is loving and full of extremely hard workers; one of my best friends, Christine, who is such a caring and free spirit; and one of my favorite women, Abigail, who is incredibly genuine and thoughtful. I could stand to be a bit more like all of them! I also admire Livia Firth and Emma Watson for their advocacy of human and women’s rights and responsible fashion. They are both great examples of elegant, intelligent, and confident leaders.

Kathrine: We’ve been fortunate to follow in the footsteps of strong women in our own family, who are examples of courage, strength, and tenacity. I also admire the American Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and American Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

If you could send a message to women in the world, what would you tell them?

Viktoria: Take care of yourself first. You can only help others, accept change and have a positive attitude if you fully love yourself.

Kathrine: Be confident and stay true to yourself! Look for opportunities to pay it forward.

Where are you filling out this questionnaire?

Viktoria: On my balcony that overlooks a willow tree and small pond on a beautiful spring day!

Kathrine: In a lovely hotel in Bangkok!

What is the perfect break to your daily business?

Viktoria: I love a good cafe break with friends!

Kathrine: I love taking my son out for an afternoon hike. He’s 1 ½ years old, and already shares my love for the outdoors!

Thank you so much for taking the time and speak to us! 

If you want to find out more about Kathrine and Viktorias label and see their collections, just hop on over to their website:

www.lozenainternational.com

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