Who? OCHI, which means “eyes” in Ukrainian, is a sustainable outerwear label from Iana Kuznietsova, who believes that the pinnacle of any outfit is a durable coat — no matter the season.
What to expect? Faux-leather trench coats in pastel and earthy hues, ankle-grazing belted fake-fur coats, strikingly minimal tailored co-ords.
Where to shop? NET-A-PORTER.
For Gosha Rubchinskiy it was sweatshirts, for George Keburia it was tiny sunglasses, for Ksenia Schnaider it was jeans. Each of these brands had a signature item go viral, even if sunglasses and jeans aren’t all that Keburia or Schnaider produce.
Being associated with signature items can be a blessing, but also a curse. Even in the age of Instagram, influencers, and celebrity endorsement, likes and follows do not guarantee overnight success. It takes a lot of work to carve out a niche, let alone capitalise upon it. So to launch a brand that is limited to one type of item, especially in Eastern Europe, is no easy feat. Yet Iana Kuznietsova took up this challenge when she launched OCHI in 2016, with a specific focus on outerwear. Rather than rely on clickbait designs, her goal was to produce high-quality coats that are made to last.
Kuznietsova started out with a limited number of coats, sold only in Ukraine. Fast forward two years and her collections are now stocked on NET-A-PORTER, after they discovered the brand on Instagram and invited Kuznietsova to take part in The Vanguard, a mentorship programme for fashion’s emerging talents.
The SS19 collection was the first by the brand to be launched internationally. Since then, OCHI’s trench coats, blazers, and coat dresses have been picked up by style bibles such as British Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, and The Guardian. The Sunday Times introduced OCHI as the brand that “quietly dominated the street-style scene this season”. It comes as no surprise that the Ukrainian brand has not escaped the attention of the Kardashians, with Kourtney spotted wearing a mint OCHI trench coat in New York earlier this year.
“Everybody loves trench coats, regardless of their culture,” Kuznietsova says in defense of the British-born wardrobe staple. “It’s a very sensible and comfortable item, which can be modified and redesigned endlessly, acquiring new looks.” The OCHI version resembles an elegant, floor-length, oversize biker jacket. Kuznietsova has been experimenting with the length of her coats since her very first garment. “The design that started it all was an oversized coat, 125 centimetres long, and I’ve continued to use this length in many OCHI items.”
Conversations around slow fashion often centre on production. Kuznietsova tells me about the role design plays in curbing the fast fashion cycle. “If taken together, factors such as the cut, the fabric quality, and colour can ensure that a garment remains relevant for years.” This is the reason why OCHI outerwear has such a vintage feel, and why Kuznietsova prefers rich and complex colours over prints. As for production, it was important for the designer to support small business development in Ukraine. Therefore, OCHI only work with local manufacturers, while sourcing sustainable materials in Italy and China.
Bit by bit, Kuznietsova has been introducing suits, dresses, and shirts into her collections — all made of the brand’s signature eco-leather. “Besides the eco-leather and faux fur from the SS19 Collection, for the FW19 Collection we used high quality fabrics such as virgin wool, mohair, and cashmere manufactured by Lanificio Luigi Ricceri, who works with such brands as Max Mara, Givenchy, Acne Studios, Loewe, Fendi,” she explains. OCHI’s FW19 collection showcased bold refinement in its voluminous hoods and monolithic capes. As with her outerwear, the focus is on tailoring.
Considered alongside the dominance of streetwear labels in Eastern Europe and abroad, Kuznietsova is pleased that tailoring is once again gaining traction with buyers. “A woman shouldn’t be embarrassed to emphasise her form with the architectural straight lines of a jacket,” she says. However, even she admits that consistency can be boring. “Sometimes you want to replace your most comfortable suit with a large oversized hoodie — which, for example, I steal from my husband.”