How Budapest-based brand Nanushka’s practical, feminine style made the jump from local brand to international fashion hit.
Contemporary womenswear brand Nanushka was once a local hidden gem in the Hungarian capital Budapest. Now, however, it is growing at a rapid rate, bringing its feminine, utilitarian style to stores and catwalks around the globe.
Founded by Sandra Sandor in 2006, Nanuskha spent its first 10 years as a local business, creating small collections that were sold almost exclusively in independent boutiques in Hungary. Over the past two years, however, its popularity and reach has exploded. Although the business does not provide profit figures, since 2016 it has entered the international market, grown stockist numbers and hired more team members. This growth has been driven by the appointment of Peter Baldaszti, Sandor’s long-term partner, as CEO in 2016 (pictured top with Sandor).
The brand now has more than 200 stockists worldwide. The eight in the UK include Liberty, Browns, Selfridges and Net-a-Porter. This will increase to more than 10 for the pre-spring 2019 season, which drops in stores in December. Wholesale prices for the pre-spring 19 collection range from £22 for a basic jersey tank top to £270 for a vegan crocodile-embossed coat.
In February this year, the brand made its debut on the official New York Fashion Week schedule, and simultaneously opened its first own-brand store in Budapest.
After studying at the London College of Fashion from 2000 to 2004, Sandor returned to her native Hungary to begin working on her own collection. With the help of her mother, who used to run a childrenswear manufacturer, she set up her own atelier and produced her first collection for spring 2006.
“When I was little I was always surrounded by clothes,” says Sandor. “So it seemed quite naturally determined to me that my occupation would be related to clothing or fashion.”
While the brand has grown hugely since its initial season, its ethos remains the same: fusing function and fashion.
“We believe if a garment is designed to function well, it will by definition be beautiful,” says Sandor. “Functionality is very important for me and has been a core value of the brand from the beginning. At the end of the day our customers will only keep loving a garment they feel comfortable in.”
This translates into designs that are simple, unstructured and elegant. Boxy jackets, flowing trousers and loose dresses in flattering cuts and interesting shapes – waists are often cinched to give a feminine edge to androgynous shapes. Denim and vegan leather styles sell particularly well for the brand: top sellers include the “Hide” vegan leather puffa jacket (retailing at £464), and the “Lubo” belt bag (£286).
“We defined a space for ourselves in the market which we call modern luxury,” explains Baldaszti. “The brand has some high-fashion aesthetics but at the same time is laid back and wearable.”
The brand works directly with manufacturers to maintain its high standards. Overall, 78% of products are made in Hungary, while small amounts are made in Serbia, Portugal and China.
“It is very important for us to have our suppliers in close proximity to our Budapest HQ,” says Baldaszti. “We have no second-tier suppliers, and we know all our partners on a very personal level.
“As the business is scaling quite quickly now, we have to ensure we keep this up. We are in the process of acquiring manufacturing capacity around Hungary because we believe that this craftsmanship and quality is a long-term value of the brand.”
Baldaszti believes Nanushka is well positioned for further growth: “Attention is turning to small, exotic brands. The demand for a different perspective, which I believe Nanushka has, played a huge role in the recent success of the brand.”
Sandor and Baldaszti have ambitious plans, and talk of expanding into men’s and children’s wear, as well as rolling out international stores, the first of which is tentatively planned in Los Angeles, although no date has yet been set.
Capsule collections with Net-a-Porter and a pop-up shop with Liberty are also coming soon.
For Sandor, the growth triggered by Baldaszti’s arrival is finally helping realise her long-term ambitions for the brand: “I always had the vision of Nanushka as an international brand. I always felt this growth was going to occur, but I wasn’t sure how and when that tipping point would happen.”