About Success Builder

How do you find your place in life? How do you find something to do that both comes naturally to you and makes you happy? The answer is that you have to apply the knowledge you’ve gained from university and from life itself correctly. The Success Builder Project features HSE University graduates who have discovered themselves through an interesting business or an unexpected profession. The protagonists share their experiences and lessons learnt and talk about how they’ve made the most of the opportunities they were given.

Is it easy being a Russian clothing designer when factories cost, China sews, and discounts on cheap foreign brands can reach 70%? Everything is in authorship. HSE alumna Luda Nukishina tells Success Builder why business must be done in Moscow, how a Russian designer is better than H&M, and how to make things that people will definitely buy.

Your brand was born in St. Petersburg and then moved to Moscow – why did this happen?

This was partially because of personal circumstances, but also because St. Petersburg is a special city – it’s simpler to allow yourself long deliberations and a creative search there. Petersburg inspires you; it’s incredibly beautiful and this is exactly the type of place you need to recharge and rejuvenate. Business opportunities there are limited, however. There is not really a large sales market, infrastructure s underdeveloped, and purchasing power is low. But despite this, I understood after a year and a half that I had created a certain basis for my business, and now I want to go further and grow substantially where possible.

As for initial investments, was it cheaper to start in Petersburg?

I thought this at first, but I was unable to save. Even if costs were 20% lower, it was harder to compensate for them in St. Petersburg, while in Moscow you can easily cover high costs by raising turnover and prices. This is not anything new – Petersburg is for creativity, while Moscow is for business. But here I of course also never aimed only to make money. My business is first and foremost pleasure and the opportunity to grow as a professional.

The understanding that Russian-made means quality is the most valuable and positive trend that has arisen over the last five years.

What is the best way to start a sewing business?

This is a very individual process. I have my own path, which worked best for me. It’s probably good when you have a business plan and investments, and it’s even better if this is accompanied by an all-star name and experienced partners. But for me the main thing was simply desire, and it turned out that this was enough. It’s just that to start your own business in the fashion industry, you need to think long and hard about how you’re going to produce clothing, sell it, to whom and why. The funny thing is, though, that you do not even have to know this right away. Understanding might come with experience, even with bad experience. The main thing is simply loving what you do, being prepared for difficulties, and constantly learning. Honestly, I also had business plans, but not one of them was carried out, and I made all business investments personally. I create beautiful clothing for beautiful women, and I believe in the market – whoever produces a product that is in demand doesn’t need investments or subsidies.

How is the price of your clothing formulated? Your main line of business is fur coats, and they aren't cheap.

The price of a fur coat is always connected with the cost of raw materials, which is high. If you compare this with Chinese consumer goods, my prices are higher somewhat, but if you look at a different high-quality product, the price is very competitive, if not lower. A fur coat is an expensive item in and of itself because it’s meticulous work with complex and variegated material. An individual approach is required here – each skin has to be matched by pattern, shade, quality, size, etc. It’s like laying a mosaic or solving a clever puzzle. We dye the fur pink, light blue, or purple, and the skins’ nap is different, so in order to dye them successfully, they have to be carefully selected. As you see, the high cost of a fur coat is entirely natural.

Photo by Mikhail Dmitriev

Why did you choose such a complex material? It’s simpler to make skirts out of cheap fabric.

It’s not only about being cheaper to sew, but also that it’s more expensive to sell. We’d be able to make knitted tees by the hundreds – this is a top seller, but the effort needed to sell a hundred shirts isn’t comparable with what it takes to sell a single fur coat. The focus here moves from production to sales, logistics, and distribution – to what I never dealt with and don’t deal with. My heart’s in high-quality individual goods, which is why I chose a niche where you can apply most efforts at the production stage, not the sales stage. And where it’s worth doing that.

On the subject of sales – how do Russian designers position themselves alongside cheap mainstream entities such as Zara or H&M?

We are not at all competitors – our product is in a different price category. The clothing market is such that price and sales are not directly dependent on one another. This is a differentiated product, and the cost includes a heap of other factors: delivery, brand, even a designer’s personality and ability to build an audience around themselves. Reasons for success are often not clear at first glance. The nonmaterial aspect that hovers over each item also creates its value for the customer. My objective was initially to create a brand aimed at the middle class, which is why we’re in an accessible category. We are not aiming for luxury; I like to think that any girl can afford my products if she likes them. For me, it’s important that the price be adequate and reasonable, but on the other hand I don’t pursue a competitive pricing strategy.