Back to traditions: interview with Ina Solomon, the creative soul of Șura Șușara
Beautiful fabrics and some very interesting cuts, a sustainable fashion language transposed into clothes. Plus a story of a brand that goes back in time to its ancient roots from Ukraine and Poland. A girl who dressed up in curtains and sewed clothes for dolls. “I still have that little girl inside me, and one by one I am fulfilling her dreams”, says Ina Solomon, the creative soul of Șura Șușara Romanian brand.
First time I saw her creations was on my friend Noemi Meilman posts. Then, in Iași, at Romanian Creative Week, I was truly impressed by the fabrics and the story of the brand. And I wanted to find out more, to try and feel the designs from Șura Șușara brand. And I felt them, in a rainy day in the park and thank you so so much Ramona Copil for the beautiful photos and for all the day we have spent it in the rain 🙂 Back to traditions: interview with Ina Solomon, the creative soul of Șura Șușara.
Let’s start with your… brand name. Why this one? What was the moment that felt like you were going to start this brand?
The story goes something like this: Șura Șușara, my maternal great-grandmother, my grandfather’s mother, was of Tatar, Ukrainian and Polish descent. Șura is Russian for Alexandra, and Șușara is her maiden name. She grew up and lived in the White Fortress, a port city on the Black Sea, now part of Ukraine, but in the interwar period belonged to the Kingdom of Romania. Șura Șușara was a tailor as Coco Chanel used to say. A super chic, mega obnoxious old lady, unfulfilled in her love life, but talented beyond words. She would cut the material on you, stitch it up a few times and in an hour the dress was ready. The patterns were invented on the spot.
She was a refugee in Romania and lived the rest of her life in Focșani. There Șura led a grey life. Colour was the only thing she had in her creations, which she did not know how to enjoy. She failed to heed her calling and sewed only for her family. The episode that should have started her career did exactly the opposite. She had to make a dress for the mayor’s wife for a ball. Șura wanted to impress her, so she made her a simple, floor-length black dress of thick silk, but with an abstract peacock embroidered by hand all over the back of the dress. The lady didn’t like it. Șura vowed not to make another bespoke dress for anyone again, except her family. Thus she became our own fashion designer. I’ve been wearing her creations for as long as I can remember.
In 2021 I decided to relive the story of Șura as I would have liked her to live it, on full display for everyone to see. The first collection was called “The Dream” and it bears the memory of many women in my life with whom I would sit around talking, telling stories of their intimacies, their experiences, fortune telling in coffee, trying on party outfits, dancing, flirting, laughing, making plans, travelling. I woke up one day and lived the dream shared by the energy of kaftan-wearing women.
Why this kind of clothes? Why this kind of fabrics?
Our creations have a simple cut which leaves room for the woman to enrich it with her attitude, with the way she wears it. My great-grandmother worked with this philosophy, she said it was about the woman, not the dress.
We are working very close to my ancestor’s philosophy but in a contemporary sustainable language. We use natural materials or deadstock, we reuse forgotten or abandoned fabrics, we sew in a small workshop in Bucharest with a fantastic team who make film and theatre productions and who understand the emotion we want to convey. Our pieces have symbolic names, have their own history and reach women who understand and appreciate them. Șura has a life of its own. It has its own energy that is felt through the clothes. We bring her patterns and story to life and translate them into a contemporary visual language.
Your love story with fashion has started with…
I’ll tell you a story. Once upon a time there was a little girl who dreamed of becoming a doctor and all day long she would walk from one garden to another with a pink suitcase in which she would have all the remedies to cure her aunts, cousins, grandparents. When she was older she used to wrap herself in curtains and pretend to be a presenter on stage. Then she sewed clothes for dolls and dreamed of owning a big fashion house while building hideouts and cottages in the trees. I still have that little girl inside me, and one by one I am fulfilling her dreams. So, I studied communication and public relations and worked 20 years in corporate communication, the first 10 for my family business and the next 10 for big companies in Romania. During all this time I trained in the three areas that define me: integrated communication, design and psychology, both in Bucharest and London. I believe in interdisciplinarity, complementarity and the intertwining of passions and daily concerns. I believe that we need to define what we do, not be defined by it. And that’s why I’ve recently started a new personal and professional phase that ties it all together.
I believe with all my being that if we let life flow as it should, we come to feel how everything we have lived, worked, observed, intuited, thought, drawn, dreamed, is embodied in one calling. For me it all began to take shape the moment I had the courage to visually translate the stories I had heard all my childhood into fashion designs. Design has always been a part of my life and now I am falling prey to it too.
Sustainability is now a concept more often used. What is your view about this concept and how it can be identified in your collections?
Șura worked in a sustainable way, using scraps and dead stock to bring her ideas to life. My grandmother and my mother wore and still wear her garments and accessories and I, 50 years later, am reliving the story, trying to put light back on what she created, honoured and humbled by the legacy she left behind.
We have a growing niche of customers who want to wear things that resonate with their energy, with who they are and what represents them. Versatile pieces that make you want to wear them again and again, ending up in that ‘capsule wardrobe’ that everyone’s talking about lately, but which used to be the seasonal wardrobe consisting of a few pieces, made from good quality materials, tailored to fit and breathing character.
