At the end of August, the Romanian fashion brand AKASHA ASAI announced the launch of the capsule collection of the demi-couture dresses that coincided with the opening of the creation showroom with the same name. Business Review met with Adela David, designer & creative director, and Suzana Plesca, brand manager, and found out more about the brand’s positioning and novelties, but also about how it feels to be a Romanian fashion entrepreneur.
By Romanita Oprea
How did you decide to start the business together?
Adela David (left in picture) & Suzana Plesca: The idea of creating a fashion brand began to form after my debut at Bucharest Fashion Week in 2016. I had recently completed a course in fashion design and won a competition that allowed me to participate at Fashion Week. After this, and after many nights of brainstorming alongside my associate Suzana Plesca, we decided to create Akasha Asai. It was a culmination of both our ideas and values transcribed into fashion.
How are your roles divided in the business?
Adela David: We consider ourselves fortunate because there are two of us working for the same goal, as we firmly believe in teamwork and the fact that this leads to a better communication and thus a better collaboration. I am the Creative Designer of the brand and I oversee the entire process of creating and producing our collections, from the initial stages of design sketches, silhouettes, color and textile choices to the finished product.
Suzana Plesca, our brand manager, is in charge of the administrative duties of the company, our social media presence, as well as our public strategies and campaigns.
What was your main goal when launching the brand?
Suzana Plesca: The main goal when launching Akasha Asai, was providing our customers with classically inspired pieces for eveningwear and bridal wear; pieces that would stand out for their effortless elegance, with impeccable finishing touches. We wanted to bring back into trend clean silhouettes inspired by history and cinematography, with a touch of modern.
How have you chosen your positioning and why?
Adela David: We chose to position ourselves on the luxury wear segment of the market because we are a demi-couture brand. Demi-couture combines the techniques of haute couture garment making with the ease of ready-to-wear pieces. This means that we dedicate a lot of time to the manufacturing of each individual piece and this is reflected in the selling price. Some of our gowns require hours upon hours of intensive hand sewing of finishing touches or embroideries, and we firmly believe that these details are what makes our pieces stand out. We pride ourselves with attention to detail and the fact that we have set a high quality standard for our brand.
Who is your competition?
Suzana Plesca: Our competition are the other Romanian brands that also offer evening wear and bridal attire. Some have been in the business for many years, and some are just venturing out on the market, just like us. We enjoy competition and we believe that it is the key to success. Competition generates the desire to improve and innovate, and it is the driving force behind all our values. We have much to learn from those brands that have been on the market for many years, and we look forward to evolve in our designs and our work. We welcome the challenge.
What do you believe you bring new to the Romanian market?
Adela David: I believe that what sets us apart from others, and what we bring new to the Romanian market are the clean, minimalistic designs that we’ve chosen, combined with quality textiles, hand embroidery and luxury finishing touches. We offer classic elegance, in form fitting silhouettes made with extreme care and attention. We create gowns that can be worn today, or 5 years from now, because they are timeless pieces that every woman should have in her closet.
How would you describe the industry you are part of? (in terms of competition, creativity, results etc)
Adela David: The Romanian fashion industry is flourishing. More and more designers are launching their concepts and it is a joy to be able to be part of this movement. Romania has gone through a long period of deprivation and I believe that we’re just now starting to see the country move away from those times. The competition is higher than ever, as more brands are being launched every month, filling up the gaps in the market. Nowadays you can find Romanian brands that manufacture almost anything textile related, from urban wear to the most expensive couture pieces. It’s absolutely great to see all the creativity involved in bringing these projects to life and the results are starting to show. Just this year Romania was officially granted a slot in the Milan Fashion Week calendar through a highly acclaimed Romanian designer, and I really believe this is a true testament to the hard work and dedication of our fellow entrepreneurs. I’m excited to see our industry moving forward.
What are the main challenges in launching a fashion design brand in Romania?
Suzana Plesca: The challenges of launching a fashion design brand in Romania come in various forms. One of the main problems that we faced has been the lack of Romanian textile manufacturers, thus forcing us to import our fabrics, and so, having higher costs due to import taxes. However, the biggest problem is that of finding a qualified workforce. Due to the systematic destruction over the years of our professional schools, many of the trades like sewing have been lost unfortunately, and these gaps have never been filled so far. It is difficult to find employees that are educated in this field and it is even more difficult to hold on to them as they are in great demand.
What is your target and how do you approach it?
Adela David: Our target are strong, independent women that tend to choose classic elegant pieces that are in line with current international trends. Our target clients travel a lot, whether for work or tourism, and they give special attention to social events and their presence there. The Akasha Ashai woman has a high standard of quality for the garments she chooses to wear. We approach these demands by supplying well-made gowns that fit our client’s requirements.
What marketing, advertising and PR tools are you using?
Suzana Plesca: We rely heavily on social media for our advertising needs. Facebook and Instagram Ads are great tools in promoting our company and generating brand awareness. To supplement, we also like to use a more advertorial approach by having our presence showcased in magazines relevant to the industry. For the future of our marketing goals, we are planning on being more present at business and speaking engagements, as well as building a community of networks with stylists and retail buyers.
What would you say that are the main challenges in being a designer in Romania?
Adela David: I think the main challenge that I’ve faced as a designer in Romania is trying to achieve my aesthetic goals for our products, and at the same time keeping a close eye on the financial issues that come with creating a product. A designer’s job is to bring to reality the sketches and designs that they come up with, but they also have to take into consideration the production costs and the ultimate sales price. The challenge comes in trying to find a balance between the two tasks.
What about being an entrepreneur?
Adela David: Being an entrepreneur is quite the adventure. No matter how prepared you think you are, there will always be problems and new issues that need to be resolved. The most difficult task in being an entrepreneur is definitely that of financial managing. In order for a business to be successful we have to keep a close eye on maintaining a positive cash flow and the challenge comes in always evaluating our costs, whether it’s production or raw materials while keeping in mind the selling price.
What are your business goals for 2017-2018?
Suzana Plesca: Our goals for 2017-2018 are to continue with our brand awareness campaign, and thus be able to reach more potential customers. We aren’t thinking so much of returns on investment, but rather how we can continue to reinvest our profits and continue to grow, while maintaining a positive cash flow.
What do you want your brand to stand for?
Adela David: I would like our brand to stand for high quality products that are easily delivered to our customers, and that fulfil their needs entirely. We would like to be known for quality textile choices and impeccable finishing touches, as well as relevant designs. In short, we would like our brand to stand for a high standard of quality.
Are you also thinking about the outside market? If so, what countries are you targeting?
Suzana Plesca: International sales are a great part of our future goals, as we would like our brand to cross borders. We are very interested in the Middle Eastern, Russian and Asian markets.
How do you find inspiration?
Adela David: I have never been a person that can stand still for too long. So, I’m always moving, seeing and experiencing new things and that is where I draw my inspiration from. Sometimes I find my inspiration in music, where a song is then translated into a silhouette, other times maybe it’s a place or a landscape. I find a bit of creativity that I can draw from in all the places I visit and the people I meet. I always ask myself what I would wear in different scenarios and so I come up with relevant ideas for design. Inspiration can be found anywhere, it just depends on how far your imagination can take you.