Historically, fashion has rarely been elevated to the same stature as art, photography, music, sculpture or architecture. But fashion is one of the purest expressions of art because it is art lived on a daily basis. … Fashion only exists as long as there is an actor to incarnate it. In that way, it is performance art.
The convergence of art and fashion is symbiotic. Everything that exists and surrounds us is a product of the society we live in. Who we are, what we see, and what we experience is interconnected and interrelated. There is no place we can point to and say that this or that object does not belong to the sphere of art.
Malina Catoiu, originally from Romania, now living in Luxembourg, can tell us much about a photography culture as ethical lifestyle through her dresses and clothing articles as individual and collective expression. By combining different mediums to make art, she is able to transcend our lives and in the process connect to the essence and universality of who we are.
The name of RaluFineArt comes from her first name, Raluca, as her parents used to call her ‘Ralu’ and since childhood she had a passion for music and art.
”TO SEE NATURE AND WORLD’S BEAUTY AROUND US WE NEED TO SLOW DOWN, LOOK AROUND, STOP FOR A WHILE AND ENJOY LIFE. RALUFINEART WAS BORN FROM THE DESIRE TO BRING OUR PLANET BEAUTY HOME AND MAKE OUR INNER WORLD INSPIRING.”RALUFINEART
RaluFineArt is about photography combined with fine art + design products for accessories, lifestyle, home decor, wall art and more. The brand is committed to raise awareness about the endangered species and deforestation. A percentage of the sales will go as donations to different organizations to contribute to planting trees, save endangered species and other actions trying to make a better world. For more, visit + shop RaluFineArt here: https://www.ralufineart.com
An exclusive interview with Ralu x KREEP. Magazine:
How did your passion for design start and how your creative process work?
It all started when I was a child looking at my grandma creations. She had amazing ideas and along the years I took part of her process from the beginning till the end. She was showing me fashion magazines, designs, explaining to me the types of materials and textures, going with me to the shops and looking for the materials. She was showing to me how she wanted to make a dress or a skirt by looking at the material. I found it fascinating the whole process. I would have loved to have her with me now to guide me through the process and learn new things from her.
I believe that the creative process is an outside expression of who we really are inside. All my creations at this moment in time start from my own photographs. Are my photos fine art? I think my photos can be anything I want them to be. Fine art photography in my view can be a multitude of things; it can create feelings of joy, nostalgia, sadness, happiness, surrealism.
So my creative process is reacting to the beauty around us, to what I see around when taking the photos. Then I refine them through the digital tools thinking what patterns would look good, for what type of product and the material to be used. Mentally I visualize my photos how they would look on products, materials. Sometimes I just go through the photos without thinking of something in particular and suddenly I have that sensation that makes me stop and say: hey this would work on that or that. I am playing with ideas, photos, colors, patterns, mockups.
How fashion industry helped and motivated you to become a fine art designer?
We often feel inspired by what’s happening around us, what we read, what we see, what we hear. And this usually sparks the ideas that end up into the creation process. When comes about fashion, fashion for me is one of the most beautiful expressions of art. I am a keen observer of details, observing the colors palette, textures, materials, models. Everything can be achieved if you are passionate about.
I love to be part of this industry because it is an extension of my personality and requires all my creativity. Motivation is different for everyone and for me is first about the passion that drives my creativity and what I am doing. I don’t consider it as a job but I rather identify myself with my work in this field being an extension of who I am.
First I grew up with my grandma who created clothes and designed new models. I looked at her many years how many beautiful things came out of her creative mind and hands: exquisite wedding dresses, luxury costumes, classy dresses, purses, blouses and so on. Years and years I looked together with her at fashion magazines, on the technical specifications on how to be sewed, saw her visualizing conceptually the new items she wanted to do. Second I was fascinated by the haute couture designers and houses like Coco Channel, Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Oscar de la Renta, Valentino, Moschino, Marc Jacobs. I wanted to be part of this amazing industry to design and create following my own vision and expressing myself freely.
I found that travelling to other places and countries, seeing different cultures, environments are the most inspiring experience for me and that influenced me a lot in terms of designing my own products.
Can you tell us a little bit about your references for your pieces like bags, scarves etc. ?
I’ve been all my life in love of accessories hence my focus to create fashion accessories like bags, scarves. Before I started to create my own scarves I was already a collector of scarves – the ones I received from my grandma, family, friends and lots that I bought myself along the years. I could open a shop only with those ☺ So one day I said, hey I want to create my own things, to be unique, to say something to me before it says to the rest of the world and have them created in the way I wanted them to be.
I loved the period when my grandma used to create for me unique pieces and only for me. It is like bringing past and present together in the memory of my grandma. Those memories made me decide for all my collections to be limited editions. As I sell all over the world there is a very low chance for two people to have the same models in the same city. That’s the feeling my grandma gave me and that’s the feeling I want to pass on through my creations.
My grandma is my reference for my creations. Ideas came into my mind and I just jumped into doing it. It was the inspiration of the moment and then I was so excited about doing it as I started to think how I can make it happen. I have searched for manufacturers, existing models on the market, discussed with the manufacturers, looked at existing products on the market and I made them.
Do you see yourself as an example for the new generation in art industry?
Oh, that would be another dream to come true. I hope that through my designs and products to continue to inspire people around. I’ve been in banking for 27 years and people got to know me as a person working in different fields in the banking system.
The most important decision that I took during the last years was to shift from my full time job in banking that didn’t make me happy at that time to completely hands on my own business in a complete different industry.
