I was fortunate enough to connect with Designer Kriss Soonik while she was in New York City for Fashion Week early last month. The Estonia-born designer hails from London but her designs are influenced by her home country and she produces all of her goods in Estonia using fabrics, laces, and other raw materials she sources from around the World. While sipping tea at a midtown café, Kriss and I chatted about her background, how she got started, her passions, her current collection, the future for her namesake brand, and she graciously shared her advice for other independent designers looking to break into the business.
Designer Kriss Soonik
Kriss has been designing for over ten years. However, it is only in recent years that she has considered it her life’s work. Initially, it was a hobby for her. She graduated from college in Estonia with a BA degree in Business. And she moved to London just a little over six years ago where she studied Strategic Fashion Marketing at London College of Fashion. Designing came naturally to her, but she was also passionate about the branding and marketing of apparel. After finishing school, she went to work for the famed UK Lingerie company, Agent Provocateur. At Agent Provocateur, Kriss was responsible for retail marketing and pr including the planning of in-store events worldwide. Branding, marketing, and pr are passions of mine…. So, I was excited to learn how she plans to utilize her expertise and the knowledge she gained working at AP to make her own brand a success.
In the Fall of 2008 (as the recession first hit), Kriss started posting some of her designs on the well-known UK “chic lingerie boutique” site Glamorous Amorous. The site features emerging lingerie designers, and Kriss felt this would be a great way to receive feedback on her designs before taking the plunge to venture out on her own. By January of 2009, she had quit her job at Agent Provocateur, and her brand was officially born. The first Kriss Soonik collection launched in Spring/ Summer 2010.
Kriss’ friends and family thought she was crazy to leave a stable job to start her own business just months after the recession hit. But Kriss felt the timing was perfect! Production facilities were looking to fill their lines and retailers were looking for something fresh and new. Very few people were taking risks at this time because of their fear of the economic downturn. Kriss turned this into an advantage for her and capitalized on it.
When Kriss was initially developing the concept for her brand, most of the pieces she was developing were “experimental” showcase pieces. But once she ventured out on her own, she discovered a more practical sense. She had to think about how to wear them and how to make them; how to appeal to her target consumer without losing her brand identity. She has found that her best sellers are the more practical pieces, her Jersey Knit items in particular. Growing up in the colder climate of Estonia, she wanted to meld comfortable pieces with a more sexy, modern aesthetic.
Kriss Soonik Kristel Jersey Suspender Top
Kriss says that her brand evolves as she evolves. She defines her brand identity as an effort to connect comfort and seduction. What exactly is “Kriss Soonik?” Loungerie! It happened by accident… It was a typo, actually. And as soon as she saw it on the screen, she knew this was it! Loungerie is luxe loungewear. Like lingerie is to underwear; loungerie is to loungewear…. Luxe Loungewear! Kriss is working to give a unique look to loungewear and has adopted the “innerwear as outerwear” concept. Her styles are multi-functional. Her target consumer is the woman that is looking for something different, new, and fresh. Although it is sold at a high-end price point, she feels her consumer is willing to spend the extra money for something unique that can be worn in multiple ways. My experience in the wholesale intimate apparel industry proves the same notion. When the economy first turned, consumers scaled back their spending and reverted to “generic” brands. But now that we’re several years into the recession, consumers are back to spending. But there is much more emphasis on “value.” Consumers are willing to spend the money if they are getting something “extra” for their spend….
Kriss Soonik Diana Wings Wrap
Kriss’ current Fall/ Winter Collection really shows what it means for “innerwear to be outerwear.” Kriss is excited to see how her consumer interprets her styles. When Kriss and I met for tea back in early September, she was wearing a leather sheath dress AND her own Diana Wings Wrap (proving that her Loungerie can be worn as outerwear).
Kriss Soonik Loungerie is currently sold in boutiques and specialty stores (including ecommerce). She has considered breaking into the department store tier but is concerned it may get lost there. Her focus is on expanding her own ecommerce site which sells direct to consumer. She says that her website is proving to be an important tool in defining (and maintaining) her brand image. On her own site, she can show her consumer the various ways of wearing her styles. Her website and other media (including social media) will be powerful communication tools in expanding her brand.
