Exceptional designs by British designer, Claire Novotny, who aims to bring us affordable luxury through her inspirations from art and design.
q: Why did you name your brand Podeny?
a: Podeny is the amalgamation of my three daughters names: Poppy, Ophelia, Delphine. It is heavily influenced by my love for New York and the 15 years I spent there. It was because of my three daughters that I left the security and comfort of corporate fashion in New York and took a huge leap of faith to start Podeny, so I could spend more time with them, as well as fulfil a need of mine to create clothes for women that are focused on longevity not fast fashion.
It truly is a brand about mothers and daughters, about sharing clothes, being proud of the quality and of building a wardrobe that layers as the collection builds.
q: Having worked in fashion for over 20 years with high-end brands such as Club Monaco, Massimo Dutti, Joe Fresh and many more, what have you brought with you when establishing your own brand?
a: The 20 years of experience gained has given me the confidence to step back and see the bigger picture. I’m naturally much more comfortable working on larger scale collections, presenting in a leadership role guiding design teams and working on cost or production issues, so having to start as a one person team has been a huge learning curve.
I’ve had to become very good at prioritising and balancing the load whilst bringing up three children. Thankfully my previous experience & confidence allowed me to focus better and know exactly what I want to achieve whilst bringing my merchandising, production and negotiation skills to the table, experiences that most start up brands haven’t been exposed to.
I have a degree in Knitwear and I also studied print design, but New York gave me the opportunity to blend my passion for stitch and print with more clean tailored woven pieces, so I’m very much an all-round designer now.
q: What makes Podeny different from other clothing brands?
a: Podeny believes not only in quality, but lasting quality. Clothes need to wash well and withstand daily wear. They shouldn’t be discarded after three months because they’re out of fashion.
I feel there is a huge gap in the market for simple quality clothing especially, cool oversized knitwear that also feels amazing, silk dresses that don’t crease easily, and just clothing that’s elegant enough to take you anywhere. Podeny wants to take you on that journey, and make you feel as good as you look.
q: Podeny is a mixture of art and fashion, can you tell us which artists inspire you the most?
a: Living for 5 years in Barcelona and 15 years in New York really ignited the passion for art. Having grown up surrounded by fields, I was suddenly surrounded by an intense amount of creative energy. The art, the wonderful American mid-century designs found digging through vintage markets, the Art Deco architecture and the vast art museums & galleries all influenced me daily. I traveled to Hong Kong, Florence & Paris regularly so I was a sponge just soaking it all up! Podeny is really influenced by this mix of travel, architecture, interiors and art. None exist without the other.
I like American artists Robert Motherwell and Cy Twombly for their freedom of expression and abstract energy. Cecil Touchon and Ellsworth Kelly for their controlled clean minimal aesthetic. Egon Schiele for elegance and Brancusi, Modigliani and Rodin for their breathtaking sculptures.
My prints will start to feel more art inspired as I move into the launch of Collection two.
q: What is your design process?
a: I start by looking for vintage prints, this provides the core of my story and direction. I like to merge this with art that I find inspiring at the time, then narrow down the colours on my knitwear palette from there.
The line just evolves from this point, I pre-merchandise every outfit before sampling. Wastage frustrates me, so I tend to spend most of my time upfront revisiting and focusing my thoughts early on. I know that if it’s too fashion I’ll get bored and be onto the next idea soon, so I do my best to stick to pieces I appreciate and see being worn season after season. Then add fresh layers with each new collection’s arrival. That’s where I hope to take it.
q: What is your opinion on the current fashion industry? What direction do you think it's heading in?
a: The future of retail is to return to ‘slow’ fashion as opposed to the current ‘fast’ fashion mood, there’s a lot more emphasis on ethnicity and longevity. Designers have churned out new collections and trends at an accelerated pace, effectively reducing the life span of luxury fashion items to three months. The wastage caused by this mindset needs to be addressed and we need to take more accountability.
q: Is sustainability an important element for you and your brand?
a: Yes, Podeny had the privilege of starting its head office in the comfort of our Georgian house in the country, I’m not surrounded by city living, fast fashion and the wastage created by an industrial industry. It’s such a contrast to my new surroundings, where the pace is much slower, and we take the time to appreciate. I wanted that to also be part of the Podeny identity.
Our silks are printed locally and all expertly hand sewn in London. Our cashmere is one of the best qualities we could source after trying several in order to meet our standards and pass our stringent wear tests.
We reuse all plastic bags from shipping and are currently about to sign up to a program that enables us to contribute to tree replanting in order to offset any carbon footprint, which in our case is very small.
q: What's next for Podeny?
a: I’ve personally held back, since having just had a baby 10 months ago, as I wanted to take advantage of such precious time. I was 8 months pregnant when I presented the collection in Paris to buyers and I thought I could maintain my working pace and staying up all hours to keep up with the industry. I consciously made that decision to step back and grow very slowly so I got to know my factories well, also to feel confident that I’m giving the customer the best I can. Now Collection 2 is launching soon and I’m ready to take on more, so spread the word!
Podeny needs to be felt and seen. I hear many comments about how luxurious the clothing is to touch, as well as wear. However that’s difficult obviously to convey online through photography. The best feeling so far has been when customers started to send personal messages back thanking me for their purchases, and telling me how much they love the quality. I’ve had no returns so far, so it’s lovely to know someone is having a great day because they’re wearing your clothes!
q: How did you find out about working with us?
a: I discovered Curated Crowd on Instagram and immediately felt a connection to your clean minimal aesthetic. The collaboration just made sense to me.
Podeny is a classic British brand that excels at creating high quality pieces without comprising style and elegance. Using her expertise gained from her years of working as a Senior Director at brands such as Club Monaco, Massimo Dutti, Vince, Ruehl, Ann Taylor and Joe Fresh, she created a brand that contains wardrobe essentials for women on the go.
Although the fashion industry is changing into something more sustainable, it still very much revolves around fast fashion. It is fairly challenging to find afforable luxury brands that produce high quality, well-made clothing. This is what Claire is trying to create with Podeny.
Other than creating a sustainable brand, Podeny is also about the merging of art and fashion. Her designs are heavily influenced by the current art and design scene, it is very much reflected in her pieces. Something that resonates a great deal with Curated Crowd.