LONDON — There are worse problems an upstart fashion label could face, but the designers behind Tata Naka have found their showroom nearly bare recently, thanks to “Sex and the City.”
Almost every sample was called to New York this month, pulled by stylist Patricia Field for Sarah Jessica Parker to consider for the show. Considering it’s filming its final season, the designers Tamara and Natasha Surguladze weren’t about to miss the opportunity, even if the notion of dressing Carrie Bradshaw and Co. might have once seemed a little far-fetched to the identical twins born in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.
“Because we come from a communist country, fashion was never seen as a business,” said Tamara, who’s older by 15 minutes. “We always knew we wanted to do something creative and we were lucky our parents encouraged us.”
At the age of 25, the route from Russia to London was a short one. The sisters arrived here in 1996 to study at Central St. Martins College of Art, took internships on Savile Row and graduated in 2000. They set up the Tata Naka label, after their respective nicknames, immediately upon leaving school and, within three years, the line has been sported by Cameron Diaz, Julianne Moore and Reese Witherspoon and picked up by prestigious global accounts, including Harrods and Selfridges in the U.K.; Dernier Cri, Fred Segal Flair and Barneys New York in the U.S.; Biffi in Milan; Boutique Onward in Paris, and other stores in Japan, Saudi Arabia and Sweden.
“We have learned a lot on the way,” said Tamara. “When we had just begun, we suddenly had all these orders from Barneys in New York, and we had to paint 200 skirts practically overnight. Our friends there were so excited they called us up and said, ‘Write us notes and hide them in the pockets, then we’ll go in and get them.’ ”
As the skirts didn’t have pockets, Tamara and Natasha painted the skirts with the names of their friends instead. “I think they liked that even better,” Tamara said.
Although the sisters work together to design one collection, the label is broken down into two parts but under the umbrella of Tata Naka. Tamara designs “Stolen Memories,” the eveningwear element of the line that concentrates on surface decoration.“Because this part of the collection is handmade, every item is individual,” she said, noting that a woman in Harrods bought six of the same model skirt, because they were all a little different.
Natasha, who concentrates on the cut and prints of day pieces, designs the rest of the collection. Having an in-sync twin to design the other half of the collection has its advantages.
“Because we have similar tastes, we usually come up with the same concepts and ideas, but our styles can be different,” Natasha said. “Our research is always the same, though.”
The spring 2003 collection was inspired by a Russian film, translated as “Cranks,” which is about an eccentric man writing a formula for love. He builds a flying machine and falls in love with a girl named Margarita, and somewhere along the line, leaves a chicken behind. Colorful images of Margarita with a bow in her hair, the airplane and even the chicken were sketched in a childlike manner and appliquéd and embellished with sequins and lace on pastel silk chiffon dresses, full floor-length skirts and cotton drawstring pants.
“The collection is incredibly aesthetic,” said Natasha. “It’s about the surreal and crazy things you do for love, it’s also a huge part of our own memories from childhood.”
The fall collection was inspired by “Life: A User’s Manual,” by Georges Perec. Based on an apartment block in Paris, the book is about the variety of people living under one roof, the many faces of which are referenced in the eclectic collection with elements of sport, rap and prep. Key items include mint jacquard parkas, oversize jumpers, pink lace skirts and gray jersey sweatshirts with colored diagonal zips. Clusters of Soviet medals and antique broaches adorn the waistbands of skirts and necklines of slouchy tops.
“These are like pieces of life, from another time that meant something to someone,” said Tamara.
Tata Naka’s annual volume is about $2.5 million. Retail prices for the collection, which is manufactured in the U.K., range from around $300 for a zipped T-shirt to $1,300 for a jacquard parka. Dollar figures have been converted from the pound at current exchange rates.As well as designing two collections a year, Tamara and Natasha launched a baby and children’s wear line last winter called Tata Naka Shrunk. The line is an exact miniature replica of the mainline collection, down to the detail, appliqué and all. Prices range from $100 for a halter top to $530 for a parka. There’s also an accessories line of bags, shoes and belts and a made-to-order homewear collection of handmade bedspreads.
Tata Naka lingerie is scheduled for next summer and a shop is also on the cards, set to open in Chelsea’s Brompton Cross district alongside Chanel, Paul & Joe and Joseph stores.
In developing their brand, the sisters claim to have discovered the rule of a happy working twin relationship: fashion boundaries.
“We have rules about what we can borrow from each other and what we can’t,” said Tamara. “Most clothing is fine, but we never borrow each other’s shoes.”
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