Young Budapest-based fashion label INQ debuted its first collection in 2013. Today, INQ is helmed by a team of two: head designer Orsolya Csík and CEO Eva Marillai, who is responsible for running the brand smoothly, overseeing sales, production, and marketing. The label fuses Hungarian and Eastern European inspirations viewed under a nostalgic childhood prism with current trends, so that the clothes – clean, contemporary, and casual – can become an integral part of anyone’s wardrobe. Occasionally, the duo invites other designers to join the creative team and contribute their fresh perspective to the brand without veering from the established brand vision. We caught up with Eva Marillai to discuss launching INQ, introducing menswear, and working on their current plans.
Tell us about your background, and what you were doing before INQ.
I had worked as product manager at various pharmaceutical companies for ten years, building up concept store wonderLAB with my sister during the last five years.
Both Orsolya and I have other pursuits apart from INQ: Orsolya has her own brand, Kag, designing and producing backpacks. My sister and I are running a design concept store in the center of Budapest, which works like an incubator for young Hungarian fashion brands.
To what extent are you involved in the design process?
I’m not involved at all; this is completely up to Orsolya. She selects the fabrics, designs the collections, and then presents them to me. We discuss of any issues I might have with materials, but she always manages to convince me that it will work; she is free to do anything – I trust and believe in her. We usually aim for a healthy ratio of streetwear and imaginary pieces; I only complain if I feel that the ratio is out of balance.
You started as an all-womenswear brand. How did you decide to expand to menswear? What has been the response from the male and female audience, and how does it influence your decisions?
Menswear is the field where fashion is happening today, and that makes it very interesting. It was a design choice as well as a business one. Our customers, men and women, expressed an interest, so we thought we’d give it a try.
This season was the first time we introduced a capsule men’s collection nested in the women’s one, but our minimalistic approach seems to be working well on menswear too.
What are the challenges when trying to be cohesive in both men and women garments?
The conflict is not being cohesive, since the INQ girl is not very feminine in the typical sense of the word. Masculinity has been an essential part of a female look for a long time now; there is no big deal there.
But designing for men is a bit different: you can’t ask yourself “Would I put this on myself?” And it’s a bit trickier to picture someone putting it on and feeling comfortable in it; looking in the mirror, it is easier to identify – naturally – with a girl than with a boy.
You have taken part in popups. How is this aiding brand exposure and sales growth as opposed to having your personal physical store?
We take part in popups in Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Vienna, etc. to test different markets. We do have our own showroom in the very center of Budapest together with three other brands (Jurekka, Leaneajewellery and Thinwood), plus we have direct sales at wonderLAB, but we need to explore international markets, and test the waters using these opportunities. The long-term plan is to have our own stores all around these places.
You have also shown your collections on the runway. How did you decide this works better for your brand than presentations or trade shows?
Shows are good opportunities for immediate feedback and fast PR. We invite our contacts from the media and regular customers, and also get a wider media coverage, important feedback from magazines, bloggers, and so on.
People interested in fashion gather at such shows, which creates a cool atmosphere. It’s a good place to meet new people and build new contacts. And let’s not forget about the lovely photos taken on the runway or at backstage – essential for social media.
What are you currently working on?
We are now finishing our AW17/18 collection and starting to organize our images and lookbook shooting. This year we plan to try London and New York, so we started working with a PR agent to help our brand, jointly with Jurekka. Hopefully, in February we will be presented during the London Fashion Week at a popup. So, we never rest but try to keep forging ahead.
Images © INQ