Äli Kargoja is the creator of the minimalistic clothes brand August. August’s first collection is designed for someone who appreciates Scandinavian design, good quality and simplicity in their clothes. Äli graduated from Studio Berçot Fashion School in Paris and did internships at the studios of Nicolas Andreas Taralis and Maison Martin Margiela. She is also a well-known model and launched a minimalistic brand “projekt” with designer Riin Kõiv in 2012.
What inspired you to create the brand?
I had been living in Paris for 8 years and waiting for the right moment to move back to Estonia. I was sure about what I wanted to do here already. I decided to start from scratch and create my own clothing line. This way I could give something from my experience in Paris back to the Estonian fashion scene. It’s less costly to manufacture in Estonia and I had been thinking of designing my own collection for a while. Over the past year I was preparing for the launch of August and now it has finally happened!
How did August get its name?
I wanted my very minimalistic and fresh brand to have a warm-sounding name in order to create a nice contrast. I associate August with the warm time at the end of summer, which gives me a good feeling. I also wanted my brand to have an old school Estonian male name, which August is.
In Estonia you are already known as one of the designers of “projekt”. How much did that project influence your handwriting for August?
August is my solo project, but there are definitely similarities between the two. Both are minimalistic, and the pieces are very versatile and of good quality. “projekt” definitely led me towards creating my own brand.
August pays a lot of attention to using quality fabrics. What was the creative process like?
I visited Première Vision in Paris where I bought some fabrics and got a lot of useful contacts. It was very important for me to be able to be in contact with the manufacturers of the fabrics. Buying materials from stores can be risky in terms of being able to find the same ones. I have found fabrics from fabric fairs and online showrooms; I also visited some factories in Estonia. I found a linen factory in Lithuania, where most of the fabrics of my spring-summer collection are from. I also order organic cotton from a GOTS-certified factory in Germany. Although the first collection contains some polyester, in the long run I plan on avoiding synthetic materials altogether. Using ecological and sustainable fabrics and manufacturers is a priority. In “projekt” we made everything ourselves from scratch. In August, there are more people behind it and I am mostly responsible for the design aspect of the brand.
Where do you see August in the future?
I would like to have some sellers in Estonia but also to expand to Scandinavia, the Baltic states and Poland at first, mostly to concept stores and boutiques. I think the style and concept of August would be appreciated especially in the Scandinavian countries, where ecological fashion and sustainability are highly valued.
Are you already working on your next collection?
Yes, I’m choosing the fabrics for the winter collection.
How did your studies in Paris contribute to developing your own style?
Studying in Paris was truly an eye-opening experience. The individual approach to young designers in Studio Berçot meant that everyone’s own style was developed intensely and that they helped you find your own niche, enabling you to sell your designs. The focus was on creativity, designing collections and the artistic side in general. Naturally, there were also basic subjects such as sewing, creating patterns and improving technical skills, but the main focus was on the creative side.
What about your experiences during the internships? What did you learn from those?
The internship at Nicolas Andreas Taralis was more intense, I learnt more because the brand itself is smaller and I had more responsibilities. I was in sales, assisting the sales manager, organising showrooms, looking for clients and learning how to keep them happy. Since at Studio Berçot we did not learn much of the business side. I wanted the internships to fill that gap too – to get a better overview of the workings of the fashion industry. In Maison Martin Margiela NYC I was also in sales, doing showrooms, attending many meetings, getting to know different buyers and other important people of the fashion world. I grew a lot during this time, the whole New York experience was very uplifting. Everything I learned while living there, all the experiences shaped me as a designer and an entrepreneur.
Does the style of August represent your personal style?
Yes, August’s first collection is something I would like to wear myself and the pieces will definitely find a way to my wardrobe. I love wearing a calm colour palette, good fabrics, asymmetric cuts and simple lines.
What inspires you?
Life, everything I see around me, especially the people. Asceticism in art and architecture, clean lines. Agnes Martin’s graphics have inspired me a lot, also designers such as Yang Li and of course the big artist Yohji Yamamoto. Working with Nicolas Andreas Taralis inspired me a lot as well. It was very interesting to observe such a talented designer at work and see the whole process of an idea becoming a piece, the A-Z of his creative process. I am tremendously happy to have been a part of it.
Where would you place yourself in terms of the Estonian fashion scene?
There are many newcomers but quite a small audience to cater for, so there is a lot of competition. Still, I think that August brings quite an underrepresented genre to the Estonian fashion world. There are not many minimalist designers – there was “projekt” and there is Riin Kõiv, my good friend and also a very talented designer who never ceases to inspire me and who will definitely do big things in the future. I am very happy to be back in Estonia and to be able to contribute to the fashion industry here. The whole process of creating and manufacturing the collection went very smoothly as well, the environment is very supportive. My relationship with Paris will not end either; I am going to go back there four times a year for work.
August’s first collection is sold in Reede (Rotermanni 5, Tallinn) and from December in their online store.