Updated at 11:59,21-05-2018

“Your Linen”. How Belarusian apparel from Polotsk conquered the Moscow’s market

Anna ObodovaUDF.BY 

Natalia Gaydarzhi from Novopolotsk started production of linen apparel in Polotsk and today sells it to Russian celebrities.

Natalia Gaydarzhi from Novopolotsk started production of linen apparel in Polotsk and today sells it to Russian celebrities.

Natalia Gaydarzhi produces linen outfits – from dresses to footwear – with the usage of manual embroidery. The designer’s main customer and source of inspiration is a plus-size woman, whose beauty and feminity she highlights. Having started a business in Belarus she sells high-quality clothes in Moscow, where her clients include actor Stanislav Govorukhin, writer Natalya Tolstaya and artist Nikas Safronov.

«I approach all my products as I were making them for myself»

8 years ago Natalya saw a beautiful dress in a shop. She was about to buy it but didn’t find the right size.

Natalya went to a tailor. After several days, in a new dress she was collecting compliments and glances of admiration from men and women. That’s when she got an idea to open a design studio: “Why don’t I make series of such products?”“Your Linen”. How Belarusian apparel from Polotsk conquered the Moscow’s market

Genes and education must have got involved. Natalia’s mother, commodity researcher at a restaurant, sewed clothes for the whole family. Some items were even sold. There’s never enough money in a family, so every weekend Natalia’s parents went to the town close to the border to sell clothes.
To realize the dream, Natalia went to a garment factory. She found talented tailors and placed a small order for dresses. The first dozen was of size 44, the rest - of size 46. It was clear that such business was destined to fail: the market needed a product that would differ from others. That’s why slim girls that almost all designers make clothes for were not Natalia’s customers. She decided to work for plus-size women, with sizes above 50, to whom most produces offer shapeless “sacks”. Natalia says this niche is still free and waits for talented people capable of letting corpulent women look beautiful.

I approach all my products as I were making them for myself to look attractive. Nobody will sell their clothes until they start to make it to their own needs.

She needed a unique product for the market. Natalia always loved naturalness so she picked Belarusian linen. The accent is on handmade embroidery, her favorite sewing machine was the equipment. Having a rich sewing experience, Natalia did not fear to start. As a child, after mother’s classes in constructing and sewing clothes, she sheathed dolls using a red sewing machine with an emblem “40th Victory Anniversary”. Fingers would get under the needle sometimes but her mother’s favorite chiffon dress would be reshaped in a matter of minutes. At school she even got a reprimand note: “She was drawing clothes designs during literature classes”.

I always wanted to create, to do something extraordinary. And clothes helped me to reveal myself as a woman, find energy for entrepreneurship and understand the real nature of things.

Finishing the tailoring school and Vitebsk Techology University, Natalia went to work for the factory in Bobruisk. After 6 months she left for a maternity leave, but instead of enjoying motherhood, Natalia kicked off a tailoring business. Together with a friend they went to Vilnius to buy fabrics and returned to sew kids’ clothes. Unusual and colorful jackets from Natalia Gaydarzhi were of a very high demand within mothers. However, first attempts to establish a business of dreams were disturbed by the Chinese invasion into the market. Their clothes had one but main advantage – the price. And only during the third maternity leave all the part of success came together.

“Your Linen”. How Belarusian apparel from Polotsk conquered the Moscow’s market

Natalia’s models at family festival “The 9th Month”, 2014, 2014-2015 collection

In 2007 Natalia became an individual entrepreneur and hired a cutter, an artist, a tailor and three embroiderers. 8 years ago an individual entrepreneur could legally have employees. The magnificent seven worked at home: they would make a small batch of linen clothes, take it Russia and sell. Natalia bought fabrics from a shop and that was a big share of expenses. Eventually, she could find the right price and quality of linen at Orsha Linen Factory that she cooperates with up to now.

After 6 months the legislation changed and individuals were prohibited to have employees. In order to preserve the production and customer base Natalia decided to start a company.

Linen Road: Polotsk – Moscow

So in 2007 Natalia rented a small space for production at one of Polotsk’s tailoring factory and founded “Vash Lyon” (Your Linen) company. She hired more staff and completely dived into her business. Three years of daily hard work were followed by first signs of stability and profits. Natalia’s first clients were visitors of one Moscow exhibition. Natalia put much effort into participating in different shows and exhibitions from the very start. Fascinated by a new type of products with handmade embroidery and its exquisite, Moscow inhabitants were standing in lines to buy it.

In 8 years I have not spent a penny on advertising. I get all my new customers by a word of mouth. This is the best promotion for a quality product. During this time I have gone through 4 crises, but each time I managed to stand up and continue the business that I like. If I survive in spite of all the difficulties, I do the right thing.

