N I C H E B R A N D R E P O RT BY G E T T E R VA D E R
Kriss Soonik-Käärmann, a Londonbased Estonian designer, discovered her admiration for fashion when she assisted her friend in a young designer competition ‘Supernoova’ in Estonia. On that day she fell in love with the glamour and glee of fashion! So, the very next year she decided to try designing a womenswear collection herself. She remembers her first collection very well. It was pink and green and with a lot of patterns and tulle (Pealtnägija, 2013). Her style has changed a lot since then and often she even takes inspiration from it. In her opinion she was more liable to take risks back then (ERR, 2016b).
Visiting Spain in the summers, Soonik was inspired by the way Spanish women would feel free and liberal while changing clothes at the beach. This was something very different for her, coming from Estonia, where people are very conservative and everything has to be covered. Once she started looking for a niche in the market, her bold and adventurous attitude made her doubt whether outerwear was the course she really wanted to take. As a 20-year-old woman with big ideas on her mind, something finally clicked, and she designed her first lingerie collection. (Pealtnägija, 2013) Soonik studied Foreign Languages and Business Administration in Estonian Business School. After graduation in 2006 she decided to move to London to pursue he dream as a fashion designer. For three
years and while she was doing her master’s degree from London College of Fashion, she worked for free in a lingerie brands Madame V and Agent Provocateur (Järvis, 2015). She was extremely picky with the brands she was willing to work for. She says that there is no point in setting goals too low for oneself
because it is easy to step over them (Pealtnägija, 2013). In 2009 she felt she finally had enough experience to start with her own label Kriss Soonik Loungerie in London. At that time the economy was in free-fall, a lot of brands closed their doors and many took the interesting products off their shelves; whereas Soonik shocked customers with funny, happy, bright coloured, special and somewhat unpractical products and it turned out that people absolutely loved them. Soonik herself believes that her success has come through luck and good timing. (Pealtnägija, 2013) She created the concept of loungerie which is all about exploring individuality and pushing boundaries and since her first collection launched 7 years ago, Soonik has stayed true to her signature way of mixing exclusive
lingerie and comfortable loungewear. (Kriss Soonik Loungerie, no date). Her products are multifunctional and not meant to be worn only under clothes, they are not just bras and panties. Some of the pieces may be combined with regular clothes and sported as an outerwear, can be dressed up or down depending on how it is accessorized (Pealtnägija, 2013). According to bloggers and also Constanza di Gennardo, CEO of Wolf and Badger that is the key to her brand’s phenomenal breakthrough in lingerie and the main selling point. Bridget Veil has said that Kriss Soonik has taken the lingerie to a different level, and that’s a point of interest (Pealtnägija, 2013). The emblem of Kriss Soonik’s brand is a cat. It represents the collections and the Kriss Soonik Girl – they
are comfortable and chic, relaxed with an easy-going attitude, yet in the blink of an eye she can transform into the most glamorous creature on the planet. Her femininity and strength shining far, and her mischievous soul always present. (Kriss Soonik Loungerie, no date) Over the years Soonik has taken inspiration from Manga comics, superheroines and cult film figures to challenge the traditional attitudes associated with lingerie and loungewear. “My mission is to encourage women to explore their individuality and not be restricted by a lingerie label” (Kriss Soonik Loungerie, no date). According to Kriss Soonik, lingerie has to make people feel good about themselves and keep their self-esteem high (Pealtnägija, 2013). Her brand’s goal is to support comfort and natural beauty.
Soonik also believes that the wearability is not restricted by age, the product just has to fit with the woman’s style and taste (Ringvaade, 2014). Though it is the question of style, trend and society, Soonik believes that the time for Push-Up bras is over. It belongs to an era when women wanted to empower and change themselves but now they have realised that they are strong and sexy in their natural way. Women who feel comfortable and confident are the most attractive. She says that anything unnatural cannot be beautiful (Herodes, 2016). Kriss Soonik Loungerie does not sell uber-feminine stuff, but they show things from a slightly goofier and more natural angle (Järvis, 2015). Even her fashion shows are always joyful and cheeky. They do serious hard work but they do it through
humour (Ringvaade, 2014). The poses on editorials are not those of a sexy pin-up girl, but the kind of images where the woman does not realise that she is sexy. They create stuff for ordinary women who want a little bit of a special edge in their life. But it is nothing which smooths, shapes or pushes. Their lingerie is supposed to be comfortable. It is chic rather than sexy. From early on they never wanted to sell their products through sex.
