PARIS LOVE TRASH
I sat down with Kanat & Katarina Ozturk at the Ludlow Hotel to conduct our interview. They are the married couple behind PARIS LOVE TRASH, which launched in April 2016. This is a line for both men & women, currently featuring sweatshirts, tees & tunics, but the assortment will soon expand. Read on to learn all about their story!
What are your career paths? Katarina: Kanat lived in New York and is originally from Turkey, and I was in LA for 8 years. We are currently based in Houston, Texas.
We had always wanted to start a line, and in the last couple of years it came to fruition. I have a love for fun & nicely made sportswear. When you put the line together, you have to set the production, fabrics, marketing, etc. It's much easier once all of this is figured out. Every order that PARIS LOVE TRASH sends comes with a tote bag, which is made in Istanbul. Michelle Vella, a Canadian artist, collaborated on our Andy Warhol design. The clothes are 100% cotton, which allows for structure for our prints. They are crisp and wash well. It's a piece of art on the body, and because of the structure you can see the design well. We are working on adding vintage washes, and because of the fabrication the pieces will be more slouchy. Oversized tunics are next on the pipeline. One must start small and get the reaction from people. You can't put 100s of designs out there. Slowly we will start adding pieces. We did everything to start our line from the website to the photo shoot, etc. Kanat: I was always on wholesale side of things working on private label for department stores. I went back to Houston and started in the Oil & Gas business, working with computers on graphic design. Then, I tired of that & the oil and gas industry was having a slow moment. We knew launching a brand was something we always wanted to do and we thought when one door closes, another opens. Katarina: I was a makeup and hair artist in LA. I lived in London and met photographers & various people which is how I got into that side of makeup. Then I moved briefly to San Francisco, but didn't love the city. After that, I moved to Houston for a couple of years and worked in film & TV. Finally, I ended up in LA where I worked on lookbooks which I later applied to our line.
Kanat: When you're in the business, you get so many ideas. For example, Thomas Blakk, who is a bag designer and artist wants to collaborate and make a trash bag for us.
How did the two of you meet? We met on Match.com in Houston and got married 4 months later.
How did you choose the name & logo? It's difficult to be original these days because so much has already been done. We bounced some ideas around and played around with words. When you think of Paris, you think of fashion, effortless beautiful women and great style. Trash came in because it's a cool word. It makes sense because fashion is more disposable these days. For example, one would have only one pair of jeans back in the day. Slowly over time, two pairs is not enough, but then you get tired of wearing it after three times. However, you never throw away your sweatshirts and t-shirts. We think the name is what is so catchy, and we built from that. Kanat designed the logo. It's super simple, sleek, which is how our website is designed as well.
Describe the process of designing your website. It took us a year, and we are always updating & changing it. It's easy to use, and you can see the products well. Kanat did a lot of designing the website & worked closely with the web designers. Katarina: You go in with a vision of how you want things to look and what you like and you build from there. I like clean and simple when I shop. I like a description about the fit (ex. the model is __ tall). We wanted the models to have minimal makeup, hair back and for it to have a clean design. We didn't want to copy other websites, and instead wanted to come up with something unique. We are planning to add tighter shots of the fabric. When our customers see the products in person, they comment on the fact that you can even see the brushstrokes, so we want to make sure that is showcased online as well.
Where did you find factories and fabrics to partner with? Kanat: Italy and Turkey have the best quality. I knew the production side from working with private label. I know the fabrics and can read them. It's difficult to find factories in Istanbul, so I went over there for a while to choose the right one. The factories where we get the products made do Lacoste, All Saints, Sandro, etc. Since they produce such large lines, the factories were basically interviewing me instead of the other way around. The companies they work with are producing large quantities, which the factories like because they get paid more. Therefore, they are hesitant to make products in small quantities. You have to convince them to work with you. The fact that Kanat is Turkish was really helpful because he can speak their language. Sometimes the factory has to re-do samples 3 or 4 times before it's correct. You need to make them understand your vision & the quality you want. First, you send them sketches of what you want. The factory oftentimes adds their own ideas even if you don't ask them to or want it to be designed that way. They always add something you don't know about in the material. For pretty much every brand, there is something else in the fabric composition besides what's featured on the tag. It starts with telling the factory how you want your fabric to be. We didn't go there at first, and they were sending all sorts of fabric swatches. You tell them what you want, what types of colors, and they send you samples and swatches to go through. Then you send sketches and measurements. You go pick up the samples they made for you, you re-do them to your liking, and send it to them again. It was a process of about 3 months. Once it's perfected and the factory has an idea of what you want, the sampling goes quickly. They are working with other brands as well, so you have to get in line and wait. It takes time, but 100% we make sure the fabrics are what we want and that they feel really great. All the fabrics are washed before production so there is no shrinkage.