When in 2008 she got tired of constant trips to Moscow and back, Natalia found a small room in the Cherkizovski market area and opened a shop. As the number of notable customers increased, the shop of linen apparel turned into a boutique in Moscow’s Kitay-gorod district. The shop’s area is 50 sq. m. The monthly rent pay is $3000 (while other renters, who have contracts pegged to foreign currencies, pay $6000). During this time the team in Polotsk grew up to 13 persons: 6 embroiderers, 5 tailors and 2 cutters.

There are also difficulties in work. I manage to solve problems as they come, especially with the support team of mine – husband, three daughters and assistants. I have always been lucky to meet good people.

“Your Linen”. How Belarusian apparel from Polotsk conquered the Moscow’s market

Why linen is called “the second leather” and why wear it in winter

According to Natalia, more and more people start to prefer linen clothes. 8 years ago the situation was the opposite. This was a small caste of people who tried linen goods once and could not refuse from them. “The second leather”, as it’s often called by its fans, is suitable for daily wearing and special occasions as well. Linen canvas is pretty firm and durable; the material is eco-friendly, light, favorable for the skin. It also recuperates life energy and improves your mood.

Natalia is convinced that this is a material with good energy and excellent quality: the fabric is cooling in summer and warming in winter. That’s why designers sew not only sundresses and coats, but also linen fur coats, decorated in front with handmade embroidery. The hardest thing here is to convince people that linen is not only to wear in summer. This deep-rooted stereotype is difficult to eradicate that’s why sales always go down in winter.

Surprisingly, my first collection was one for winter. I was the first to dare produce winter linen clothes. We’ve shown those models in a contest in Minsk and won the first prize.

Nowadays Natalia Gaydarzhi’s collection includes above 3000 items of linen clothes, footwear and accessories of different designs with unique decorations. Each collection is not displayed more than twice. Handmade embroidery is the main highlight of the apparel. And it is also the most laborious stage of production. After applying an image on fabric, an embroiderer uses tambours attached to a bogie of an embroidery machine to slowly “draw” the image. Most complicated images take may take a month to embroider.

“Your Linen”. How Belarusian apparel from Polotsk conquered the Moscow’s market

“Flowers” collection by “Vas Lyon” design studio

An average bill for clothes with embroidery by Natalia Gaydarzhi is about $100. More sophisticated items may cost more. The models are sold in Moscow’s boutique and by an online shop.

Most customers are Russian celebrities. Thanks to Nikas Safronov (who was the first famous Natalia’s customer) the list of stars keeps growing: Evelina Bliodans, Natalia Tolstaya, Stanislav Govorukhin and many others. Here they get unique clothes made to their individual orders. And they come back again, like TV-anchor Vania Traore: in the wardrobe of this 2-meter-high guy there are linen suits with embroidered monkey, and black and white owls.

“Your Linen”. How Belarusian apparel from Polotsk conquered the Moscow’s market

Actress Evelina Bliodans wearing clothes by Gaydarzhi

“Your Linen”. How Belarusian apparel from Polotsk conquered the Moscow’s market

Natalia Gaydarzhi and artist Nikas Safronov, her frequent customer

Belarusin designer, renowned in Russia

Natalia Gaydarzhi have won numerous contests and shows, obtained various titles and medals. The main part of her achievements took place beyond the borders of Belarus. Member of the international union of artists, “Master of Beauty” medal winner for multiplication of historic, spiritual and cultural heritage of Russia, “Zolotoy Serin” medal winner for the creative approach to work… This is a small part of Natalia’s achievements. In 2013 and 2014 the designer was named “Moscow’s entrepreneur of the year”. Russian designer Vyacheslav Zaytsev presented gold medals to Natalia for winning the contests “Ples, linen palette” and “Textile Salon in Ivanovo”. But most importantly, Natalia’s collection impressed Pierre Cardin that the famous French couturier invited her to a show in his residence in Lacoste.

Today I see no use in participating in contests. I have my name already. Young guys, who only start working, have to fight now for a better place in this world.

“Your Linen”. How Belarusian apparel from Polotsk conquered the Moscow’s market

“Creativity without Borders” festival, Moscow, 2014

“Your Linen”. How Belarusian apparel from Polotsk conquered the Moscow’s market

“EcoSphere in Tishinka” exhibition, 2014

Prospects: book, school and youth contests

The current crisis adversely affected Natalia’s business. She had to cut down prices and expenses. But in general, the financial difficulties did not the work on the new spring and summer collection of linen clothes.

Natalia also has time for her family and planning her business’ future. The plan list includes organizing contest for young designers, writing a book on projecting and production of linen clothes, creation of the own school.

«My advice to beginning entrepreneurs may seem simple and commonplace, - says Natalya. – But these simple truth that everybody knows but never uses, allowed me to become who I am now. Set goals, get an understanding of what you want to achieve. Study the market and competitors, and find how you can be better. And most importantly, don’t lose confidence and desire to create. Feed these feelings, but stay “hungry”. And everything will work out”.