Interview made by “It Is Made in Europe” with Julia, co-founder of CACOFONIA Store – clothes inspired by art, sewn in Poland, European Union.
How did CACOFONIA Milano start?
Cacofonia is a family business with clothes inspired by art. The idea appeared during our trips abroad, for example to Milano. At the beginning, we did not take these dreams completely seriously, but eventually we said the words: well, why not do it? Besides, clothes with sublimation prints (this is our printing method) in Poland (where we live) are often associated either with sports clothes or with some cheap-quality t-shirts sold at a stall by the sea. Meanwhile, more and more designers abroad are starting to use this method and I am talking about brands such as Versace or Dolce & Gabbana. We decided to give it a try and bring some good quality color and art to the world as Cacofonia. Cacofonia has an official start in the second half of 2017.
Today Cacofonia is still run in a close, family-friendly circle. The brand is supervised by: our dad, me (Julia) and my younger sister Natalia. Our main graphic designer was Filip, my fiancé. Patterns are designed for us by young graduates of the Academy of Fine Arts in Poland.
What was the biggest challenge in this journey?
I think many people are unaware of how many factors contribute to the creation of such a brand. Months spent on searching for the right materials, tests, the second tests, looking for a sewing room, printing room… We have a lot of ideas, so creativity is definitely not a problem in our team: the brand’s name, pattern’s idea etc – it’s something we feel great in.
The challenge is that we are limited by various subcontractors: we always want to act “here and now”, and it turns out that on the market it can take an absurd amount of time to settle the simplest things, such as fabrics samples. Sometimes it takes up to a week for someone to reply to one email! This frustrates us. Generally, it was a challenge for us to realize that everything takes time. We may have an idea, but it takes a lot of time, stages and many people are involved in it to bring it alive. And the delays are often not up to us.
Attention to detail is definitely something we can be proud of in Cacofonia Milano. To some, creating a pattern may seem like a simple job: you take an image from Google Graphics (with appropriate license), put it on your clothes and here we go! In reality it doesn’t look like that: many of our patterns are adaptations of pieces of art – we add or remove some elements so that the pattern looks beautiful on the clothes. We refresh the colors, we have to make sure that the zipper is in the right place or that the hood and pocket match the rest of the pattern. We have to check if the most important element of the image is not, for example, on the side, covered with a sleeve. Our original patterns (not based on paintings), on the other hand, are often completely hand-drawn, mixed using the hand-collage method and then transferred to the computer. Another thing that takes time!
How did you gain the skills needed to start and run this business?
I (Julia) am a photographer and journalist (I finished “Press, Advertising and Publishing Photography” at the Journalism Department), and my sister is finishing studies related to internet marketing. Our father worked in an advertising agency and then he advised other startups as part of a venture fund. So I am the creative part of the company (taking photos, videos, running social media) and my great empathy is good in contact with clients. My sister (because of her studies) deals with advertising and SEO stuff and my dad runs the company from the business side – which is also very, very important, especially in the case of small, ambitious brand.
But frankly speaking, we learned a lot “in the process”. None of us had anything to do with the clothing market before, so it was definitely a challenge for us. We have learned a lot from our mistakes and we feel that we know more and more every year.
How do you get your customers?
Our clients largely come to us by recommendation. Local influencers who wear our clothes also play an important role – because they really like our clothes, not because of some one-time cooperation. We have very good reviews on Etsy (where we mainly sell overseas) which probably influences buyers’ decisions.
For some time now, we have been skilfully advertising ourselves on Facebook and Instagram – I wrote it skillfully, because previously some agencies tried to do it for us and it was a waste of money. Now we do it ourselves thanks to the knowledge of my sister Natalia and the results are satisfactory. However, we still advertise mainly in Poland and sell in Poland through our website. We have an English version of our site, but overseas customers buy from us mainly through Etsy.
What do you think about your current lifestyle vs. the one you did before starting this?
Cacofonia is not my only job – I am also a photographer and I write about photography. I merge these three segments on a daily basis and I have to admit that running your own businesses is really time-consuming. You often have to work a lot and work intensively and stress often accompanies you, because it is difficult to just disconnect from the company and “leave work”, as some corporate workers do at 5pm. On the other hand, now I can do something that I could not afford when working “full time” in somebody else’s company: holiday break without any problem. I just have to talk with my family if somebody is able to take over my duties temporarily and I can leave spontaneously without any trouble. I love it! Such independence is very important to me because I love to travel.
From which countries do your customers come from?
From all over the world 🙂 Seriously! We have already shipped to every continent. Customers from abroad order from us mainly through Etsy and they are people from “everywhere”. Mainly the United States, but also France, England, Australia, Japan, Israel, and even Egypt, Mexico aor the island of Reunion. It’s hard for me to name all the countries! In this aspect, the internet is amazing and offers great opportunities.
What are your future plans?
We would like to be more recognized abroad, not only through Etsy but also our own English version of the website: www.CacofoniaStore.com/en When the pandemic is over, we also want to make some new cuts of clothes. What else? Continue the company’s growth, as we have been doing for 4 years. More colorful patterns and greater recognition – this is important to us.
What is your favourite product?
Definitely a bomber jacket. Our clients choose this product most often and I also love it myself. Even now, during this interview, I am wearing our new bomber jacket with beautiful pattern with cornflowers and hummingbirds: Delicate Vanilla. It’s a very universal cut and fits many outfits. It looks good both with a sporty outfit and with a dress. Besides, I also like our square scarves very much. It’s such a cool accessory when you want a more basic outfit but are missing a bit of color.
Did you have any unusual special requests from your customers?
Whenever possible, we try to meet the special requests of our clients. Sometimes it is the personalization of the garment, for example looser lower cuffs. We also sometimes did a special pattern-personalization, for example on the occasion of someone’s birthday – then, apart from the pattern, a special inscription appeared on the clothes. Above all we watch over the deadlines of “birthday” orders. Although our clothes are made to order and it takes time (sometimes even 3 weeks), if the clothes are ordered for a birthday we always give it priority status so the client receives his gift on time.
However, one request was indeed exceptionally original. A customer from the USA asked us to sew a t-shirt with our Violet Angels pattern as large as possible, because he likes our adaptation of Bouguereau’s painting so much that he wanted to frame it and hang it on the wall.
Where do you source your fabrics from?
Despite the high production costs, it was paramount to us to support the Polish fashion market. We decided on a production process that’s realized in Poland from A to Z: starting from our cuts, which are made by Polish designers, patterns (made by Polish designers too), it is also important to stress that we also choose Polish fabric suppliers (all our fabrics are produced in Łódź, Poland). Our fabrics are printed and clothes are sewn in Poland: Piotrków Trybunalski and Łódź, both cities well known from amazing sewing rooms. We have been to both sewing rooms more than once and we saw the conditions of work there, they are great. I regularly send to our sewing ladies some positive feedback from our customers so that they know that their work is appreciated.
Here you can read more about how are our clothes made: https://bit.ly/3sRhHDr
And here more about our fabrics: https://bit.ly/3dRL2Jx