I transposed all my banking knowledge into a complete different industry, fashion and design; everything I learnt in the banking system helped me such as business analysis, project management, IT and integrations of different systems, process management and optimization of processes, financial analysis, budgeting, client service management to name a few. The creation of online Greenfield retail banks period gave me the complete view on how to start up any type of company, what steps to undertake and proceed with the implementation. It sounds very structured isn’t it? I can be both structured and artistic.
All I did was to align my mind with my heart and resonate with my gut and bring back the person I was in the past in my life. That brought back the passion and a big inner force.
Everything I have done for my business I have done by myself: website, integration with the manufacturers and third parties, process flows and full automations, the architecture of the processes behind the scenes, product designs, market segmentation, research, negotiations with suppliers and providers, client servicing and so on.
I get such feedbacks, actually few days ago I got such a remark that I inspire through my courage, my creativity and that I am a model to follow.
I am at the stage when I would love to evolve in my creative process in the fashion industry, to be connected with more people from this industry, learn from them, design more products, diversify the portfolio and enjoy the process. When I started all this, I saw myself in creating a personal style that would be loved and worn with pleasure for many years to come.
Can you describe your client’s personality in few words?
Actually my clients’ personality is in fact an extension of my personality, in principle people that share the same values as me, they like the same things I like. It is not only one perfect or super specific customer personality but a range of different kinds of people that prefer to buy my products from different reasons.
And the reasons may be:
- They are nature lovers
- They mix or like classic and modern
- My products remind them of:
- their country home or
- places where they have been or
- places they want to visit
Each product has a title that comes with a story based on the place where I took the shot or emotions or impressions that made me take the shot. It’s the story of the products that speaks to them and makes them feel connected with the style and vibration that I bring into my products.
What do you think it’s your best-selling piece?
I have several best-selling pieces across different collections.
For scarves: ‘Breathtaking Contrasts’, ‘Garden’s Wonders’ and ‘Autumn Leaves’ in equal manner. They were a success.
For Home Décor: Nature patterns Shower Curtains namely ‘Sulphur Spring’ and ‘Tropical Sunset’
For Beach articles: ‘Sea Waves’ and ‘Beach, Sea and Umbrellas’ weekender bags together with the beach towels
What do you think about the opportunity of selling your products on online platforms, you think it might be a good showcase for your work and your future?
Yes actually I am open to it. It depends on which platforms, exposure and conditions.
Each platform comes with its algorithm, traffic, volume, conditions and fees. As a general rule, when a brand sells on platforms it needs to have a good amount of traction and exposure and that is not into the brand control because the algorithm decides based on trends, competition and so on. The only control you have is on your own website when you know which traffic you drive and the quality of the leads.
In present I am on several platforms: Facebook Marketplace, Instagram, Pinterest, Etsy, Cratejoy (for the subscription box).
I would love to be on other platforms such as Net-a-Porter, Galeries Lafayette, specific platforms for designers. Yes I think it might be a good showcase for my work and my future as a designer and brand.
What does accessories industry needs more to grow up and what can be done better for this?
If we look at the trends and predictions for the accessories, the global accessories market is projected to grow in the years to come however fashion industry globally shows signs of slowing down.
If we look at the distribution channels, the online will gain more and more in usage and popularity especially now with the pandemic and after the pandemic consumer behavior. Most of the entrepreneurs complain about the offline (physical shops) channel as it generates in average 10% of the revenues and 50% of the costs.
I think there is more and more the pressure for the fashion brands to be digital first and use the new technologies in order to grow and diversity their portfolio of products. So I say first is for the fashion players to focus on how to use the social media channels to reach their consumers, generate direct sales via the social platforms (Facebook Shopping, Instagram Shopping), expand their network reinventing their models, rethinking their strategy and finding new ways for different sources of revenues. Another thing is the consumer desire to be in the creation process and have limited editions products made for them. This aspect will influence as well the sales in my opinion.
What is the long term goal for RALUFINEART and what is the main mission?
My goal is to inspire those who see my work, make them to wish to see new places, discover the beauty of this world and want as well to preserve it. The shop idea was born from the desire to bring our planet beauty home and make our inner world inspiring.
I bring a personal style that belongs to me as individual and it’s my self-expression to how I see the beauty in this world. What I want to bring with my products and my designs is that connection in between nature, our world and people. And creating stylish and timeless fashion accessories allows me to connect on a different level with the people.
Style is timeless and is more about our identity and the perception of who we are. Style is something that is unique and limited to each one of us and is the person’s own choice in how matches the accessories with the rest of the outfit.
Style is impacted by the environment around, our beliefs, culture, education, profession and other aspects of the individual in the society and through my brand I want to link the dots in between our values and the beauty of this world that deserves to be preserved. Through my products you will enjoy beautiful landscapes and seascapes, incredible sunsets, and fabulous architecture as well details from the nature and its micro universe.
During my trips I realized how beautiful our planet is and also how fragile and in great danger. RaluFineArt is a brand that is committed to raising awareness about the endangered species and deforestation. A percentage of the sales will go as donations to different organizations to contribute to planting trees, save endangered species and other actions trying to make our world better. All actions will be shared with you via Blog page and newsletters.
What are the most interesting social platforms that you follow in order to be informed more about fine art and accessories?
One of the main platforms I use on a daily basis is Instagram. From Instagram I find other platforms, brands, magazines, artists from all over the world. Inspiration comes from everywhere on this platform.
Can you tell us what is the next step or project for your label right now?
Yes of course I am working on the summer collection to diversify my portfolio of products so looking at beach dresses, ponchos, pareo, sleeping masks, new scarves and new swimwear models.