They emphasize playfulness, cuteness, and the power of women (JĂ¤rvis, 2015). Glamour is what costs in the loungerie market, but growing from Estonia, jersey has sunk in Kriss Soonikâ€™s blood (During the Soviet Union and even after its collapse, Marat was the largest factory in Estonia that produced jersey products, which were extremely famous) and Soonik has somehow managed to make it sexy (Ringvaade, 2014). To ensure
that all the Kriss Soonik products are of exceptional quality they only use the finest materials sourced from valued producers around the world (PealtnĂ¤gija, 2013). For example, they use lace and fishnet from France and the super-soft jersey fabrics come from Italy. It has to look as well as feel good and be amazing to touch. (Bateman, 2014). At first, Soonik was certain that Europe should be the place for manufacture.
When she carried forward the investigation of the industry and the possibilities, she discovered that the quality maintained in Estonian companies is superior. Apparently Estonian manufacturers have partnerships with many different Scandinavian designers who are known to have high demands on quality and the named factories are competent to fulfil their needs. Soonik has all her garments produced
in her hometown Tallinn, in a company named Calibrato OÜ and all her products bear the label that states ‘Made in Estonia, EU’. The thing Kriss really loves about it is the fact that through this she is also advertising her home country. (Pealtnägija, 2013). The prices for Kriss Soonik products range from £55 with lacy knickers to a little less than £200 with luxurious Nele (dressing) gowns. Some of the bestsellers include
jersey tops with suspender clips and panties that have a cheeky lace cut-out on the backside. One of their signature pieces that has been in stock and developed since the beginning of the brand is a Susan motion Lace body, that is wearable both ways (Pealtnägija, 2013). Maike knickers and Silvia bralettes which come in all the colours of the rainbow finished with the trademark cat or beautifully
plump bow in patent leather, satin, silk or chiffon, are probably the most wellknown and published. (Kriss Soonik / Dolci Follie, no date) Kriss Soonikâ€™s brand is exclusive! Soonik designs a collection, then showcases it to the boutiques and in compliance to the orders they start manufacturing the pieces. Usually they produce a small extra to add to their online shop. (Soonik, 2014) They sell in 45 shops in 15
countries from United States to Middle East (Ringvaade, 2014). The designerâ€™s biggest personal achievement is reaching to the Japanese market. According to her it is very hard to enter this market without speaking the language. (ERR, 2016b). Kriss Soonik Loungerie is mostly sold in selected lingerie boutiques and this is where 80 percent of the profit is earned, but thanks to the Internet, her designs can also
be purchased from different online shops around the world. (Rosen, 2016) Last year Kriss Soonik’s brand sold a bit more than £150 000 worth of loungerie. (ERR, 2016a). In the future, Soonik is planning to expand even more. Currently, the next step is a rail in Selfridge’s department store in London. She says that as a lingerie brand, it is so much more difficult to market her brand because undergarments are a hidden layer and people
do not usually see others wearing it or even talking about it, but at the same time, there is also less competition. The fact that Kriss Soonik Loungerie is also wearable as outerwear is a trump (Ringvaade, 2014). Years ago when Soonik asked for pointers from established lingerie brands, their reaction was the same: “do anything you want but not your own brand - this is the worst thing you can do to yourself.” Of course they did not really
mean that it was horrible, just a great amount of work and countless all-nighters to be considered. Now after so many successful years Soonik says that it has all been worth it (Nõu and Eesti Päevaleht, 2014). Soonik describes the life as a fashion designer: “One day it is all fun and games and the other it somehow all falls apart and I am wondering why I had to pick this career for myself”. However, in reality, she thoroughly enjoys the
ongoing journey and hopes it does not conclude any time soon. (ERR, 2016b). She believes that she has the best job in the world. (Nõu and Eesti Päevaleht, 2014) Kriss Soonik’s trademark style of effortlessly mixing Nordic minimalism with New York cool, Tokyo’s eccentricity and Parisian chic, has won the hearts of press and celebrities worldwide (Kriss Soonik Loungerie, no date). Her garments have been published in
