The Ienki Ienki outwear brand needed no marketing to sell out its first 300 items in less than a month.
Its founder Dmitriy Ievenko simply offered something that hasn’t had an alternative –hourglass-shaped, high-quality puffer jackets that solve the challenge of staying warm while looking stylish in winter.
“It wasn’t appropriate to wear some sporty outerwear to formal meetings or theaters, so people usually wore coats,” Ievenko told the Kyiv Post. “We started the shift.”
In less than a year since founding, Ienki Ienki was recognized as Ukraine’s breakthrough of 2017 by the local Best Fashion Awards.
International acclaim soon followed with top style icons sporting the brand’s revolutionary garments, which only further boosted its popularity. In the U.S., Hailey Beiber, Emily Ratajkowski, and sisters Bella and Gigi Hadid are only some of the fans of the signature puffers made in Ukraine.
Now Ienki Ienki enjoys the status of a global label praised by Western fashion media and sold in 110 stores in 23 countries.
Ievenko was no newbie to the world of fashion by the time he established the brand.
A graduate of Kyiv National University of Technology and Design, he has spent about 10 years working for Helen Marlen Group’s luxury stores in Kyiv, having grown from a buyer to marketing director.
He left the company in 2013 to thrive as a managing partner at Asthik Group, one of Ukraine’s fastest-growing luxury retailers that represent world-known brands like Valentino and Agent Provocateur.
By 2016, Ievenko explored the fashion industry inside out. The more he worked with the international scene’s key players, the stronger his desire became to create his own product.
Although it seemed impossible to offer something new to the saturated market full of apparel for any taste, Ievenko found an empty niche of “functional yet stylish” outwear that would fit both a high-end function and a city street stroll.
Ievenko named the label after his ancestors, the Evenki, a widely scattered ethnic group of northern Siberia, whose aesthetic serves as part of the inspiration for the Ienki Ienki brand.
The brand initially crafted four types of oversized puffers for women coming in various colors. One of them, the Michlin Jacket, was inspired by the Michelin Man, the famous mascot of the French tire company. Topped up with a waist belt to form an elegant silhouette, the model is still the label’s best-selling signature piece.
Acclaimed Ukrainian designer Sasha Kanevski, who is currently working as a senior designer at Yeezy, the footwear empire by the U.S. star rapper Kanye West, was on the team behind Ienki Ienki’s first collection. The brand still works together with designers from Kanevski’s studio.
To present the first drop, Ievenko simply posted the photographs of models wearing his puffers on Instagram. Though he didn’t pay for any promotion, to his surprise, dozens of messages from influencers and fashionistas seeking collaborations hit the brand’s direct messages.
“The result exceeded my expectations greatly. It was an absolute hit from the first collection,” Ievenko says.
In the years to come, Ievenko invested in promotion, but the initial success, he says, came from the high demand.
“It was the birth of a new trend,” Ievenko says.
What started as a monobrand with a 12-member team now crafts apparel and accessories for women, men and children. Its staff of 120 employees works at two productions in Kyiv and Cherkasy, a city of 280,000 people 200 kilometers southeast from the Ukrainian capital.
But what makes Ienki Ienki a truly special brand is not the scale of production, but its passion for innovation.
Each of the Ienki Ienki puffers is thought through in detail. The brand uses only top-notch materials such as the fabric from Swiss company Schoeller that has windproof and water-repellent abilities, zippers from another Swiss company Riri and the finest Ukrainian goose down that makes puffers light yet warm.
The high-quality components explain the jacket prices that average at $1,300.
Ievenko, who is also the creative director of the brand, says the team does a lot of research in fashion, looking into archives and visiting flea markets.
They also study both the heritage of Ukraine and the Evenki to further incorporate it into the modern context. Its latest autumn-winter 2020–2021 collection features modern puffers that resemble shearling coats worn by the Evenki people to stay warm in the harsh northern climate.
While Ienki Ienki is known for experimenting with color palettes, prints and silhouettes, the brand often goes beyond its regular production. Its Ski Collection was one such case.
Ievenko says he has seen many people wearing Ienki Ienki jackets from regular collections at ski resorts, which inspired him to design gear for winter sports. Pushing its own boundaries with the Ski Collection, the brand also found an opportunity to experiment with new modern technologies.
The pieces from the collection use waterproof zippers and innovative three-layered Gore-Tex fabric, which protects from snow, rain and wind. They are also equipped with the Recco detectors, which help locate a lost person in case of an avalanche or another type of emergency.
Another innovation Ienki Ienki tried out was ultrasonic welding technology to make garments with no threads or stitches.
The brand’s Vegan Collection is yet another experiment. The entire collection of trendy puffers was made from innovative econyl material made of recycled fishing nets, while the goose down was replaced with an eco-filler made from recycled ocean plastic.
Ienki Ienki plans to continue breaking new ground. Ievenko says the label will soon launch a home wear collection. Although he couldn’t provide details, the collection will be “something that hasn’t existed before,” he says.
It’s hard to find a Ukrainian brand that appears in the wardrobes of Western celebrities more than Ienki Ienki.
Once the cold season starts, Ukrainian media get flooded with news of stars spotted in the famous puffers.
The outings of some of the celebrities in Ienki Ienki come as no big surprise to the label, as it sends its pieces to their stylists for free. If they like them, the stars promote garments online and offline by simply wearing them. The practice has become a popular marketing tool in fashion with the growth of influencer culture on Instagram.
This was the case with Canadian singer Grimes, who recently posted photographs of her wearing a jacket and a scarf by Ienki Ienki, which they had earlier shipped to her team.
One of the label’s biggest ambassadors, U.S. model and actress Ratajkowski, started wearing its puffers long before it sent some to her stylist, Ievenko says. The star of the U.S. romantic comedy “Cruise,” Ratajkowski, has at least four Ienki Ienki jackets of various models and colors.
“She keeps wearing Ienki Ienki jackets, and we can see how much she likes them,” Ievenko says.
One of the recent admirers of the brand was a mystery to the brand until her public appearance. The online order from London for a name similar to the one of U.K. actress Emilia Clarke hinted it was for her, but the team couldn’t be sure.
“We kept thinking whether it was her or not,” Ievenko says.
About two months later, in March, the star of hit TV series “The Game of Thrones,” Clarke, was spotted wearing a beige Shearling Lizzy Jacket, joining Ienki Ienki’s growing fandom.
For his groundbreaking designs, Ievenko was listed among the world’s most influential people in fashion by The Business of Fashion outlet three years in a row, in 2017–2019. But he says that seeing people wearing and appreciating Ienki Ienki, whether they are celebrities or not, is “the best praise for him.”
“Fashion develops together with society, and I’m thrilled that more technically sophisticated garments are becoming normal in everyday life,” Ievenko says.
“I can proudly say that we are among the founders of this global trend.”
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