The creative handwriting of the designer is clean lines and a desire for minimalism. However, every time the function is supplemented with a barely perceptible author's accent. Things created by Kateryna evoke an emotional response. They provoke to come closer, to look, to touch, to understand the essence. The designer's items are in the collections of Roche Bobois, Driade, Forestier, Bolia, Casala and other European factories. Her own Noom brand has established itself on the international market in five years of operation and is actively developing despite the full-scale war in Ukraine.
As a designer and entrepreneur, Katya openly shares her experience. Because the powerful professional environment of Ukrainian brands is the space where she wants to work and develop her own business.
I grew up in a creative family. In Soviet times, my father worked as an industrial designer, then it was called an "artist-designer". Designed machines for cutting diamonds, driving simulators, eyeglass frames, and other practical things. My mother worked as an engineer at the Malyshev plant, a large enterprise in Kharkiv that produces machinery and even tanks.
After the collapse of the USSR, the parents opened a leather workshop. At first, belts, bags and holsters for hunters were made there, but later, when many Chinese goods appeared in this niche, they came to exclusive custom-made items. Later, my father began to teach design, composition and work in materials at the Kharkiv Academy of Design and Arts. I asked him to wait until I graduated from this institution, because I did not want to be in the privileged status of a teacher's daughter.
Footprints in the snow
My mother always wanted my father to devote time to my creative development, work with me, teach me. But his approach was different. My father believed that I should come to this myself, feel a calling, sincerely want to. I was raised by the environment, not by any specific lessons. Therefore, there was no pressure on me as a child. For the company of friends, I went from time to time to various art studios, I had a knack for drawing. Worked for a while, then quit. What I was really interested in was ballroom dancing. But I didn't want to build a future in this direction in order to eventually become a trainer.
Since childhood, I understood that sooner or later I would follow the path of my parents and engage in creativity
I knew that this was my direction, and it would not go anywhere from me, so I was in no hurry. When it came time to choose my future profession, I left dancing and entered the art lyceum at the Kharkiv Academy. After graduation, she chose between two directions: easel painting and design. Design won for pragmatic reasons as a more modern and promising profession.
I started working already in the second year. I wanted to realize and expand my knowledge in related areas. She took the first steps thanks to competitions, they helped to immerse herself in a professional environment.
I submitted a project of clothes hangers to the trade equipment competition. The concept was a size marking system using interchangeable elements on the hanger handle.
The company that held the competition launched these hangers into production and invited me to cooperate. It was my first job after graduating from the academy, it lasted about a year. I designed retail equipment for clothing stores, as well as for sports stores: racks, stands, hangers. It was a real factory and serial production - everything I dreamed of.
It was not necessary to win the competition in order to benefit from it. Yes, for the contest held by the Designboom portal, I designed bluetooth headphones. I really liked the model myself, but the project did not even make the shortlist. Later, I posted it on my own Behance profile. There, he was noticed by the editors of the Yanko Design site and made a publication for them. After that, I was contacted by the French company Jarre Technologies. They were looking for a fresh take on audio electronics and found me. Our cooperation lasted seven years, I designed bluetooth speakers, headphones and other electronics for their brand. This is a big part of my design life and an important experience for me.
Moon is the opposite
I didn't have a life goal to create my own design brand. It all started with the words: "Let's try it?".
In 2017, together with Olena Oranska and Olga Bohdanova, we organized a Ukrainian exhibition as part of Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven. We named the project Between Tradition and Innovation and started selecting participants. As a designer, I also wanted to present something of my own, but there was no finished product. I flipped through a notebook with sketches of ideas and chose one of the unrealized concepts — modular metal vases inspired by the art direction of Suprematism.
With this project, I went to Arkady Vartanov, who had a successful workshop for working with Postformula metal. Even earlier, we had a conversation about working together.
We presented prototypes of vases at Dutch Design Week and received very good feedback. Several offers from manufacturers and inquiries from galleries. Even the French department store Le Bon Marché was interested in our product. Such cool feedback strengthened my opinion that the vases have commercial potential. Arkady and I decided not to give them to anyone, instead we founded our own brand. That's how Noom appeared.
We started by analyzing the favorite European brands that are already working in our niche. We studied how they present themselves, how they communicate with customers. Partially adopted their work standards.
When you are a brand owner and a designer at the same time, only 10% of your time remains for creativity. The majority is occupied by operational activities
You need to dive into every aspect, understand pricing, logistics, sales, interaction with dealers and agents. At first, we did all this ourselves, but the company needs to develop, expand its range, and present new products every year.
We had such a moment when new objects were in the works, we improved them and did not release anything new. Dealers started asking if we were all right. For them, it was an indicator that the company has problems, it is not developing. Now we present new objects regularly, and also expand the universe of Noom, adding new directions to it.
