FASHION

A Candid Interview with Designer Victoria Cocieru on her life’s work – Kheops

A female-founded, 100% women-led team of collaborative dreamers who value creating designs for fearless, uninhibited, and modern women

Photographed by Sergio ArtG

Asymmetric designs are the epitome of Victoria Cocieru’s dream of garments that imbue women with fierce individuality and confidence.

KHEOPS is a women’s ready-to-wear brand founded by Victoria Cocieru in 2012, in Moldova. The brand has been brought to the U.S. in 2016. Three years later, Victoria met Mariana Badia who soon became the partner and co-founder of the brand Kheops.

“We evolved into a profound design language that is helping us create clothes empowering women to be different and dare to showcase their own personalities through a touch of style”, says Victoria, the creative mastermind behind the brand Kheops.

Photographed by Sergio ArtG

“For me, becoming a designer was my only option, says Victoria. Maybe because I grew up in a family where I always heard this word – “designer”. It was my mom’s dream to become a designer when she was young. Unfortunately, the only University of Design of that time was located in the neighboring country. Her parents didn’t allow her to go that far away to study so she was unable to fulfill her dream.”

“During my school years, I used to adjust all my clothes by hand sewing. It was so bad. After growing up a little, I found a seamstress in my village, and I used to bring my mom’s or grandmom’s clothes and she could readjust them based on my designs.  Now, remembering those moments, I am so grateful to her. She took my designs and my hobby very seriously, even if I paid her very little money, almost nothing.”

Photographed by Catherine Asanov

While growing up, were there any women or style icons that you looked up to?

“Honestly, I can’t remember if there were any, but I have a nice memory, that I think of very often. In Lunga, the village I grew up in until  I was 18 years old, there were two sisters, almost my mom’s age. Living in the village, at that time, you didn’t have many options to dress up. Almost everyone had similar clothes. These sisters were an exception. To me, they had an immaculate style. Every time I saw them, they were wearing new clothes. I found out later that they used to buy vintage clothes, and upcycle them. Both were good seamstresses.”

Photographed by Brando Nilic

When was the moment that made you realize you want to create your own line?

“I knew I wanted to create my own line before I attended the University of Design. But the moment when I said: I am ready, was when two girls in Moldova, launched their brand, and they actually had success. None of them were designers. So I believe these girls were the main trigger for me that made me realize I want to launch my own brand.”

“The older I get, the more grows my appreciation for the people who supported me from the very beginning until today. I started selling my designs on Facebook, I was very skeptical and insecure at first. To my surprise, I sold 10 designs in two days. I started making more and more sales until I decided it is time to sell them in a department store. I met Diana, a clothing store owner, who was kind enough to allow me to sell my designs in her store.”

Photographed by Sergio ArtG

“A crucial moment for my career as a designer was the day when I was with my friends at a restaurant and I saw on my phone an article about a successful Moldovan designer opening her clothing store. Out of nothing, at that very moment, I started to cry, and my boyfriend at that time (my husband now) was shocked. I told him, in a month we have to open a store. He laughed. We knew nothing about doing business, mass production, logistics, or what we needed to do. In one month we opened the doors to our first store in the heart of Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. At the launch, we had over 200 clothing items, that we made in less than a month, and we sold most of them. It was a complete shock to me.”

“I found 6 seamstresses, with their own atelier, close to my rental apartment, and few of them were sewing until 12 am or even later. I used to give them cut fabric, ready to sew. I removed the rug in my room and just worked on the floor. It was a tough time without weekends for a long period of time. Eventually, I started selling Kheops garments in a department store in Bucharest, Romania.”

Photographed by Brando Nilic

“I used to create 100% only clothing designs that I like. Now I changed my strategy. First, I research a lot, I find my competitors, I try to understand my customer and the market. But the most important in being a designer is: if you want to make a real job out of it, you have to compromise your aesthetic.  Now I create based on the location of my customers, their jobs, hobbies, etc.”

What role do you think social media plays in fashion today and how impactful it is for Kheops?

“It’s a lot more work for everyone and it certainly opened up so many opportunities for smaller brands or those who are yet at the very beginning. For Kheops, social media is a great method of promoting the brand in a more personal way: creating a community and engaging with worldwide customers.”

Photographed by Sergio ArtG

What is the story you are telling about women who wear your designs?

“We want women to feel confident while wearing Kheops. Kheops is about attitude and the feeling that you get as a woman while wearing our designs.”

You are enough, independent, confident, and able to conquer the world – the message that we stand for. Kheops designs are created not to impress the world, they are created to empower the woman, to make her believe in herself. As a person, I am modest when it comes to making statements about my designs, but all I am saying is strictly based on the feedback we get from our clients.”

Photographed by Sergio ArtG

How do you go about having a commercial appeal and being unique?

“This is one of the challenges we had to overcome in a very short time. Unfortunately, COVID completely changed our lifestyle and we realized that our collections have to be more casual, and cozy. The commercial look was a must and we accepted it by keeping Kheops signature: asymmetrical designs, different cuts, and unique fabrics.”

How hard is it to stay innovative?

“It’s not easy. Fashion is just going too fast. In a year, some brands are presenting so many collections. There are not enough people to wear and afford them. I wish it to slow down so people can appreciate them more. At Kheops we focus on our customers, we listen to them and stay innovative through their feedback.”

“We don’t want to be one of those brands who need to manipulate their customers with busy banners that force customers to buy to grow their revenue. Even on our website, you can see we have only photos of our items, and we are sure our potential clients are smart and intelligent enough to make their own decisions if they want to have pieces of our designs in their wardrobe.”

Veronica Minci

"Everything that is real was imagined first."

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