It was an early Saturday morning and the sun came out in Seattle. I could smell the cool sea air from my house in West Seattle near the beach. I was more than ready for spring to arrive. I hopped in my car and drove the short distance to Café Umbria in Pioneer Square where I met Oleksandra Baukh - Designer & Founder of BAUH designs.
So nice to finally meet you. I love your design work and approach to fashion. How did you end up part of the Seattle fashion industry?
I have always been in to fashion but actually started in the Ukraine as a marketing manager. I used to write an editorial column back then that was focused on street style and fashion. When my husband was offered a job in Seattle, I looked at it as an opportunity to leave the marketing world and focus on my first love as a fashion designer.
How did that go for you?
I realized that this would mean completely starting over from the beginning. I studied garment construction, fabric selection, fabric sourcing etc. I did a lot of research and studied through Parsons School of Fashion. My interest was to design for every woman - something for myself, the woman who goes to work and has a family... casual women's wear.
How long ago did you come to Seattle and how long has your brand been active?
I moved to Seattle 6 years ago and my company is in its second year. I actually had the idea from the beginning but I mostly designed for myself and friends while working through my courses. Everything was really online in the beginning.
So when did you make the change from online only sales to selling in stores?
That’s a cool story. I was wearing my clothing and happened to be walking through Pioneer Square and saw Clementines. I walked in and they said that they liked my culottes. I told them they were my own design and showed them more of my collection online. Linda (Clementines owner), said she loved the designs and asked if I would like to sell it to the store.
That is really where it all began. She helped me with understanding how the process works and explained how wholesale worked. The next season they ordered from my collection.
Today, I also sell at stores in Oakland California and NY City. I have had lots of interesting proposal to expand beyond that, but for right now it is important to me to follow a more made-to-order and environmentally friendly business model. That doesn’t mean something might not change in the future, but for now I am really happy where I am at.
How do you manage to stay eco friendly?
I work with deadstock fabrics. deadstock is the leftover fabrics from larger production runs. Most of the larger fashion companies manufacture more fabric than they need for specific orders. When the orders are completed, they sell their overage to other designers. I don’t manufacture my own fabrics. I come in and buy all my fabric in this way. This allows me to be as sustainable as possible and minimize pollution. The fabrics are really high quality and it just makes sense to me.
What inspires your designs?
I’m inspired by the modern woman and street style but I’m really more comfort-driven than trend-focused. That being said, I absolutely keep up with current trends… watching fashion news...reading the magazines...following trade journals etc. but, comfort is really important.
As far as styles...street style is what influences my design. Something that is comfortable and versatile enough to wear throughout the day and for any occasion. Something you can wear to work, at home with your family, or out with friends.
Where do you manufacture your garments?
We are 100% locally made. I don’t work with big manufacturers. I choose to work with local seamstresses and everything is made entirely by hand. No big machinery...it’s all hand made. I try to keep everything as local as possible. I do source fabrics from overseas, however.
Is that part of the reason you are keeping operations small right now? It seems that it would be hard to keep up with order demand if everything is handmade using deadstock materials.
Exactly. Right now, as we grow, I keep up with production by hiring more seamstresses. This is something that is important to me, however, I can see this may not work for us long term as the orders grow bigger. Still, I will keep up this way as long as I can.
What are your thoughts on the Seattle Fashion industry.
I think Seattle is really changing because there is a lot of people from all over the world coming into Seattle. It is a little “grungy” and I love that. Flannel, ripped jeans, and over-sized clothing are really popular and I incorporate that in my work. But I also want to offer something different. My collections really seem to connect with people.
What, if anything would you like to change about the local fashion scene?
I think fashion cycles a lot. I like to make eternal styles. Culottes are very comfortable and work well on nearly every body type. I also believe there are few things as comfortable as just throwing on a dress and going out into the sun. I would really like to see more dresses. Dresses are very comfortable. I love over-sized items and I believe they give you more freedom. You can move comfortably in over-sized garments. If you want to show your waistline, you can belt the design to create a more fitted look.
So you like Seattle?
I think Seattle is very friendly. We (local designers), don’t really compete against each other here. It is more like we are competing against the bigger manufacturing houses. We work together to show that quality is better than mass production of cheaper quality clothing.
Who are some of your favorite local designers?
I really like Angeline Oei, I think her work is really beautiful.
She had similar words to say about you!.
That’s great! her style is really different from mine but I have some of her clothing and I love it. It is really beautiful. I also have a friend that is coming up and she is a handbag designer. You will see her soon. Her name is Shannon Fisher and her brand is FERAL. I believe she has a pop-up store coming up soon.
Back to your company - How many collections do you release each year?
We release our collections twice a year, Spring and Summer, Fall and Winter.
When you come up with a new design, what is your process for bringing it to market?
When I come up with an idea I have to sit on it at least a day. Sometimes the idea doesn’t hold up the next day quite as well. If the design survives overnight, I usually decide to go ahead and make the piece for myself. I pay attention to how people respond to the design when I wear it. I might give the design to a few friends and ask them to share feedback with me about the garment...thoughts about how it feels and wears throughout the day.
If the garment does well, I will do a photo shoot and begin marketing it for online sale. It’s a slower process than when the stores buy my collections..
Do the stores just come in and buy the product?
The stores like to see the collections at least 6 months in advance and they determine what they will buy from that. However, I reserve some of my collection to online only sales. The made to order pieces. This is mostly what we do when we don’t have enough material for large orders so we reserve it for custom designs or online sales.
Since you are working with deadstock, your garments are very limited production, Right?
Correct - Sometimes the patterns may remain the same, but the textiles used for the patterns may not be available again that season... and sometime not available at all. If I am selling a design to the store - I need to first determine that I can get enough of the specific textile to fulfill the order.
Have you ever started a project without really knowing what direction you wanted to go?
Yes - that happens often, actually. for example... I am working on a new Maternity collection …You are actually the first to know about it...
OH, we are breaking news?!
Anyway, Because I am pregnant, I am playing with some ideas for summer dresses. I want to make dresses that women can wear even after they are pregnant. The construction would accommodate the tummy while you are pregnant, but you can also accessorize and wear it with a belt for a more fitted garment after you have the baby. The material I was working with looked really different from what what I had envisioned when I began creating the garment. I had to change design because it would not look right the way I had initially planned. In that way I wasn’t sure how the product would turn out.
You’ll have to wait and see.
That’s great - I can’t wait to see your new maternity line. Thank you so much for allowing us to share that. I really appreciate you taking the time to meet with me today. I know you are busy with your new design work and it means a lot that you took time to interview with me. Please keep in touch and I would love to talk to you again once your maternity line is done.