ZOU is a Vienna-based fashion brand and conceptual design project founded by Elena Kouznetsova. Combining classic elegance and sleek cuts with modern tastes, ZOU delivers a timeless collection for Spring/Summer 2017.
Could you please introduce yourself and your label?
I am Elena Kouznetsova the founder and designer of the Austrian womenswear label ZOU. I was born in Siberia, grew up in Hamburg and came to live in Vienna after finishing my studies in fashion design at the University of Applied Science in Hamburg. Strikingly subtle is the best term to describe the style of ZOU. I combine the different cultures that have shaped me in my designs: geometric lines, cool tones and high-end materials that meet with colourful handknitting, raw edged hems and sophisticated patterns, always maintaining the balance between classic and modern. ZOU clothing always has a detail that you will fall in love with and that is what makes it so special in your wardrobe. Those small details help you to define your personal style. If you see a piece of ZOU and you can´t help yourself but feel the material or accurately examine the handcrafted details in it, that´s when I know you fell in love!
How did you start with ZOU?
When I moved to Vienna in 2013 I noticed that there is a special vibe in the city when it comes to fashion or design in general. I think that Viennese people really try to help each other out and benefit from one another instead of being competitive and closed minded. This positivity is what made me start my own label in 2014. It is very important to have a good network in a creative field especially if you don’t have a partner to help you. Typical for Vienna is to take everything slow, drink a mélange, have a cigarette and then start working. Slow fashion is a big thing here. I think the slow fashion spirit is also what helped me to start as it takes off a lot of pressure from a small brand that is just yet developing.
Does the name have a special meaning?
ZOU are 3 letters taken from my last name Kouznetsova. They are strong yet sound feminine, perfectly reflecting the style of the lable. Why I also liked it was because when my family came from Russia to live in Germany right after the Soviet Union collapsed it was kind of fashionable for Germans to give russian names a french spelling with “ou” making it even harder to pronounce my last name. Later when i renewed my passport somebody just decided to take it out and make it only “u”. Some years later it was changed back again. A name is part of your identity. I think no governmental institution should be allowed to make up their own names for another person but unfortunately it still happens to a lot of migrating families. My label is my playground where I decide everything I want to do without somebody telling me what´s wrong or right. I love my job!
What is your current obsession?
Right now I am obsessed with doing unplanned short trips. Me and my friends call up people we know throughout Europe and sleep on their couch or just go to any place we like not caring about where to stay or what to do there. It´s pretty challenging because we are so used to having a safe place to stay and having everything organized but that´s how I got to know great people and found myself in funny situations like losing my car in Milan or being on the back of a bike to a jazz club with people I met some minutes ago in Amsterdam. After those trips you are really happy to be back home again!
Who or what inspires you most?
I guess the internet inspires me the most. I mean how many cool and talented people are out there?! I am amazed by that amout of wonderful stuff everyone does every day. That’s when I feel like I should stop being lazy and do something cool too!
What are the next Steps for ZOU?
Now after receiving a grant from the Austrian Fashion Accociation I am working on the Spring Summer 2017 collection that is going to be shown at international competitions and hopefully have my first fashion show. Very excited about the next year!
ZOU is currently available in our Berlin Mitte and Bikini stores.