What does it mean to read fabrics? There are technical ways to do this. You can feel it, or have special glasses so you can read the fabric (for example to tell if it's triple or double woven.) Mostly it comes with experience.
What skills are necessary to start & grow a company? What did you already know, and what have you had to learn? First, you need some finances to start the business and you need a great idea. Be tasteful & understand presentation. If you can put it all together, you can start. It took us two years to get to this point. Be mindful that it doesn't happen in a few months. It takes time, money, and energy. It is trial and error. You learn what works and what doesn't. You have to keep coming up with new things. Fashion is not as disposable for men as it is for women. Kanat has learned to concentrate more on the women's collection than men's because it's a 1 to 3 ratio (for every piece we sell in men's, we sell three in women's). A lot of the women are also buying the men's pieces.
What is your marketing plan? Kanat: These days one uses social media as the biggest marketing tool. Katarina is a painter, I am photographer, so we are really creative people. I also have the business side, while Katarina is more the creative designer.
What advice would you give someone interested in starting a company? Katarina: Be ready for a lot of work, never give up, don't self doubt. You have to be your best supporter and cheerleader. The best thing to say is never give up if it really is your dream you just keep doing it. You have to be able to take the negativity. Be prepared for all sorts of things to happen, both expected and unexpected. Take someone's criticism and work with it, whether you apply it or not, but use it to keep building. You have to believe in yourself, and once you do, others will believe in you as well. You can't start to self doubt. It's 24/7 in the beginning, but we try to leave it at work. You have to believe and know, and don't ever stop, and stand by what you do. Kanat: Make sure your finances are strong and make sure you know this business a little bit at least. Surround yourself with great people. If you don't know the business, don't get involved.
What is the design process like for you? First, we sketch a little before putting it on the computer. Then, we pick our colors and we play around with them on the computer, in order to get a vision of what it will look like. We add pockets or whatever is necessary. Most everything is digital. Once your model is ready on the computer, we send it to production to make sure the fabrics are correct. We started with the basics: sweatshirts and tunics in long sleeve.
What does a week look like? Kanat: I go to work early, and start off with marketing. We get orders and we ship them. When we ship, the products come with a tote bag. The packaging & presentation is amazing. It comes with tissue, black on black. We gave tote bags to our friends in Sweden, LA, etc, and people are intrigued by the name and frequently ask them what it is. This helps us to get out name out there and further develop brand awareness.
What are each of your roles within the company? Katarina: Kanat is the business end and I design the fabrics and cuts. I also follow the industry in order to get a sense of where the market is headed.
Do you travel often? What do you do while you're there? We haven't been traveling as much as we used to, because we have the business. When we do, we like to go to museums, dinners, people watch, & wander around in order to absorb energy.
What does the future of PARIS LOVE TRASH look like? Kanat: We will continue to collaborate and add more pieces. We are thinking of adding shoes or pea coats. Katarina likes a tomboy aesthetic and toughness in her pieces. The women's and men's products are similar. I have the hardest time finding a pea coat, because I want it to err on the masculine side, but they always have a girly element. Our line isn't unisex, but where there is a women's piece, there will be a similar one for men's. LA is more of an effortless style, where New York is a bit more polished. We want to continue doing limited editions. Everything is in French, so it ties back to our brand name. Hopefully we will open our own retail stores in the future. However, there are so many ideas, and we have to deal with one thing at a time.
Where did the two of you grow up? Katarina: I grew up in Texas, but spent my summers in Sweden. My mother is from Sweden and my father is from Romania. I would go see my cousins and grandmother during the summers. My mom is the only one who ever left. Swedish designs are amazing, for example, Acne. Swedish people are very cool. Almost everyone is in black and still wear super skinny jeans, almost spray on. Kanat: I grew up in Turkey and moved to New York in the 90s. Istanbul has a lot of art & museums. It has the Grand Bazaar, which is the oldest shopping mall in the world.
Where do you hold the inventory for your website? We hold it in Houston in storage. It's difficult shipping from overseas because it has to get through customs, taxes, etc. Since we store our inventory in the US, we can ship to customers quickly. We have free shipping all around the world. For the US, we ship mostly to LA, Houston, New York, Atlanta, Austin, etc.
Some of my favorites can be found in the shoppable links below (all on sale):