Natali Ruden is an established brand for the Czechs by now. Her luxury collections are presented by famous models and her boutique in Prague's Dlouhá Street is already notorious among the fashion connoisseurs. The designer has her own distinctive style, which she underlines by making every piece an original. Years of diligent work and austerity are behind her hard-won career, and her success was not without a price. Natali, like many other entrepreneurs, is currently facing the coronavirus crisis, because of which she's unable to give full attention to her customers. She's recently teamed up with the Czech king of etiquette, Ladislav Špaček, with whom she discussed not only the pandemic situation, but also beautiful clothes and the opportunities to wear them outside. And LP-Life.com was there.
Natali, how is it possible that Ladislav Špaček himself is looking at your clothes?
I hope that my work really appealed to him, that he sees that I am dedicated to it and live through it. I think the style is elegant. I certainly wouldn't have been able to get Mr. Špaček here if he didn't like it.
Did he have any advice or comment that you didn't expect?
We are friends, we have known each other for a long time, so we comment on each other's work.
Ladislav Špaček entered the interview: She keeps telling me that I should finally try a more casual elegant style so that I wouldn't be unnecessarily formal, such as Brad Pitt for example. I always explain to her that I will never look like Brad. (laughs).
What do you think is missing in today's fashion of the generation of of people in their 20's and 30's?
Role models. They have nowhere to learn and know how to tell what quality, style and elegance are. As a result, it's difficult to ask from them to dress tastefully. But that's also why we have our goal and can't give up, not to lose our style and go down the path of sweatpants and unisex clothes. We should try to stay classy and try to show people what style, elegance and way of dressing is.
But unisex and sweatpants fashion has really been a phenomenon in recent years.
I wouldn't say it's a phenomenon, people from the suburbs of poor cities always went around in tracksuits, but it wasn't so massive and no one was claiming that it was elegant, that if a shiny strip was sewn to the sweatpants, they could be worn in the streets or even to social events. We have to say it directly that these are not nice clothes, it doesn't move us forward and doesn't contribute to anything. Therefore, I don't agree with the tracksuit fashion at all. I find it absolutely not suitable for social outings.
How has the past year of coronavirus contributed to fashion, how has it affected your work?
I try not to succumb to it. People were telling me I should try sewing luxury sweatpants from beautiful materials, like velvet, which we'd bought for cocktail evening dresses. I said I would absolutely not do it, I'd rather dispose of the material than sew sweatpants out of it. I understand that we are changing, we need to adapt to the times in some way, but not like this. Rather, I'm looking for ways to keep clothes beautiful, but at the same time combinable, more economical, so that one piece of clothing can be made into two different ones, or turned into a different model by adding a small detail. To have a more eco-friendly approach to the work, materials and money of our clients. I don't make flashy things too much.
Špaček: Not long ago I presented a show of home clothes here. But they were definitely not sweatpants. It was beautiful, simple, practical, looser, sexy. This is exactly the trend we should follow, not to succumb to the terrible decline, sweatpants, but to follow this path that Natali showed here a few months ago.
Has coronavirus affected your clientele?
Of course. People even come here to tell us they are sorry, that they can't shop because they have nowhere to go, and that they can't wait to get something new and go to an outing. Evening dresses are awaiting their occasion, but we do a lot of cocktail dresses and nice ensembles despite that, even on order. It has become popular nowadays, or rather we are forced to meet friends at home. Of course, both men and women want to look good for each other, and a house party is also an opportunity to dress up nicely.
I think we have a great opportunity now to make home clothes. Men love through their eyes after all, sometimes they want to see their wife differently than in something that is no longer appropriate to wear outside, so she uses it only at home. It also benefits the quality of relationships, that are so highly tested during these times. We are experiencing isolation, we have never been so dependent on each other. I don't think women should underestimate dressing up at home, nor should men.
Špaček: Natali told me a beautiful story of a woman who had a custom dress made here. She was no model, just an ordinary woman. She put it on at home as a surprise for her husband. He wept when he came in and saw her in that dress.
Natali: He didn't expect it, and he was actually amazed at how beautiful she still was. She said they enjoyed a wonderful evening. And even though they have a beautiful marriage, this evening was special. I was so moved. And all it took was a dress.
What about masks? Almost every designer started sewing masks in the spring.
We were one of the first, we had masks almost immediately. Then this madness started, when people were saying that those making masks just wanted to be make themselves more visible, so I stopped creating them. In addition, my masks were more of a fashion accessory than a real protection against the coronavirus, they were beautiful, interesting, but I understand that the function of the masks is different, so I stopped sewing them. At the beginning of coronavirus, we made beautiful lace masks for friends and our clients, but then I didn't continue making them.
