They say you’re nobody until someone impersonates you. When it comes to a brand, you know you are a successful business when you can say, “It’s hard to find a mass brand which is not copying our core Michlin Jacket”. And that’s the case of Dima Ievenko and his puffer-specialized brand Ienki Ienki.
Oh, winter! Cold, wind and rain. Some love it, others hate it. The only thing for sure, though, is that you better have an astonishing set of coats to survive it warmly and gracefully. No matter your style or personality, nobody likes to freeze, yet many of us want to look good to still feel ourselves during this season. Dima seems to have a good solution. Ievenko explains that it’s all about passion for your work and pushing the boundaries of what already exists.
With a technical background on marketing and branding, he’s been able to forecast what consumers want but can’t fulfil yet. And so he has offered them. Technology and innovation-focused, he has founded Ienki Ienki, a brand whose products meet fashion and utilitywear through new shapes and silhouettes. “I don’t find it interesting to create crazy things just for the purpose of creating a crazy thing”, he says. Today we speak with Dima about creativity, business, sustainability and the future.
First of all, let’s dive a bit into the brand. How’s Ienki Ienki?
Ienki Ienki is a breakthrough outerwear brand focusing on both innovative and wearable shapes and silhouettes, which never existed before. When entering the outerwear market in 2016, there were many puffer brands, but we created something new there – puffers in new shapes and silhouettes that quickly became a must-have all over the world. Now, three years after we launched, it’s hard to find a mass brand which is not copying our core Michlin Jacket; it’s everywhere. So, I would say that Ienki Ienki has an innovative, functional and commercial vibe.
And, how similar is Ienki Ienki to you, Dima, the founder?
The team I’ve gathered to create Ienki Ienki is a group of product-inspired professionals, designers and constructors. Product is our focus. And the way we work is slightly different from the typical understanding of work on the collections. We are inspired by design and functionality mixed with our vision of fashion and modern lifestyle.
As to how similar Ienki Ienki is to me, I would say that it’s who I am. But again, it’s not just me, we are a group of passionate people with the same vision and passion for creation and development. Ienki Ienki is present everywhere in my daily life. As the key purpose of outerwear is to serve people to protect them from natural impacts, I examine every vital aspect through the brand. I’m always searching for a product that still can be created and how to properly introduce it to the market.
You launched Ienki Ienki in 2016 and now you’re all over the media, counting with the support of celebrities such as the Hadid sisters, Emily Ratajkowski and Eva Chen, among others. But what’s the origin of Ienki Ienki? How did it all begin and how have you arrived here?
My professional career was always connected to fashion and included publishing business, marketing, buying, visual merchandising, branding, etc. However, my key focus was always retail. I visited many showrooms where I couldn’t find outerwear that was fulfilling the current interests of the customers. This led me to the idea of working in this niche and creating a garment with all the characteristics I admire: high quality, warm, simple but recognizable, stylish and created with the newest technologies available. I always had a passion for outerwear, so at some point, I could picture the ideal product that would be interesting for both buyers and final customers.
Can you tell us a bit more about the current collection? Why a ski collection?
I believe that a ski collection is a next step for many outerwear manufacturers and that’s why it was so challenging and appealing to me. Also, it was a logical development to get to a different league, where it’s not only about fashion but also science and technologies. Nevertheless, the real inspiration for a ski collection were our customers, who were in love with our puffer jackets; they were wearing them on the slopes while skiing even though the garments were not specifically produced for that purpose. For me, this meant that people really liked the idea we offer as a brand, so they wanted to look different from the other available options on the market, even specialized ones. This is why we decided to offer them our garments but suitable for these specific ski purposes.
The puffers for skiing look amazing, especially for those who love being fashionable when practising sport. However, feathers are not waterproof. How did you manage to make these coats fit within the sport’s requirements?
Thank you, I’m happy to hear that! For our ski capsule, we researched the top technical solutions and merged them with our DNA. Therefore, our ski jackets and pants were made with advanced three-layer membrane fabric, which is created with WB-formula allowing water vapour to get outside and, at the same time, to provide protection from snow, rain and wind. Of course, you are right, and feathers are not a waterproof material, but it’s technically impossible to get through them because of this three-layer membrane fabric and ultrasonic welding process we used, meaning no threads or stitches.