Your pieces will tell about the women who will wear it…
Șura Șușara’s clients are women who feel that it’s not just about how you look but about the energy you have, and in Șura’s clothes they seem to blossom: they try them on and light up. They allow themselves to feel free, brave, beautiful. They wear our pieces in nature, in the city, at home, at the office and at events. Our designs are regal and playful at the same time, giving them permission to show off all aspects of their femininity.
Șura Șușara’s clients are women who have gone through many stages of getting to know themselves. They are women who have so much to say and show and tell, that the freedom offered by the Șura collections is just what they need. And, what’s more, they are women who catch the eye like this. Our pieces don’t hide sensuality, on the contrary reveal it, although they have an almost monastic quietness.
What influences have left their mark on you?
I consume art. Albums, music, exhibitions, cinema, psychology, mythology. Anything can be a source of inspiration, but at the core remain my great-grandmother’s creations and my mother’s style from the 1970s. For me, that period had a special effervescence, a freedom that encouraged us to assert our personality through everything, especially our clothes. Style is said not to be educated, it is born. I stole it from my grandmother and mother. Two smart, creative women, passionate about their craft, gorgeous, who never left the house without something of their own to set them apart, who always wore only things that suited them and spoke to them.
I am passionate about beauty, art, architecture and design, poetry, nature and psychology. My imprint is all the memories I have of the women in my life chatting, sharing their intimacies, their experiences, reading coffee grounds in a cup, trying on party outfits, dancing, flirting, laughing, making plans, travelling. I dreamt of a retinue of women of the same dough, all dressed in Sura. I woke up and lived the dream shared by the energy of kaftan-wearing females. For “Shueta” for example, our latest collection, I wove the dowry of many generations, sewing the Mantiya Winter Kaftan from coloured wool blankets (macat) made on looms from several yarns, deconstructing and applying great-grandmother’s macats on the Umma Blouse or Șura Shawl and using as my great-grandmother deadstock, all natural materials that now have new life.
The impossible collection that you would like to make would look like this…
Like the one we did in 2023 for the fashion show in Iasi at Romanian Creative Week. We chose to interpret in a contemporary visual language 7 fashion designs based on the Romanian fairy tale SOLOMONĂRIȚA collected in the 70’s. Each design was a symbol for the transformations we all go through at different stages in our lives and the living energies we have to appropriate in order to explain ourselves, search for the meaning of a mystery, of a foreign content, of a strange period, of a hard trial, something incomprehensible. This is exactly how the structure of the human soul is portrayed. The symbolic charge reverberates through the ages as the same archetypal energies resonate beyond the fabric of this dimension. We sourced fabrics according to the nuances and textures described in the fairytale, we then designed each design to portray the archetype, we matched the make-up and the hairstyle. We worked with each muse turned model for 6 months before the event to go through the design they would be wearing on stage. We did a special soundtrack from scratch with a special architect and also a video montage that matched each design.
What are the challenges now? What are the satisfactions of your work?
Of course, like any entrepreneur starting out I struggle to organise my time as well as possible, to plan my budgets and investments, to promote and sell my products as carefully as possible. Here I have the unconditional support of my life and business partner, who also prompted and encouraged me to start Șura. Without him it would have remained a dream, just another beautiful dream. The satisfactions come without fail from our customers, who write to us, call us, tell us about how the pieces feel, how they make them feel, their value beyond the material and they are the ones who come back and recommend us wearing Șura in all instances of their femininity.
What is the brand promotion and communication strategy?
Intuitive. Natural. Insightful. A family story turned into a small business has an intimate, old-fashioned tailor shop atmosphere, where you would sit at a fitting and try on a kaftan, which we try to integrate into our promotion and communication. It’s vital to be attentive to the needs of your clients and customers, to constantly adapt and integrate the feedback you receive. The key word is together. Somehow Sura tells us what to do and not the other way around.
What is next – for you and your brand?
Raise Șura and let her raise us too. We have just launched our online shop with our new Ștaif collection, so now our designs can be found in a virtual place too. We are also very proud to have created a very special limited collection together with the team from Eshte for their design shop, it is called Threads of Life. 2023 was our best & busiest year so far, so in 2024 we plan on growing our online presence whilst meeting our clients offline too. We’ll return to design fairs, our 1st one will be at Mezanin on the 2nd & 3rd of March with a special Martisor accessories collection.
That’s the only way I believe we can grow business in 2024, together with the creative people around us. When the passion for what we do becomes the calling and then we can easily find in ourselves the unsuspected and inexhaustible resources to create, build and grow. I feel there is a great need for stories, roots, tradition, heritage. That’s how I buy when I vibe with the person who created the product. Of course it can’t just be about that, yet, but if you think about it, what remains of everything we buy or wear are still the memories, the sensations, not necessarily the product itself. Its value will last beyond a purchase, it can’t be all transactional. And then our added value as designers, as small entrepreneurs, as storytellers, lies in the power to convey what is essential in each of us, different and therefore special. Șura Șușara is not a brand, it is a story. A story that writes itself, intuitively, instinctively and immersively. It is written together with the women who wear it and inspire it.
Photography: Ramona Copil @ramona.copil