New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Q&A: Cool-girl designer Kenza Iatrides on her clothing brand

Iatrides spoke with WSN about building her clothing brand in Paris, the benefits of sustainable fashion and the power of social media.
Gia Sidhu
Kenza Iatrides’ desk. (Gia Sidhu for WSN)

Paris-based designer Kenza Iatrides’ versatile pieces made from upcycled materials represent a wondrous rethinking of clothing. Iatrides started selling her designs a year and a half ago with a brand ethos that places creativity and individuality at the forefront. She has since expanded her reach through the global shopping platform Ap0cene, wearing many hats as the model, designer and content creator for her brand. 

As a European entrepreneur, Iatrides shared how she grew her brand by reaching celebrity audiences both in Europe and the United States, including NYU alum and actress Rachel Sennott. Iatrides’ sexy and unapologetically bold designs made an appearance on Sennott’s Instagram page, where the actress appears clad in her matching lace set, looking every bit the cool girl that Iatrides’ brand represents. 

In an interview with WSN, Iatrides spoke about building a brand in Paris, the benefits of upcycling and how she managed to reach a global audience through social media. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

A woman wearing an opaque white lace dress.
Kenza Iatrides wears one of her own designs. (Gia Sidhu for WSN)

WSN: What was your first inspiration when it came to creating clothes?

Iatrides: I have always loved fashion. I can’t even remember when I started liking it, but I always had this weird way of dressing. I didn’t have that many clothes, but I always wanted to be fashionable, so it was just about finding a connection by figuring out how I could make my garments special by myself. Later on, that translated into designing them. So I was wearing a bra on top of my shirts, and now that I’m designing, that bra turned into a print. I wanted a way to express the way I dress and translate that into my designs. 

WSN: Did you go to fashion school in France? 

Iatrides: I went to a fashion school in the Netherlands, ArtEZ University of the Arts, for four years. I studied fashion design. I really wanted to go away from the French system because I did my education in France for high school and middle school, and I felt like it wasn’t very creative. France’s education system is classic and limited. I was frustrated by that and just wanted to get out. I kind of missed out on the traditional fashion school, but I also wanted to be with people that have different backgrounds. I went to ArtEZ and it was all of that, and so creative and so fun. 

WSN: What’s the creative process behind your pieces? 

Iatrides: I use spray paint, but it depends. Now, I have this technique that I use the most because it’s become what I’m most known for. I spray paint on clothes, lingerie or lace, and different vintage items. I have a few techniques — I can decide on a shape and then print on it, or choose clothes that are already made and print on them. I’m trying to keep the pieces a bit simple, like a T-shirt or a top, because the print expresses itself. Otherwise, I just have an idea, I do it and I try it, and then if I like the idea, I keep pushing. I had this zero-waste top — I just kept a huge bag of leftover fabric I had, and then I stitched it together and I liked the result, so I made three more. One was the top, one was a dress and one was a little bustier. When you have an idea you have to really flesh it out and just see where it takes you. 

WSN: How did you get your upcycled set to Rachel Sennott? 

Iatrides: That was really random. She came to a pop- up and purchased a piece. That’s the amazing thing about Paris — you never know who’s around the corner. I feel like now all the influencers know each other, and are all friends with people in the artistic community. I bought vintage lace at a thrift shop that I found and I thought it was antique. I made the set out of it. I went to IKEA a few weeks ago, and it turns out that IKEA has the exact same fabric. I ended up buying it for myself, but it was so funny to see. 

WSN: How has it been growing your brand since you returned to Paris?

Iatrides: At the beginning it was slow. It was also scary because I started in the Netherlands where the fashion world is very small and everyone from the bigger to smaller brands are connected. When I came to Paris, I had no connection to the fashion world. I started to get to know people and meet small businesses when I got involved in pop-ups and a lot of that comes from social media. It’s starting to pick up and I get to meet more and more people in the fashion industry, which feels amazing. 

WSN: What advice would you give people that are nervous to put themselves out there?

Iatrides: I honestly am a bit of an anxious bird, and I can find connecting very difficult especially if you work from home. But the biggest step I took was using social media, because when you use TikTok, a lot of people are going to come to you. When you use Instagram, a lot of people are going to just direct message you, and when people start connecting with you, it helps you feel more confident to start reaching out yourself. I had a collaboration with V4K, a knit designer in Georgia. She just DMed me that she liked my stuff and she’d like to discuss, and then we had a call and we really liked each other and started working together. Then I had another collaboration with a different artist and this time I was the one to contact her. With social media, it’s really easy to reach people and if the person doesn’t answer, they don’t answer and that’s it. You don’t have to be too scared.

WSN: What does sustainable fashion mean to you?

Iatrides: Honestly, for a long time I always had an issue with sustainable fashion because it felt like it always had to be a bit minimalistic and boring. I really liked this new approach where you can still be sustainable while being a maximalist. I made some pieces that are adaptable. For example, you have this shirt that has multiple buttons, so if you button it one way, it twists, but if you turn it the other way, it’s going to be flat. I took inspiration from when I was a student and I had this one really good shirt that I wore almost every day, but in different ways, it was a challenge. You just need to be creative with what you have, and I wanted to try to bring that concept to some of my pieces. Different opportunities provide different sourcing methods, but for me I want to show sustainability doesn’t have to be sad and boring, and that we can really have fun with this.

WSN: How do you feel your work represents your identity?

Iatrides: The uniqueness of it. I love the fact that with all the lingerie I use I collected them myself. I either thrifted them, or it’s my bras that I’ve owned. I love the fact that I’m giving away a little piece for them to have. And with the method I use, everything is always done by hand. I really want the people who buy the piece to understand that every piece I make is completely unique. It’s special. You’re buying something that is not highly produced and there’s not a single chance that you’ll see someone with the exact same piece. Everything I create is made with love. 

Contact Makayla Brown at [email protected].

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