Now I have masks on display in the boutique that have an interesting story. I have a college classmate, Angela Brennan, who now lives in Australia. She started a production of masks that have membranes in them, it's nanotechnology, they are simply highly hygienically effective. In addition, they are well thought-out, you can breathe in them, they can be washed and maintained, but what is interesting for me - it's a perfect design work. We started communicating more with each other during the coronavirus, she sent me a limited collection of her masks for the boutique. We offer them here because they both meet the standards and wear very well. They're weird, they look a bit like faces. They actually look like her. When I wear mine, I look like her too (laughs). I thought it was just my imagination, but she confirmed that she designed them according to herself, and then suggested that I do my own design as well. Now we are preparing it, masks with the same nanotechnology will be made in Australia again and shipped to be sold here. But this time it will be my design. I'm already looking forward to it.
So your clients will look like you?
No, I'll do it a little differently. I don't know how much of a success would that be coming home like this. (laughs)
You have a son. You said he started attending a British school.
It's a great achievement, I am proud of him, he had a number of tests and exams and has passed them all. His English is perfect and he has always been a good student, I believe that he can handle the university without any problems. He is very communicative and adapts well in new conditions, he already has a lot of friends at school. Due to the coronavirus, he stayed in Britain only for the three introductory months, he started his studies very well, but then the lockdown was imposed and he had to return to Prague in December, fortunately he managed to do it before all the various traffic restrictions, now it wouldn't have been so easy. He chose the University of Manchester not only because it's one of the best, but he has been playing football in Prague for Dukla for years, and he also wanted to go to Manchester for that reason. He joined the university team there, and was immediately accepted, which is another strong motivation for him.
I've read somewhere that he even presented a show for you.
Filip went to my show for the first time when he was one year old. Since then, he has walked every show as a model. He isn't afraid of the catwalk, just like me, I modeled at my mom's shows when I was little, she was also a designer. Filip is an athlete, but he dresses elegantly and tastefully. If he can, he'll wear a tuxedo, and he wouldn't even go to a party wearing sportswear. When he was about ten or twelve, sportswear predominated in his closet, but over time it changed. When you see elegantly dressed people around you, you will want it for yourself as well. If you don't have elegant fashion around you, you don't even feel like dressing this way. That's why I lead my clients to be elegant and tastefully dressed not only for themselves, but also for the environment around them. Filip has been growing up with fashion all his life so far, his grandmother was a fashion designer all her life, his mother too, it would be strange if it hadn't affected him in any way. I believe that it's a valuable contribution to one's life. Parents aren't often aware that they are unknowingly the role models for their children, in behavior, the way they dress, and relationships.
What can your clients look forward to in 2021?
Most of all, I want us to continue in the work we're doing, and for an opportunity to present the work. I really miss fashion shows. It's always the culmination of my work over a period of time. I like themed shows, successful like Ocean, Asia, Diamond, Prague, L'Arte di Vivere, My Way, Eden, I like thinking back to the Children of Flowers, it was a retro view at the fashion of the 70's. At a show I can exhibit what new things I've created, in which direction I've expanded my repertoire. It's also a nice opportunity to meet clients and acquire new ones. And it's also a social event, people dress up nicely, meet up, get to know each other, it's simply an experience we all miss now.
I have another big dream, and that is to expand the business to other countries, but I have no idea how it will work, it's a big task. On other hand, it's probably good to set a goal and do everything I can to achieve it.
But it can't happen now, you had to move to the online world.
Yes, and I'm not happy about it at all. I like having a personal approach to each customer, but due to the government regulations, we are quite limited in this aspect now. That's why the online shop nataliruden.inshop.cz emerged. There are beautiful pieces available there that I'm able to modify in any way on the client's request. We are also sewing new wedding dresses, which we will be renting in the future. The inspiration for it came from my colleague, who is getting married.
Natali, tell me, how do you manage this crisis financially? Does the city contribute to the rent or are they trying to help at all?
The drop in income is noticeable, everyone who runs a business has noticed it. People don't buy models because they have nowhere to wear them to. Balls, theaters, social events were the motive to buy new clothes every year during this period, nowadays we are just sitting at home. I understand that even the city isn't doing well with their revenue, and I believe that they're doing everything to keep the quality business network alive. I am a fighter, I have had to overcome a lot in my life and I am not giving up, I want Prague to have something nice to offer in its center.
Tell us a little about your private life. Since your son is in England, is there anyone to hug you at home?
I can't complain about lack of love… (smiles mysteriously)
Thank you very much for the interview.
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That is beautiful.