Meet the designer behind Budapest’s first sustainable clothing shop

November 22, 2017
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Urban Adventures

On one of the corners of Budapest’s cosy Újlipótváros (New Leopold Town) neighbourhood, you can stumble into a beautiful little shop, with white clouds around the windows and a tree inside. This is the shop for Kamorka, a local fashion brand that makes high-quality organic children’s and women’s clothing (and is a stop on our Made In Budapest shopping tour). Our local guide Gergő sat down for a tea in the shop to talk to the owner and designer, Klaudia Dömény, about her shop’s beginnings, the products and her mission.

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Before opening the shop, did you deal with any sort of similar organic design?

Before the opening there was approximately one year of setting everything up, but for me it all came together suddenly. I got my degree in 2014 at Mod’Art, the french fashion school in Budapest, and the focus of my final project was on organic materials, especially in the field of children’s clothing. As such, the shop started out with just children’s clothing. After a year, more and more people, both mothers and non-mothers, were asking why there weren’t clothes in bigger sizes — some even tried to buy the biggest child sizes for themselves! (Some had luck with those.) Once we realised there was a need, we decided to do a women’s collection, too.

Where did the idea to use organic materials came from? It is still a relatively unique approach?

It is hard to tell. I was at the brink of finishing college, thinking about what I would like to do with my life, how to continue. At that point I had already started to pay attention to my eating habits by eating organic local food — plus, I grew up in the countryside and my parents run their own farm. They brought me up with the idea that a homegrown tomato and paprika is much better than anything else. So I already had all this in my mind, plus I started to do yoga and I slowly got more and more interested in this topic. I also had a great teacher in college who taught dressing culture and was very open-minded about ethical production, raising my attention to the dark side of the fashion industry.

I slowly got the big picture, but I had to find out how to give it a positive concept, so I ended up with organic materials. But it was a year-long process to find all the manufacturers. The goal was to work with only Hungarian manufacturers. There was even the idea to use organic sewing cotton but it turned out to be a very problematic material, so that is the only element which has to be artificial. But everything else is natural: the labels are organic cotton and the buttons are made of cocoa or glass.

How hard is it to get these materials in Hungary?

We cannot get all these materials here, unfortunately. They come mainly from Germany or from within the EU. There is only one producer who is not from the EU, but the other 99% are. The problem is that in Hungary, we still have hardships with this kind of manufacturing. That really made it hard for us to start. But two years has passed and it is all very positive.

I can say we are pioneers, even though there are some other companies now dealing with organic clothing — but we were the very first.

Do you have followers now?

Yes, and regular customers for whom we have created a loyalty program. We always try to favour these people with some small extra things. I believe those who come here regularly like the caring atmosphere just as much as the clothes and the brand.

The design of the shop was also an idea of yours?

Well, the basic concept was, but the creation was a collective work of friends and family. I knew I wanted to have a tree in the shop, I wanted white and neutral colours to dominate the room, and according to this, we collected the cocoa fibre rug, the linen, the birch tree. We wanted every element to bring nature into the city.

Made In Budapest

Your tour begins at Budapest’s Central Market Hall (we will not enter the Market Hall but if you have time, we recommend that you arrive early and allow yourself at least 30 minutes to walk around amongst the stalls).

Was there any other problem that came with doing something very niche?

I might be naive, but for me it was a priority from the beginning to not have a huge profit margin because my goal was to have as many people as possible come and try out my product. Of course we have to work with higher prices than the fast fashion chains, but I believe that those who think it over, realise that we don’t use child labour in Bangladesh, we use high quality materials, we pay attention to details. And if you add all this up, I think we are not among the most expensive brands.

It is more common to have people surprised about the relatively low prices, actually. It was very interesting that during the first half year, we realised people didn’t dare to come in — probably based on this prejudice that the shop is too nice so we must be very expensive. After having written out the prices, more and more people started to come in and told us they had been afraid to do so beforehand.

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Beside local manufacturing, is there any other connection to local traditions?

If you’re thinking about the folk motifs, we don’t have that at all, but we do continue the old traditions of hand-knitting and hand embroideries that are done by my mother. So I would say it is a family affair — we try to deliver the kind of care grannies give us, through the clothes.

Do you have any further plans for the near future?

I think we should grow somewhere, open to new territories. We were thinking about expanding into foreign countries, but it is very hard to find those contacts. But I am open to these ideas for sure.

Will you have a men’s collection in the future?

Yes, we already see the demand for that, too. There are some dads all the time who ask me about that! Maybe one day.

You can visit Klaudia and her shop, as well as other local Budapest artisans, on our Made In Budapest tour.