The Story of a Poetic Dress
Have you ever experienced that feeling of cosines, when you find something so close to your heart it almost seems that you know it for your entire life, but actually you are seeing it for the first time? Such a sensation came to me when I first saw these linen dresses in the magazine a couple years ago. And this feeling warmed me up again very recently when I met this gentle and beautiful woman Vaida Ribinskaite, who stands behind the creation of Son de Flor.
by MONIKA SMILGYTE
photographer DARIUS MARKUNAS
“For me, people are what defines abstraction: they are never single-angled, -shaped or -minded – it's something that is always changing and cannot be described with a full stop at the end of the sentence.”
One of the main ideas of Son de Flor is to encourage a modern woman to slow down a little in this overtaking rush. Did it take a long time before the idea evolved into the first dress being made?
Son de Flor isn‘t my first initiative as regards producing clothes. A bit earlier I was involved in a more fast-fashion like projects, where I always had to be thinking about the change of seasons – in autumn it was all about a warm season and in springtime, I had to start thinking about the upcoming winter. Eventually, I realized that I want to find a way to live in a moment where I am right now, without rushing myself forward. So, in that respect, I felt the need to create something timeless, something what you can wear regardless the changes of seasons, you only need to think of a pair of matching shoes, depending on the occasion. And I have always loved these dresses made out of linen, similar to the ones our moms used to wear. So, my friend and I just had sewed one non-high fashion dress and then took some photos of it – as simple as that…
How did you come up with the idea of sewing natural linen dresses? Was it more a desire to share your approach to sustainable clothing, or maybe not enough options for your own needs?
It’s very easy to lose your sense of time and place in this fast-going world. In order to fight it, I needed to embrace the sustainable way of living. I realized that if you want to slow down, you should learn the new ways of slow living. Sewing linen dresses embodied this new ambition in my life perfectly. I, personally, like them because they can look even better with the time, easily adjusting to your body, allowing your skin to breath and feel healthy.
Also, the traditions of the flax plant (the fibers of the flax plant are used to make linen textile) cultivation and processing in Lithuania stretch back several thousand years before the world got involved into the race of rush. Together with the other two Baltic States, we have given a special place in our folklore and overall perception of the world to linen and the quality of this textile has always been appreciated in our respective countries. Even customers from Scandinavia, Japan or the United States indicate that it’s worth the investments. Moreover, we have linen in our DNA, so we have know-how and expertise how to deal with it. Therefore, I am proud that real professionals are engaged in its sewing and colouring.
You represent slow-fashion, so how long does it take to make one dress? How do you select the fabrics, how are they painted?
Any production is a quite complicated process: it includes construction, sampling, making, merchandising, marketing, selling, finally packing and shipping product to the customer. And as we are working with linen, it requires even more time and effort. This fabric is quite unpredictable and its preparation is time-consuming because linen needs to be softened, it stomps and shrinks. Thus, it takes a lot of efforts and time to produce a bodice tailored linen dress because it's a living fiber. More challenges arise once your market is the whole world; sizes here in Lithuania are not identical to the ones in the United States and Japan.
It took some attempts and mistakes being made until we caught the rhythm. However, the mood of the dress has managed to attract worldwide attention. Sometimes, our customers were even ready to wait for a month or two to receive their poetic Son de Flor dresses. In the beginning, about three years ago when Son de Flor was started, I actually lived in Barcelona and used to make long calls to the dressmakers in Lithuania telling how many dresses I need to be made, then returning to Lithuania and collecting dozens of dresses to be coloured and softened, packed and dispatched. Two years ago, we decided to give Son de Flor a proper chance to enter the world of sustainable fashion market and seems that it was a good gut feeling. We have grown immensely over the last two years and the circle of women who keep falling in love with our dresses and values is getting bigger and bigger.
Dresses mostly are in rich or pastel colours, while striped or checkered patterns are less common – do these colours dictate the fabric itself or are they purposefully chosen to emphasize the fabric?
Colours are a test run. Initially, we were inspired by natural tones deriving from the Earth, but later we felt that lively colours fit just as well, so today the palette is already plentiful. Only over time, some colours remain, some of them are gone. What is more, in appreciation to our clients, we sometimes fulfil their wishes or queries, thus we do not limit the possibilities of shades and tones.
In what way one could say are these organic, classical and nostalgic dresses actually modern as well?
We used to wonder if the garment we create is the echo of the past or the future, but we have never considered other fabrics over linen. In fact, our typical dress could be described as faceless, having in mind that it looks different on each person. It does not overshadow the person wearing it; it never feels too much or not enough. Therefore, the classic model is a pleasure for me to complement and fulfil, because the modernity very much depends on how the dress is being treated. You can wear casual sneakers with the dress and it will certainly look stylish in the street. The dress represents a rustic urban style and could be worn either when going to the market, an opening of an exhibition or even attending the wedding because it's only important which pair of shoes you accompany with it.
It's very interesting that dresses have a Lithuanian face and mood, but your customers come from Spain, New York or even Hawaii - how does this happen? What is the farthest place your dress has reached?
We did not specifically target those markets, our customers have found us. We have sent dresses even to Bermuda – had to take a look at the map and hope the dress to reach the client. I think, that with these dresses through pictures and cherished mood we hit a certain segment of consumers who seek slow-living, sustainability, and some of them are modern vintage lovers from around the world. Mostly, we channel our philosophy through social networks, so we display ourselves through digital marketing which, in fact, has no limits. The success of the beginner also helped us, we collected a lot of followers on Instagram, and today we are counting about 55k of them – most of them are from the United States, also a lot come from Japan, South Korea, Australia…
It is quite unexpected that the website is available only in English and Japanese. How is Son de Flor related to Japan? Do Lithuanians and Japanese women share the same sense of aesthetics?
Indeed, we receive quite a few orders from Japan. The Japanese style is interesting because they like oversized dresses in a way discovering a unique sense of style and it’s their outstanding character. The key criteria are still based on naturalness and quality. With our style and values behind it, with the quality we offer, we are a perfect match with Japan, thus, the webpage in Japanese is not an accident. However, getting letters in Japanese is still a bit of a challenge for us to handle… But they are such a modest and polite nation!
But do you emphasize that Son de Flor is a Lithuanian brand?
Not yet, but soon to come.
It's no mistake to say that dresses are poetic – how did this happen that every pocket hides verses of poetry?
An extra touch is always a pleasant way to surprise and inspire our customers. The small detail gives you a lot of positive feedback, which is the most important thing. There was one story when one woman wrote to us, that she had a very bad day and unexpectedly she found this poem as if it was written exactly for her. For me, it’s worth the effort of filling the pockets with poetry for 10 years, if it was significant to at least one person.