Soon, carpets, sofas and beds will appear in the assortment of our brand. Last year, we started cooperating with designers, because before I was the author of all things from Noom. But the understanding came that it is worth adding new visions to our collection. The first collaboration was a series of mirrors from French designers Maryna Dague & Nathan Baraness, which we presented in Milan. Here are some novelties from Ukrainian designers. Of course, it's important to keep the brand image in focus so that each new item fits in and develops the overall theme.
A little over a year ago, I had a child. This forced me to learn how to delegate and grow the Noom team. I transferred 50% of the working moments that were on me to my colleagues. It was a difficult step for me, because I am one of those people who want to control everything and do it myself. But motherhood teaches systematicity. I happily passed on many things that needed to be passed on.
I moved the computer from the office a week before giving birth. Then she took a break for a month. After that, she began to turn on little by little thanks to the help of colleagues, relatives and especially my mother.
With the arrival of my daughter, my views on design have changed somewhat. Now I also evaluate things in terms of safety - are there any sharp corners in the design that are dangerous for a child
We recently launched a children's line at Noom - the first object in it was a miniature version of the Gropius chair with round ottomans. We made them in pale pink and pale blue.
I don't have one favorite color, they change. For a long time it was shades of blue and azure. The cobalt color characteristic of the Bauhaus school became the basis for the Gropius chair.
Now I love white and the shades close to it: ivory, cream, beige. I also like complex "Scandinavian" colors. Natural shades of wood, stone and metals are close to me. They are out of trends and do not get boring over time, such things are not annoying and remain relevant. Now I want exactly that.
I like the white because it accentuates the shape. It is not for nothing that the main materials used in the molding course are plaster and paper. On them you can see how the form works, how the shadows fall, you can understand the essence of things and their character. White creates the effect of purity and celebration. A light shirt is the easiest way to dress elegantly when you don't want to bother. According to my feelings, right now, when there is a lot of anxiety in our lives, white works best. When you wear a white hoodie and sneakers, your mood automatically rises.
70% of furniture ordered from Noom is white or beige
Before February 24, there was a lot of talk about the war, and some of our acquaintances left Kyiv. Our daughter was six months old, and we felt awkward with such a small child, so we stayed at home and believed that nothing really dangerous would happen.
When sirens and explosions rang out every day, and Kyiv was under the threat of a Russian offensive, we quickly got tired of living in an underground parking lot and sleeping in a car. About a week later, they decided to go to Lviv. We lived there for six months.
On behalf of Noom, we sent letters to all dealers, agents and customers, explaining to them that the situation is difficult and asking them to wait a little. Some of the orders hung in the air, and we had to either return money to customers or find a way to fulfill the obligations.
Our contractors, the metal workshop, was located in Kharkiv. We moved this production to Lutsk. Production in Kyiv, which made our furniture, also stopped. They planned to move to the West of Ukraine, but after the deoccupation of the Kyiv region, they decided to stay.
The worst was with logistics: for the first three months, carriers or postal companies did not work at all. Even if we fulfilled the orders, we could not send them.
Foreign partners reacted with understanding - there were many words of support and specific offers of help. We were looking for production in Europe, and we even made test samples there. But in the end, they decided to leave the facilities in Ukraine, and later logistics began to recover.
We needed to restore the trust of customers and dealers. After all, the risk that we will not be able to send the order on time remained, and some customers were simply afraid to buy in Ukraine. We have offered our most reliable partners to place orders without advance payment.
The next step was participation in exhibitions - Milan gave us a lot in terms of regaining the trust of Europeans. At the exhibition, we demonstrated that the company is alive, we are working, and it is worth doing business with us
We released a collectible model - Military Gropius. This is a chair decorated with a camouflage net, as military equipment and positions are camouflaged. This is a manifest object, our first experience in the niche of collectible design.
Above the clouds
My professional dream is to see my own objects in the collections of such brands as Moroso, B&B Italia and Moooi. Among the dream plans is also Noom's participation in exhibitions in the USA.
I want the Ukrainian design environment to become powerful and competitive in the international arena. So that not a few individual designers sounded there, but a whole cohort of Ukrainian companies. Together with successful colleagues, it will be easier for all of us to grow and move on. I want to be part of a successful, realized society. I believe that after the war we will come to this.
Today, people are beginning to believe in themselves and debunk the illusion that there are more talented or qualified specialists working in other countries, in foreign design studios
Those who have gone abroad now are convinced that there are the same people there, and that our skills and our knowledge are not inferior to theirs. It is important to realize this and believe in yourself.
Personally, I overcame the inferiority complex a long time ago, cooperation with top international brands helped in this. You need to work, make efforts and aim for the highest bar. Everything is possible, and the world is open to cooperation, I was convinced of this from my own experience.
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