INSPR x Clothing Coulture Meet Ruta Zake (@RutaEnRoute)


Emily Lane, Bret Schnitker, Ruta Zake


October 24, 2022


Emily Lane 00:09 

Welcome to Clothing Coulture, a fashion industry podcast at the intersection of technology and innovation. I'm Emily lane. 

Bret Schnitker 00:17 

I'm Bret Schnitker. We speak with experts and disruptors who are moving the industry forward 

Emily Lane 00:21 

and discuss solutions to real industry challenges. 

Bret Schnitker 00:24 

Clothing culture is brought to you by Stars Design Group, a global design and production house with more than 30 years of experience. 

Emily Lane 00:34 

Welcome back to another episode of clothing culture. Bret we are so lucky because once again we find ourselves in midtown Manhattan at the glorious penthouse 45 Isn't it great to be back 

Bret Schnitker 00:47 

it is in the cities changed. I mean, a month ago it seemed quiet and now boy everyone is returning to the city it is 

Emily Lane 00:54 

bustling. I am very excited to because today we are going to be talking about designing your future. We are joined by Ruta Zake, based in New York City from Lithuania, influencer style blogger and now fashion designer. You've built Ruta an amazing following through your chic and sporty aesthetic. And it just seems so effortless for you. And now you have woven that into your own fashion brand. This must be a dream come true. 

Ruta Zake 01:25 

It is well first of all, thanks for having me. Yeah, my first book podcast so I'm a little bit nervous. I'm sure it's gonna need to be. But yeah, it is it is a dream come true. In a way I feel like since I started blogging in general, I always had this idea of building my own brand or like company in a way. So after all these years, I feel like it's been almost 10 years, which is crazy, because time is flying. Building an actual brand and having a great team behind it. It's truly something else. Yeah, 

Bret Schnitker 01:57 

you've got roots in fashion. Now back in Lithuania. Right? Your family's been Yeah, so 

Ruta Zake 02:01 

my dad was in like clothing manufacturing field since he was 20. And I grew up like seeing all the behind the scenes. I feel like not that pretty side have pretty clothing in the store. But actually the production, how it's made. So I was surrounded by that my whole childhood. But I feel like I wouldn't say that my parents pushed me towards that direction. I feel like the opposite. Maybe they knew how hard it is. So they tried to kind of talk me out of it. But it just happened that I was always into arts and like drawing and dressing up. So I actually decided to go to that direction myself. And ended up studying fashion illustration. Oh, yeah. Which also kind of was a part of like this path towards building your own brand. But I was always more curious about the business side, not the actual drawing and like, you know, making sketches. So the blogging is truly the reason why I kind of started it because it's both like styling fashion, but also the business side of it. Right? Well 

Emily Lane 03:07 

in writing. Yeah. 

Ruta Zake 03:10 

I mean, in the past, I feel like these days, like people care about visuals and photos, videos. Not much about writing. But when it started, it was purely like writing actual articles and like trying to make it interesting. 

Emily Lane 03:22 

I think it's interesting that you have these roots in manufacturing. And I'm so glad to hear it didn't. It didn't deter you from you know, staying in the industry and imparting your own voice in it 

Bret Schnitker 03:37 

in reverse. If they're forcing you into the industry you might not have and yeah, it seems like you naturally move that way. There's some DNA in the family with that with your Angus. 

Ruta Zake 03:47 

Oh, yeah. Because my grandma, so it wasn't that field. So so my grandma and my dad, and it's the whole it's a 

Emily Lane 03:54 

family legacy. 

Bret Schnitker 03:56 

They're excited to know that you're launching your online. 

Ruta Zake 03:58 

Yeah, they are. It's just interesting for them, because I'm sure that they would love me to work with them, you know, but I'm happy to have a team here. And like professionals who know what they're doing, you know, 

Emily Lane 04:10 

you have your your family. They focus more in women's wear, right? And you're launching with an outerwear collection. How did you know that you wanted to focus on outerwear? 

Ruta Zake 04:25 

So I feel like outerwear became sort of my signature style in a way because I love simples style and like everyday style, I was never like a glam girl or like dressing up like crazy. So I always was looking for pieces that could like transform your look. So even if I'm running in a city wearing something very basic, you put like a cool jacket on and it completely changes your look. So that's why I feel like through the years I collected like different coats and trench coats and blazers and it became sort of like a signature look. And I noticed that my audience also mostly asked me about those pieces. You know, they're mostly curious about the outerwear pieces. Yeah. 