several magazines including Vogue, Elle, WE magazine, GQ, Esquire, FHM and Cosmopolitan (Pealtnägija, 2013). Her designs have even been worn by world-famous celebrities, such as the Bond-girl Bérénice Marlohe, American soap star Mischa Barton and the pop singer Miley Cyrus. Similarly, Kelly books, Naomi Campbell and Blanca Suarez. (Järvis, 2015). For all the hard work, Kriss Soonik has also been nominated for several awards. In 2013, she was nominated for an Estonian starting designer award Hõbenõel (The Silver Needle) and only a year later she won the Estonian established designer award Kuldnõel (The Golden Needle). In 2013 as well as 2015, the brand was listed as a “CoolBrand”, one of the most desired British design award. (Järvis, 2015). “People love Kriss Soonik as a person
as well as the garment, what she has produced, it’s her name and her personality what has made her what she is in London” – Bridget Veal, independent PR Consultant.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Ajakiri MOOD (2013) Hõbenõela kandidaat Kriss Soonik: Olen moelooja, sest ma lihtsalt armastan seda! Available at: http://publik.delfi.ee/news/ inimesed/hobenoela-kandidaat-kriss-soonik-olen-moelooja-sest-ma-lihtsalt-armastan-seda?id=65880392 (Accessed: 26 September 2016). Bateman, K. (2014) Meet Kriss Soonik, Estonia’s First lady of lingerie & Loungewear. Available at: https://www.openingceremony.com/entry.asp?pid=10258 (Accessed: 26 September 2016). ERR (2016a) Kapist välja, 1/8: Eesti disaini bränding. Available at: http://etv. err.ee/v/kultuurisaated/kapistvalja/saated/f4be8a5f-66a1-4a58-9dbbe478cf520830/kapist-valja-18-eesti-disaini-branding (Accessed: 18 November 2016). ERR (2016b) Kriss Soonik-Käärmann pesuettevõttest: Mõtlen kohvrite kokkupakkimisest iga päev. Available at: http://menu.err.ee/v/uudised/ inimesed/5d5d13e2-234b-40ab-86c8-297b9f2ad0ef/kriss-soonik-ka (Accessed: 26 September 2016). Herodes, K. (2016) Pesudisainer Kriss Soonik: Täiskasvanuks saamisse mina ei usu! Available at: http://naine24.postimees.ee/v2/3578835/ pesudisainer-kriss-soonik-taeiskasvanuks-saamisse-mina-ei-usu (Accessed: 3 October 2016). Järvis, P. (2015) Kriss Soonik: The Designer Behind CoolBrand. Available at: http://www.investinestonia.com/en/publications/case-studies/ case/988-kriss-soonik-the-designer-behind-the-coolbrand (Accessed: 26 September 2016). Kriss Soonik / Dolci Follie (no date) Available at: http://dolcifollie.co.uk/ brand/kriss-soonik (Accessed: 14 November 2016). Kriss Soonik Loungerie (no date) About - Kriss Soonik Loungerie. Available at: http://kriss-soonik.com/about/ (Accessed: 26 September 2016). Nõu, U. and Eesti Päevaleht (2014) Kriss Soonik: Töömõtted ei lähe kuidagi peast ära. Available at: http://epl.delfi.ee/news/lp/kriss-soonik-too-
motted-ei-lahe-kuidagi-peast-ara?id=70149819 (Accessed: 26 September 2016). Pealtnägija (2013) Seksika äri komponendid on auahnus ja töökus. Available at: http://etv.err.ee/v/elusaated/pealtnagija/pealtnagija_lood/ feb5c686-4878-4a22-8557-554eff78f38d (Accessed: 26 September 2016). Ringvaade (2014) Kriss Soonik-Käärmann disainib trikotaaži seksikaks ja toob pesu riiete alt välja. Available at: http://etv.err.ee/v/meelelahutus/ringvaade/ringvaate_lood/409ffdd9-81d3-4422-91b9-4bf81abaeec5/ kriss-soonik-kaarmann-disainib-trikotaazi-seksikaks-ja-toob-pesu-riietealt-valja (Accessed: 26 September 2016). Rosen, B. (2016) Kriss Soonik, maailmakodanik. Available at: http:// naine24.postimees.ee/v2/2827683/kriss-soonik-maailmakodanik (Accessed: 3 October 2016). Soonik, K. (2014) ‘Kahekõne: Lauri Mälksoo ja Kriss Soonik-Käärmann’. Interview with Indrek Treufeldt for Kahekõne: Lauri Mälksoo ja Kriss Soonik-Käärmann, 11 December.
PHOTOGRAPHY Kriss Soonik Loungerie (no date) [Product shot]. Available at: http:// kriss-soonik.com/shop/ (Accessed: 23 November 2016). Palm, S. (2015) KRISSMAS DISCO 2015 [Photography]. Available at: http:// kriss-soonik.com/blog/featured_item/krissmass-disco-2015/ (Accessed: 23 November 2016). Palm, S. (2016a) AUTUMN / WINTER 2016 ‘The Morning After’ [Photography]. Available at: http://kriss-soonik.com/blog/featured_item/autumn-winter-2016/ (Accessed: 23 November 2016). Palm, S. (2016b) SPRING / SUMMER 2016 ‘The Cat that Walked by Herself’ [Photography]. Available at: http://kriss-soonik.com/blog/featured_item/ spring-summer-2016/ (Accessed: 23 November 2016).
AUB BA (Hons) Fashion Level 5 Fashion: Branding & Communication