Ruslan Baginskiy is building the next powerhouse accessories brand, one hat at a time. We spoke to the designer about the cool factor and how to remain commercially viable in this market
Ukrainian milliner Ruslan Baginskiy has seen the kind of stratospheric brand growth most only dream of. After sending a handful of samples to an editorial shoot featuring Bella Hadid, his signature baker boy caps went viral following an Instagram post from the model.
Now sold on the biggest e-commerce platforms, we spoke to Baginskiy about what fashion looks like going forward and how to build the next powerhouse brand.
What do your first 30 mins of the day look like, your morning routine?
Morning is the most important part of my day. I like to start my day right. I always open windows for some fresh air, use a face mask and drink water with vitamin C. It’s important to put on the right music. And I love to cook, so I always make breakfast when I’m at home. All these little details help me set my mood for the day.
How has your schedule changed during the pandemic and how has this altered your creativity?
Sure, it has definitely changed, we’ve all felt these changes. All my team and my family were in quarantine from the start, we all took it very seriously. Myself and part of my team had been to Paris for fashion week, so when we came back to Kyiv we decided to quarantine and not go to the office for 14 days because we feel responsible for our team being safe. And in a week lockdown started and we all had to learn how to work from home. This time has shifted our normal schedule, we have a lot of calls now and Zoom meetings. I think I’ve started to work even more than before as it can be a challenge to understand when your day starts and when it finishes, yet I feel I’ve learned a lot from this experience.
Have you invested in your home during this time and if so what additions have you added?
Actually, I was lucky with this lockdown, because I just moved into my new home and for me, it was exciting to be there. I enjoyed ordering new pieces for the kitchen so I could enjoy cooking. I planted olive trees and now it’s my favourite summer place in Kyiv.
How did you know it was the right time to launch Ruslan Baginskiy and what were the stepping stones to that point?
I started working as a fashion stylist, and during that time I ended up styling the shows of Ukrainian designers. I couldn’t find the proper accessories that would perfectly fit the aesthetics of the shows. That’s when I started creating accessories on my own. After a few seasons, I realised there was a gap in the market so I started my own brand.
You sent you samples to a photoshoot – was this pure gut feeling and do you believe in following this?
Every time we send our hats to shoots, I strongly believe that it will work out. It’s very important to believe in what you do.
We love the chain detailing on your hats – how important are the materials and details in building a brand?
Very important, because it makes you unique. From the start, all our hats were about details. The RB monogram, hand embroidery, pins, piercing and chains. Some of these details are removable and can be used to style hats with your outfit.
Do you feel more drawn to the creative or the business side of the brand and how have you grown the team to support this?
Most of my work is about creativity and design. But I also take care of the business side in terms of being part of strategy meetings and making the overarching decisions. RB is an emerging brand; our team has grown to 30 people and I’m happy that most of them are my family and friends.
What has been the biggest hurdle since starting your own brand and how did you overcome it?
One of the most challenging parts is successfully managing the fast-growing company. We built our own production line in one year and we are now able to fulfil the growing demand, it is very motivating.
Do you have any mentors or guides and how does this help navigate the right path?
I don’t have one particular person. I always try to learn from the people I meet in my life. I’m always open to asking for advice.
What is your approach to scaling the business?
The online market is very strong for us. From the start, it was our goal to work with the biggest online retailers and now we are launching our own online store.
You have clients the globe over – do you see any buying patterns based on regions or countries?
We do see how one market differs from another when it comes to global sales. We research and learn about what people prefer in each region and that really helps when we create new collections or we’re preparing to go to market each season. For example, in the US people prefer felt and straw hats. In Europe, especially in Italy, people choose more intricate pieces such as our crystal-embellished baker boy caps. In the UK our signature baker boy caps are the most popular.
How have you stayed connected to the buyers you work alongside at e-commerce brands such as Browns, Matches Fashion and Net-A-Porter and what do you predict a buying season will look like in future?
We have our in-house sales team and we set up our own showroom in Paris every season, so we are connected with all the buyers directly as they’ve become our friends. Now we are in the middle of preparing for the new season and due to the Covid-19 situation, all appointments will be done online.
Have you created any bespoke pieces for your clients?
We always make custom pieces for editorial shoots and special events. We also have a couture collection where each is unique.
How has social media affected building Ruslan Baginskiy and which platform has been most useful?
For us, Instagram was at the heart of the initial visibility of the brand, it gave a chance to reach people we dreamed of working with while we were based physically in Ukraine.
Which Instagram accounts do you follow for inspiration?
I follow a lot, but there are a few I really admire such as @ruby_marylennox, @mudimakes, @grabkoivan and @minhyunwoo.
We love all your styles, if you had to choose one signature which would it be and what do you predict to be the next?
Our signature style has always been baker boy cap. But now I think the hats with chain strap can also compete.
Do you have any pre-bedtime rituals?
I always watch Friends episodes before I go to bed.
What do you carry with you always when travelling?
What advice would you give to your younger self starting out?
Now I know how important it is to get specialised education.
If you had not launched Ruslan Baginskiy, which other roles would you choose career-wise?
I think I would continue work as a fashion stylist, I really admire this job.
This issue is ‘The Summer Escape’ – where would you like to escape to?
It would be Italy for sure. I had a plan to travel around Italy this summer.
Pick up a copy of ‘The Summer Escape Issue’ or download it here
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