Bret Schnitker 05:05 

What's your collection look like today? Well, 

Ruta Zake 05:07 

it's outerwear. Yeah, so I love that it has different code options. We have three coats in different colorways and two blazers. I have so many ideas for other styles. But if you'd like to start with, we chose like, really, really great styles. I'm actually wearing one of them. Yeah. Beautiful. I love it. Yeah, I feel like cool. And I feel like it's also never going out of style. You know, you can and then feel like that's the goal to create pieces that can stay in your closet forever. Yeah. And it's not that it's like fast fashion that you wear something super trendy, and just throw it away. 

Emily Lane 05:43 

I love those forever pieces. I'm a little bit of a hoarder, I guess you could say. And I do have a piece from many, many years ago, that kind of reminds me that big, oversized houndstooth, and I still love that piece. So I think it's great that you're, you know, very intentional about creating these forever pieces for your collection. How did you know not only your background, with your family, but you know, as a as a style blogger and so forth? How did that inform the aesthetic side of building this collection? 

Ruta Zake 06:16 

I feel like building a brand as designer who is not an influencer and influencer, the biggest difference is that you have an actual audience, and you sort of learn more about audience over the years, and you know, what they one from what they constantly ask you about. So I feel like that's the beauty of it. Because I have like, let's say similar brand blazer that I had so many requests about, and people were asking me so much about it. So I knew I have to create something inspired by that, in my own way, and to provide it to people because there's so much so many brands and so many pieces out there. But when you're looking for something specific, it's so hard to find. So I feel like listening to your audience and having them as I don't know, like part of the process is so important. And so actually interesting to learn more about. 

Bret Schnitker 07:07 

And that's exactly what's happening in the industry. You know, we've talked in previous podcasts about the shift to the consumer driven economy, you know, where people are in forming design, it used to be years ago that the designers were in charge of kind of telling the masses what they should wear, they were certainly different aesthetics and different looks. And at one point, all of that shift, and I think with what's happening with social media, you know, five star ratings versus one star ratings constant communication, consumer really has a voice to direct what they're looking for. And what a perfect opportunity to develop a collection with a creator, someone that is connected to the community, because they are indeed informing you all along the way. And all the communications back and forth that you know you're having with them, I would assume on a daily basis. Yeah. 

Ruta Zake 07:51 

And I mean, a bunch of people been there with me from the very beginning. I actually posted a video yesterday with my old styles from ages ago, like 2015. And some people will be like, Oh, I remember that style. So it's just nice to kind of offer them something in return. You know, they've been following you for so many years. And they've been part of the process. And now you're coming up with something for them. So that's also, 

Emily Lane 08:15 

yeah, that's amazing to have this this community have you have have members of this community become friends, because you've developed this relationship from the very beginning? 

Ruta Zake 08:25 

I think I think for sure, I also met some friends through Instagram, we just decided to meet for coffee. And now we know each other for many years and just chatting with people. It's just so normal and casual these days that, especially when I became a mom, all the baby issues, you know, I chatted with so many moms that I don't even know. And we just constantly like click and start long conversations. And it's it's great. 

Bret Schnitker 08:49 

Are you a new mom? You're a new mom. Right? Yeah. So you're telling your little one do not get into the industry? 

Ruta Zake 08:56 

Sort of. It's too early. I'm glad I don't need to think about it yet. You know, yeah. 

Emily Lane 09:02 

Tell me a little bit about the design process for you. Did you learn anything? I mean, again, we've talked about the fact that you come from this industry, going through this design process and through production of your collection, what did you 

Ruta Zake 09:14 

learn, I feel like the most important part for me was realizing that having a strong team behind as the key and having people that you can easily work with and they know what they're doing. It's the most important because I always wanted to do brand, but I knew how much work that requires and you can't know everything yourself. You know, you can't be good at everything yourself. And when it comes to manufacturing and production, it's just so it's a hard process. So it's really important to find someone you trust that really knows their field. And I feel like for me, that was the biggest, like learning curve to kind of realize that everyone is doing their job and you should trust people and work as a team together. 

Bret Schnitker 09:59 

And there's You know, there's a lot of transparency in all aspects of manufacturing today. So making sure that you're working with a reliable factory that's ethically controlled is really, really critical. I think, you know, the world is in a crazy place today and people over simplify manufacturing. Yeah, you know, we were having logistics issues and you know, worldwide every, every commodity, so I think you're hitting, you're hitting the market the right time, I think demand exceeds supply, people are excited to get back out and start dressing again, with conversations we've had with some large retailers as of late, they're seeing a big uptick in in more tailored clothing and more, you know, dress up items moving into holiday, I think you couldn't be better positioned, 

Emily Lane 10:42 

yeah, people want to get out of their pajamas. 