This trip to New York City was Kriss’ first venture into the US. She really didn’t know what to expect. She said, “New York is the Fashion Capital of the World!” She couldn’t believe Fashion’s Night Out. The feedback and response she received during her Trunk Show at Journelle on Mercer Street in SoHo on September 8th was tremendous. She said her Susan Lace Bodysuits practically sell themselves. They are multi-functional; they can be worn as innerwear or as outerwear (layering pieces). They can be worn with the opening in the front or the back. In fact, Kriss wore her Susan Lace Bodysuit in Orange (with black trim) over a graphic tee shirt with a pair of pants on Fashion’s Night Out. Her Jersey Suspender Tops are top sellers as well. The biggest surprise was the popularity of her Triangle Bras in both Lace and Mesh.
Kriss Soonik Susan Motion Lace Bodysuit
Kriss already has brand loyalty to her “Classic Collection.” She plans to continue this Collection into the next Season and will be introducing White as a new colorway in January 2012. Early on, she made a lot of changes as the brand evolved. But she quickly learned that once you discover what your consumer wants, you have to give them what they want! She is still trying to determine the most efficient way of evolving season by season. She wants to continue introducing new styles each season… But she is still learning how to execute it- How many new pieces? How many new colors? When do we introduce them? As time goes by, the assortment will likely get tighter and tighter and her brand identity will become more clearly defined.
What’s next for Kriss Soonik Loungerie? Kriss let me in on a little secret…. But I can’t reveal all of the details yet! But if you plan on being in London on November 10th– mark your Calendar and don’t make any other plans! Kriss is preparing an exclusive “invite only” event for the evening of the 10th. Remember, she was once responsible for planning in-store events for Agent Provocateur retail stores worldwide…. So, I’m sure her own event will prove to be exciting and unexpected! You won’t want to miss it! Kriss loves the excitement of these promotional events.
I asked Kriss if she had any advice for other emerging designers looking to venture out on their own. She said “Be prepared! Everything takes much longer than you think. Be patient.” And, “Initially, you’re on your own. Trust your instincts. Ask for help. People are happy to help if you ask for it. I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by great people. But at the end of the day, it’s up to you! The high’s are higher and the low’s are lower. Ohhhh….But it’s sooo worth it!”
Kriss Soonik Susan Chic Lace Bodysuit
I can’t wrap up this story without letting you know the proper way to pronounce her last name…. One would think its pronounced “Sue-Nick.” I was delighted to find out that it’s actually pronounced “Sonic.” As in “Supersonic!” Now, we’ll never make that mistake again, will we?? Kriss laughed as she told me that she has been inspired by superheroes throughout her career…. I have to say this was one of the most delightful conversations I’ve had in a long time as Kriss was smart and sweet, funny, charming, and willing to share so much about her journey…. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me, Kriss! I wish you all the best in your career. We’re all waiting to see what’s next for Kriss Soonik! And I wholeheartedly support your efforts to expand your brand into the US market.
Follow @KrissSoonik on Twitter
About Kriss Soonik
Kriss Soonik [son-ik] launched her first collection in 2008 introducing her signature talent for giving the “underwear as outerwear” concept a fresh and modern twist. When the traditional approach has been about corsets as eveningwear, Kriss Soonik has started a new wave – wearing velour gowns to a chic Sunday brunch.
In 2009 the term “loungerie” was born. Loungerie is luxe loungewear at its freshest, blurring the boundaries with fashion. It’s not cute and sweet, it’s sexy and powerful. It is loungewear with an edge.
With stockists and fans worldwide the London based designer never fails to produce a collection that is fiercely contemporary yet nostalgic. Over the years she’s taken inspiration from Manga comics, superheroines and cult film figures to challenge the traditional attitudes associated with lingerie and loungewear. All of her designs are finished with the trademark cat or beautifully plump bow in patent leather, satin, silk or perhaps chiffon.
Born in Tallinn, Estonia, Kriss stands by having all of her designs handmade in her native country and produced from the finest materials she sources from across the globe.
Producing two collections a year, Kriss designs with the understanding that all women can be superheroes. This is lingerie and loungewear that empower, inspire and break the rules.