Signs reading “Not Closed” and “Barneys Til I’m Dead” were posted on the doors of Barneys New York’s Beverly Hills flagship, which has always had a sense of humor, even about itself. While the future for the bankrupt retailer may still be unclear, Nanushka — the Budapest-based brand designed by Sandra Sandor — was celebrating its arrival at the store Thursday night in Los Angeles.
“Nanushka has been at least two times almost bankrupt,” shared Sandor of the influencer-loved sustainable brand with vegan leather basics that’s been worn by Gigi Hadid, Drew Barrymore and Charlize Theron, among others. “We said, ‘We’re going to close the business.’ But I never believed in closing the business. I knew it would go on. And I see Barneys in a similar way.…I feel that they will solve it. I don’t think it’s going to close down.”
“We heard the rumors and the news,” chimed in co-owner and chief executive officer of the brand Peter Baldaszti. He’s also Sandor’s fiancé. “But Barneys has its place in the retail landscape, despite the struggles.”
Things took a turn for the better for Nanushka after it received an investment from a Hungarian private equity firm. Sandor, who started the label in 2006, also credits Baldaszti, who started three years ago, for bringing Nanushka to where it is today.
“He changed every single thing for the business — except the design,” she said. “We have our own in-house atelier, which is a big value for us. Every single prototype is done in-house.…We produce, I would say, 85 percent of our merchandise in Hungary.”
The ongoing conversation with Barneys started about a year ago, said Baldaszti. At the time, the label was making its debut in Los Angeles with a pop-up inside Culver City’s Platform.
“It’s a big milestone for us,” said Sandor. “Starting with that pop-up to seeing the brand here now, it’s a great thing. I have an emotional connection to Barneys as well. For years, I wanted to see my brand at Barneys.”
“From my perspective, to give you the personal context, I was born in a small city in a communist country 34 years ago,” added Baldaszti. “I traveled to New York the first time in the United States in 2010, and I was a tourist here and had big dreams and ambitions. It’s so striking to realize that now I own a company that sells amazing products at Barneys. It’s kind of unreal. It’s a humbling experience and motivates us to improve and grow further.”
Indeed, Nanushka has plans to expand.
“At the moment, around 80 percent of our business is wholesale,” said Sandor. “The rest is our own channels. We have an online store and a flagship in Budapest. But we want to open more brick-and-mortar stores around the world.”
Next month, near Oct. 29, they’ll open a store in New York City’s Soho. “We’re also going to have a shop in London in the first quarter next year, and we’re looking at L.A., too,” said the designer. The brand garnered attention on social media, after gaining popularity with fashion influencers. “We really believe that online cannot substitute every single value of a brand. Our Budapest store is not just a flagship for marketing. We really do make turnover there. I still believe in the brick-and-mortar.”
They also recently hired a sustainability manager, a focus for the brand, which uses materials like vegan leather, vegan silk and organic cotton.
“We had the chance to outsource our production overseas to get much better margins of productions, but we decided to keep manufacturing local and keep costs higher but under controlled circumstances,” shared Baldaszti. “The riskiest decision we have taken was to start building a sustainable fashion brand. We are still very far from being sustainable. We will never reach it. A company who is aiming to sell more products will never be sustainable. But one of our missions is to grow our market share as a sustainable brand, which has a lower impact.”
Nanushka — which recently produced a jewelry collaboration with L.A. designer Sophie Monet — also showcased its first men’s wear collection at the event, a cocktail hour followed by a dinner hosted by stylist Jason Bolden and actor Angel Bismark Curiel at Freds.
“I was wearing a lot of men’s wear myself and even before starting men’s, I designed a lot of oversize silhouettes and silhouettes that were inspired by men’s wear,” said Sandor. “And we realized that a lot of men were buying our women’s clothes. Everyone was really waiting for it, for the men’s line to launch.”
“It’s inspired by a free-spirited, nomadic lifestyle mixed with conceptual functionalism,” she continued. “The brand is bohemian minimalist. One of the core values has always been functionality, practicality. It’s an important point in every single collection. I’m always attracted to different cultural references, and I love mixing traditionalism with nomadic, tribal references into the modern wardrobe. This collection reflects that.”