Ruta Zake 10:48 

I mean, I still love the sporty side of the style. That's why I feel like my style involves a lot of even like, on the weekends, I wear leggings and jumper but then I put a cool jacket on top or like a blazer, you know, to kind of balance the look. And I'm kind of glad that this style became trendy for people to make styles and not the only dressed up or only dress down, you know, 

Bret Schnitker 11:09 

the whole industry is evolving, you know, you know, the term athleisure you know, comfort or whatever is just synonymous with so many different categories now, or it used to be, you know, yoga pants and some top but it's an every category. Now everyone's talking about stretch fabrics, and, and silhouettes, I think even in your collection, your your coats are a little boxy or roomier. And you can belt them up if you want or leave them loose and be comfortable. So yeah, so 

Emily Lane 11:37 

what's next, 

Ruta Zake 11:38 

it's hard to think, to be honest, I try to not plan too much in advance. I feel like I always live by this. I don't know, way of life. And it always worked. But I'm very excited to launch a brand. I already see that people are curious about it, and they want to know more. And that kind of makes me more excited. So launching the brand, hopefully, working on some future collections, too. And I feel like what's really important for me, after this launch, to actually speak with the people and ask what they think about it, take their notes and their commendations, what they think about it and amplify that on the future collection. 

Emily Lane 12:19 

It's great process of evolution. Yeah, right. 

Bret Schnitker 12:22 

When brands launch initially, it's usually like a three year positioning thing, it takes time to get that feedback and get the polls and, and have an audience grow enough to, you know, continue to come to the site. So I think with your first launch, you're gonna learn some great things. That's wonderful technology today to help kind of analyze, you know, consumers, you know, likes and dislikes and make modifications, a lot of your styling, as you mentioned before you you really like jackets, and outerwear and pieces like that. So as you transition allies, and you think about moving into a season like spring or summer, have you given any thoughts to how outerwear and jackets start moving into a spring summer, kind of? Yeah, so 

Ruta Zake 13:01 

I feel like it could sound difficult in a way for some people, because when we think about coats and jackets, we think about fall and winter, and by the way, but I feel like you can easily go to suits, you know, and use fabrics as linen to kind of make it more like flowy or like something silky. I mean, there's so many variations. And even in the summer, I'm not like a dresses type of girl, I still wear pants, you know, and like shirts and stuff like that. So I feel like there's plenty of creative freedom, you know, when it comes to like collections for spring and summer? 

Emily Lane 13:34 

It's great. It's all right. Well, you've mentioned that, you know, finding kind of somebody that handles that production side that you really trust being an important takeaway from going through this process. Other people that are in your community or other influencers looking to do the same that you have done and getting ready to launch your brand. Do you have any other words of wisdom to share? 

Ruta Zake 13:59 

I feel like from what I see, I see a lot of passionate people that want to do a lot and they want to launch brands. But I feel like before doing that it's really important to talk to different people and listen to their experience and actually people from the field. Because it's definitely so much harder than it looks like much much harder. And you can go to so many failures, which is great because you'll learn a lot but at the same time I think it's it will be so much easier to first learn for those people and then decide if you actually want to do it. What's the best way to do it, maybe collaborate with someone or like find a partner because to do it on your own? It's it's really a hard work and as you said you need to find reliable partners and especially in manufacturing and I've heard so many stories where people have to change the factory like three times so they find someone else yeah. 

Bret Schnitker 14:53 

And as an influencer creator, you have some additional pressure because your audience has a certain expectation 

Ruta Zake 14:59 

Exactly. Yeah, I agree. I feel like even for me, the biggest pressure is for people to see the product and what if they don't like it? You know, what if the quality is not good enough, so that's why I'm glad that I have that knowledge. I wouldn't say that I'm like, expert in that but I grew up even like doing, you know, checkups in the factory when I was little in the summer, you know, like cutting those threads, you know, to make all the pieces perfect. So yeah, so I'm glad I'm loving those pieces myself, and I'm proud of the quality so that's really important. 

Emily Lane 15:28 

It's great. Well, my goodness, best wishes to you on your launch. I have no doubt that it's, it's going to be very well embraced and I can't wait to see what what comes next. Really glad you had an opportunity to join us today. You were having me? Yes, absolutely. Well, everyone out there don't forget to subscribe to stay apprised of upcoming episodes of clothing culture. 

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INSPR x Clothing Coulture Meet Ruta Zake (@RutaEnRoute)