Ienki Ienki’s ski capsule is also produced with one of the warmest substitutes for the goose down: PrimaLoft, developed for the United States Army in the 1980s as an alternative; Velcro textile fasteners with more than then thousand attachment cycles, and Riri customized waterproof zippers. Additionally, we equipped ski jackets and pants with Recco rescue technology which, with the help of detectors, lets the rescuers find you if any unpredictable or dangerous situation happens. Moreover, we plan to use the technologies of the ski capsule in the brand’s main collection next season.
Almost everyone has a puffer these days, they have become a wardrobe staple. We can see some fashion firms are pushing the boundaries of these garments, bringing them to fashion-forward extremes. Is Ienki Ienki planning to do so as well, or do you follow a more traditional approach? How flamboyant do you think your designs can become?
Ienki Ienki is planning to continue to lead a niche of functional outerwear where we will keep creating both innovative and wearable outerwear pieces that you will be able to use every day. I don’t find it interesting to create crazy things just for the purpose of creating a crazy thing. It’s way more interesting to create something new that will give everybody comfort and pleasure by wearing it every day.
Your latest campaign was shot by Sasha Samsonova in the breathtaking Death Valley in Los Angeles. You have stated that you like building a Ukrainian team around the brand. Is that the main reason for this partnership? Why Death Valley and why Sasha?
I wouldn’t say that it’s the main reason for this partnership but it definitely was important. Sasha is an incredibly talented artist who has achieved a lot professionally and I have been constantly enjoying her work. Eventually, we started to discuss working together on Ienki Ienki’s upcoming collection, and then Death Valley and LA just happened. So, I’d like to highlight that I really love the idea of building a Ukrainian team around the brand, but this partnership with Sasha happened mostly because of how awesome her work is and not only because she is also from Ukraine.
Are you planning to shoot in Ukraine as well?
Of course, we are also planning to shoot in Ukraine as well. In fact, our previous campaigns were shot there.
You created Ienki Ienki from scratch. How important is it for you to be fully involved with everything around the brand now that it’s growing? Do you make every decision or do you leave certain aspects on trusted hands?
From the very beginning – and still today –, I’m one hundred per cent involved with every main aspect around the brand. I should say that campaigns are actually one of those main aspects I always work on, along with the collection itself, its presentation, distribution and all the other creative aspects that I’m overseeing. However, with the brand growing, it also grows the number of its operating tasks and I try to delegate small ones as much as possible.
Ienki Ienki is adopting modern-day technologies like Augmented Reality (AR), which gives the ability to consumers to explore every inch of the puffer jackets. How does it work and how much does technology inform Ienki Ienki’s processes – from production to sales?
AR is one of our newest innovations, which we took on board this year to create the most advanced product experience that exists in the world at the moment. It works easily by simply visiting our website from your iPhone with no apps, no data transfer and no obligatory sign-ups. You are able to merge the digital image of our best-seller Michlin jacket into the real world, explore it, play with its size and placement, etc. I personally found it very entertaining during the last fashion week in Paris, you can check it out on my Instagram.
In general, I have a real passion for innovation and technologies which we use for all processes, especially in production. At the moment, we have the most advanced equipment for working on our ski capsule as well as for puffers’ fillers, but I think that this equipment is a must for the outerwear production. When it comes to the final product – to ensure that you have an original Ienki Ienki puffer –, we have implemented special cards in each item so you can just place your phone on a puffer and then be redirected to the brand’s official website to find all necessary care instructions.
Nowadays, consumers are more conscious than ever and sustainability is one of the main issues of the market right now. So, what does Ienki Ienki – a brand which mainly operates with nylon and polyester materials – do (or is going to do) for the actual situation of the planet?
Currently, we are working on our first sustainable vegan collection that we plan to present in March, 2020, in Paris. For puffers, we are using fabrics out of recycled fishing nets no longer usable and fibres of recycled oyster shells instead of goose down filler. We are truly excited to make our contribution to changing the actual situation of the planet, especially in the fashion industry.
To finish, we would like to know what is the vision of Ienki Ienki? Where do you see the brand in five years?
I love this question, thank you! Now, we have Ienki Ienki for women and men, and also we are back on track with our kids capsule. Therefore, we’d like to move forward, improve and get established in these three categories on all of the main markets with our own corners and flagship stores. Additionally, for casual fashion products, we are interested in expanding our outerwear range with specialized lines for specialized markets, such as the ski capsule that we are launching at the moment and outerwear capsule for extreme environments – like Everest climbing gear, which is planned for the nearest future.