Image courtesy Stefania Borras
Interview

Stefania Borras

06.16.14

Designer Stefania Borras is the creative force behind Datura, a womenswear line based in New York, made in Barcelona and sold exclusively online. After working for fashion houses including Burberry and M + F Girbaud, Borras moved to New York to join forces with an internet entrepreneur and launch her latest solo project. Inspired by the Mediterranean beauty that surrounded her childhood on the island of Mallorca, Datura blends natural fabrics, timeless elegance and sustainable fashion.

Interview

Can you tell us about your fashion background?

I graduated in Fashion Studies at ESDI, Barcelona where I was selected as one of the best collections at our final project show. Then, I started working for Burberry for a short period where I worked in Showroom & Merchandising and also in the communication department. From there I went to M+F Girbaud in Barcelona as head of the womenswear design at age 24.

After two years working at Girbaud, I won a prize from an incubator competition from Spain in Barcelona that helped me create my own brand under my name for three years. I gained a lot of experience from attending many fashion shows and trade shows. After that I moved to New York looking for a change and challenge and started Datura.

How does the culture of your native Mallorca influence your brand and designs?

Mallorca has an amazing lifestyle; it’s relaxed and elegant and has the most amazing hidden spots where nature is raw and beautiful. It’s an island, but at the same time it’s a very international spot.

Summertime in Mallorca can become a little wild sometimes and I loved the idea of being able to wear elegant pieces that feel like a second skin and can be transformed into many styles and used for different occasions. The same piece can be worn to a laid back beach day to a day event, to the office, at night and even to a party or wedding. I like to dress the same piece up or down and mix it up with different accessories. I used to do the same in winter when I was working in Barcelona. I think that particular aspect and style of the design, the natural materials and the dress up or down definitely were influenced from growing up in the Mediterranean.

Did you launch Datura with the idea in mind to do something alternative to the traditional market?

I learned a lot of different aspects of the fashion industry through the years and I felt there were certain aspects of the industry that were a little outdated. It’s very hard for a small fashion brand to survive and to grow in the direction that one wishes – all the suppliers, manufacturing, showrooms, press, trade shows are all very difficult to access economically when you are small.

Everything seems to be more expensive and difficult to access when you have small productions. Fortunately, this is changing slowly. I found that being online only, which is essentially like having your own store, gave me the opportunity to produce and control every detail according to my possibilities and to the expectations of the customers. I could still control manufacturing in nearby factories and order high end fabrics from my favorite suppliers and sell at a fair price point. Also, the timing of the seasons was more real. We started making small capsule collections that went according to the real season instead to the traditional fashion calendar. In February, we would still be selling coats when in most of the stores and other brands they are launching their summer collections because they are on sale.

What does slow fashion mean to you?

Slow fashion is controlled and cared manufacturing, good quality materials and designs and pieces that don’t follow fashion trends and can be worn over and over with time. With time, they become part of you instead of becoming an outdated piece from last season.

How do you keep costs low?

Until now, Datura has had a web exclusive strategy. This cuts the middlemen and can offer fair and accessible prices. Prices on the website are now at least two to three times lower than what their tag would show at the store. Logistics and carbon footprints also can be reduced this way. Nevertheless, you also have to boost up your budget on marketing to get the brand seen and get traffic to the website. By being web only, we bypass the shops, distributors and retail markups altogether in order to offer designer clothing that’s accessible (but still have very high quality fabrics and production, always using 100 percent natural materials).

We saw something missing between the unreachable designer prices and the lack of originality and low quality of fast fashion.

Where do you source fabric? Produce your collections?

Our fabrics come mostly from Italy, but we also have suppliers from Great Britain, France, Spain, US and Korea. Our manufacturing is always either in Barcelona or in New York City.

Have you had brick and mortars begging to put your collection in their physical stores?

We have had a lot of demand from brick and mortars these last collections and we are opening new ideas and projects to maybe make this happen.

Would you consider wholesale e-commerce via other retailers?

Initially we didn’t because e-commerce also has a markup, sometimes as high as brick and mortars, but if we start opening up to the idea of selling an exclusive part of the collection to brick and mortars, we will surely also open it up to e-commerce!

Operating in this way has obvious limitations, how have you reconciled this from a growth standpoint?

There is a barrier with initial trust because people love the clothes and the pictures of our campaigns and website, but don’t always trust what the piece will look like when the order arrives. Fortunately, most of our clients are always surprised and are happier with the result of the quality of our pieces than they expected! We have some new very interesting projects coming up very soon that will help solve this barrier, we are very excited to launch them very soon.

Another barrier is getting the brand out there to new customers, but we have found a lot of creative strategies and projects to do so and the brand is growing slowly but strongly with the help of the word of mouth.

What’s your favorite piece in the collection?

I love our jumpsuits and coats the most. But there are many pieces I love, especially the ones you can wear and play with in may different ways.

What are some of your fondest memories in Mallorca?

Swimming and diving in the sea and of course, the FOOD!!