Budapest’s finest: the creative process of Nanushka’s Sandra Sandor

From Budapest to Los Angeles - how a Hungary-based fashion brand is going global


Sandra Sandor first established contemporary womenswear brand Nanushka almost 13 years ago, after graduating from the London College of Fashion in 2005.

The Budapest-based business has gained international acclaim: Sandor has an impressive track record for designing It-items, garments and accessories that become social media favourites at the point of their release, selling out almost immediately.

It all started with the Hide puffer jacket. Sandor's take on the après-ski favourite retains the design's voluminous line; sportswear fabrics are replaced with a newly developed and washable vegan leather that is luxurious to the touch.

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"I never know whether something will be a hit or not", says Sandor. "For example, the puffer, there are so many puffer jackets around. But I think it's the washable vegan leather is popular; it's super soft and it's not nylon."

Sandor's Minee bag worn with a polka dot dress from her brand's debut Pre-Fall collection for 2018.

The brand followed its first signature item with an equally best-selling line of accessories and shoes.

There are flat slippers with a pointy tip which are made in Marrakech and render the traditional design of Moroccan or Turkish babouche slippers in croc-embossed cow leather – available in lilac or chocolate brown – or an intricate tapestry motif.

Nanushka bags include the Lubo bumbag, available in a selection of colours and materials, this is best worn as a cross-body pouch. A later addition is the Minee, a scaled-down bucket bag slung around hips and fastened with a matching belt.

To Sandor, the secret that underscores all her recent creations is practicality and ease of wear.

"One of the brand values is form follows function", says Sandor, describing a motto that informs every item she and her small creative team design. "Even from the beginning, I felt that function, practicality and comfort [were] essential".

Sandor's ready-to-wear collection fuses relaxed styles with thought-through details, some with a nod to local techniques. "There are some special Hungarian techniques that we use, but they look very similar to other international designs, such as smocking", she offers.

(Image credit: MICHELE YONG)

Sandra Sandor, the Budapest-born, London-trained designer behind the best-selling Nanushka womenswear brand.

Sandor's recent whirlwind success may well be attributed to social media, and especially Instagram where Nanushka has 128,000 followers. "We are a local brand from Eastern Europe", says Sandor. "Instagram gives us the opportunity to be an international brand".

Sandor's account is a masterclass in contemporary brand building: a moodboard of sorts, the infinite scroll is edited and set to a colour palette of calm earthy shades – think sandy beiges coupled with rose pink – and posts alternate Nanushka wares with atmospheric landscape and interior shots. Sandor admits to being a perfectionist when fine-tuning her brand's Instagram feed. "For two weeks in advance we design the whole layout", she explains. "Then my assistant puts it together and I approve it. It's absolutely part of the creative process".

Earlier this year, Nanushka made its New York Fashion Week debut, before heading to the US west coast to launch a temporary pop-up store in Los Angeles. Since February 2018, the first stand-alone Nanushka boutique combines clothing and accessories with a growing selection of lifestyle products in Budapest, and Sandor is gearing up for a special appearance in London come autumn as storied department store Liberty is set to host the brand.

Today, Nanushka's seasonal collections are available globally in over 30 countries, via stockists including Tsum (Moscow, Russia), New York's Bergdorf Goodman and Nordstrom in Los Angeles and Chicago. In London, Selfridge's, Brown's and Boutique1 all stock the brand, while Net-a-Porter has been a long-standing supporter. For Sandor, there is still mileage left in a flagship boutique.

"I really still believe in brick and mortar", says the designer. "I would never want to substitute this kind of three-dimensional experience I myself as a customer still really appreciate stores".

Sandor and her partner in business and life Peter Baldaszti – who joined the enterprise in 2016 – are on a quest to modernise retail, envisioning shops that combine retail with a club-like atmosphere, a home away from home for Nanushka fans if you will.

Their first outpost is the Nanushka Budapest Store & Café, located on the picturesque Bécsi Street. Sandor's designs are displayed over two floors; there is coffee bar serving iced espresso mixed with tonic water, deep leather sofas and intricate floral arrangements.

In addition, Sandor who is today dressed in an antique white cotton painter's smock, jeans and a pair of signature Nanushka slippers, is planning to sell vintage fashion, sourced "mostly from Romania, Transylvania, Prague and surrounding countries that are a little bit different to foreigners".

Nanushka Budapest Store & Café

The light-flooded boutique is the perfect setting for Nanushka-clad snapshots. "A well-conceptualised brick and mortar operation can be your best marketing tool and channel", says Baldaszti. "We don’t consider brick and mortar another sales channel; rather, it's our most important tool of communication. It's very direct".

Nanushka Budapest Store & Café

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