Sharing about Fashion Industry - Mariliis Niine
Interviewee: Mariliis Niine
Sheng: At what point did you realize that becoming a fashion designer is a real career path? Could you share something about your working experience before?
Mariliis: It all started with the decision of me wanting to go to study fashion design. I was 16 years old then and went to art school to put together a portfolio for the Estonian Academy of Arts. While studying fashion, I also worked as a design assistant and sales manager for one Estonian fashion brand.
Sheng: What did you learn from that?
Mariliis: I learned two important things: to make money you don't need to invent something new. And relationships are everything. The more connections you have, the easier it is to go and sell your brand.
Sheng: Why do you establish a brand? What inspires your fashion designs?
Mariliis: I started my brand when I didn't find the right raincoat for me. I was actually on my way to buy one and on my way to the store, I saw 4 or 5 people wearing the same certain brands' raincoat. I immediately thought I am a designer I should be able to make one for myself not to wear what everybody else is wearing. As a knitwear designer, I took up the challenge and started to find ways how to make knitwear waterproof without losing its breathability. My higher goal is to make knits that are not an interpretation of known but to make knitwear as innovative as possible. I’ve always been very goal-driven and had a passion for material innovation. I’m always looking for new challenges and this is how another one started.
Sheng: Intersting brand.
Mariliis: Yes. My brands' name is Waterproof Knitwear and its DNA is very personal to me. It tells a story of 2 generations of knitters in my family. My grandparents and their brothers and sisters used to work in the Sindi Knitting factory during the 50s. Today as a knitwear designer I am modernizing their work and mixing the color schemes, structures, prints, and styles they made together with the childhood memories of the time I spent with my grandparents as a child. Waterproof Knitwear brand empowers the comfort of knitwear without compromising on designs, style, and prints.
Waterproof Knitwear is focusing on zero-waste design practice and all the items are made out of lambswool or surplus wool. Wool is a 100% natural product. Every year surplus wool is either burnt or discarded, in Estonia this results in 100 000 tons of wool being scrapped. Being a knitwear designer and to create waterproof knits is not all about innovation but it’s also about sustainability and a rescue mission to save surplus wool.
Sheng: How would you describe the balance of interesting and commercially viable in your design?
My designs have always been more experimental than commercial. I love interesting cuts, layers, textures, and crazy color combinations-its in my DNA. In the future, my collections will have more commercial pieces but I will never lose the creative part. While watching other designer's collections I am always looking for new innovative combinations, vibes, materials that I haven't seen before. And this is exactly what I want to bring on the table as a designer.
Sheng: How do measure success? Is it sticking to your aesthetic and what you think is right, or is it reaching bigger sales numbers.
Mariliis: To me, true success is a combination of both. A successful designer will have the balls to stick to its aesthetics and learn on the way how to reach big numbers with it. If you don't make money with your designs you will lose hope, start to hesitate your creativity, and quit anyway. At the end of the day, there is no business without money. And without money, you can't make your dream come true.
Sheng: Why did you choose to base your business in Estonia? What are advantages?
Mariliis: The reason why I started my business in Estonia is simple. Estonia is my home country and everything here is familiar- tax system, company registration, production, etc. But that doesn't mean I will always stay in Estonia or sell my clothes only here. In my wildest dreams, I am selling my collections all over the world.
In Estonia, we have four different seasons, and throughout the year it rains a lot. So for now, it is a good test market to see what works and doesn't work. It's also important to support my home country and keep the jobs here. I found a perfect knitwear production company from a small Estonian city called Türi where most of my products are made from Estonian lambswool.
Sheng: For students studying fashion and textile design, do you have any suggestions for them?
Mariliis: Work hard on your aesthetics and style. Try to find your story that you want to tell through your designs and what represents You the best. Always be you.
Fashion designer: Mariliis Niine