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TALKING SHOP WITH ONIA FOUNDER & CREATIVE DIRECTOR, CARL CUNOW

Onia is one of the best brands I have seen emerge in the menswear market over the past few years. Their simple yet chic view of swimwear can take you from Montauk to the Tremiti Islands. Not only are they fashionable, they are both extremely comfortable and functional, perfect for those winter get-aways or summer beach breaks! I take a pair on almost every trip I take, as you never now when you might be able to get in the water. I sat down with Carl Cunow, the Founder & Creative Director of Onia, to chat a bit about what makes Onia so unique.

(Below are a few images for their upcoming Resort Collection)

Where did it all start for you?
It all started when I just didn’t know where to go to buy the perfect swimsuit. I had just started working at Steven Alan and had just begun dressing a little better, and the only option seemed to be the French/Italian brands and they just weren’t really my style. I knew there was a void out there, how could there not be a great selection of men’s swim at a lot of these department stores that can cater to everyone?

You launched the Onia brand in what many consider the heart of the recession, what was your biggest struggle then and what has become your biggest struggle now, a few years into it?
My biggest struggle then was trying to convince smaller specialty stores to sell Onia swim trunks for $130-$150. Many of them were buying from the better of the surf brands and didn’t know much about spending a ton on men’s swim, and also just didn’t have the budget for it at that point.
Our biggest struggle now is keeping up with the demand from both our retailers and our e-commerce customers, as everyone constantly wants something Fresh, hence why we deliver new styles, colors and prints every three months now.

It seems that Steven Alan knows talent, there seems to be more and more brands launching out of the SA alum. What was the biggest thing you learned while at Steven Alan and why do you think it breads such fantastic talent?
The biggest thing I learned at Steven Alan was the art of product development and production. That is my specialty. I studied finance full time while I was working 40 hours a week for Steven and it was hard, but to be honest I learned more working day to day in the garment business then I ever did in school. Steven Alan was a great place to work and learn because of it’s size. It is a relatively small company and I was free to make many decisions on my own and was trusted to make extremely important decisions. I have a few friends that worked at bigger clothing companies and they didn’t get nearly as much experience as I got and weren’t allowed the freedom I was to sort of run a department. Steven also recognizes talent, and him and I worked very closely on the domestic and overseas production.

Your line overall is very clean and minimalistic, event styles with bright prints still come across as simple and clean. What is your inspiration behind the lines’ esthetic?
My inspiration comes from the designers I like and wear. I am a very minimalistic dresser. I don’t follow trends and I think that is where my inspiration has come from. I don’t wear clothing with logos all over it nor do I produce these kinds of garments for my own line.
I wear a lot of Theory, Helmut Lang, Rag & Bone, Steven Alan, NSF, all minimalistic, contemporary sportswear brands.

What excites/inspires you most on a daily basis being an entrepreneur, running your own business and brand?
This is my favorite question so far! Running my own business and brand is the craziest thing I have ever done in my entire life. It has been 18 months and I have never been so stressed. There is so much that goes into running a fashion business, it is far from glamorous. From planning deliveries, to working with factors, banks, freight forwarders, fabric vendors, trim vendors, garment factories, insurance brokers, etc, it never ends!
What excites me most is getting orders from stores that I have been dyeing to get into and stores that are just extremely prestigious. A smile comes across my face every time we get orders from new and exciting stores. We just got into Barney’s, Saks, Saks.com and Bloomingdales, so you can imagine how big I have been smiling lately. We do a big hotel business as well. Getting re-orders is also very exciting because it tells me that my product is selling in stores and that the customer has a good reaction to the product, which is the most important. What also excites me is getting in new fabric swatches and new samples from my factories. I am always amped to move onto the next style, design, color or print that we are dong.

Who are your style icon/s?
To be honest? Marlon Brando

One thing you can’t live without?
My iPhone and Gmail.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Macallan 18

What is next for Onia? Anything exciting on the horizon?
We just launched a line for boy’s swim that is debuting at Barney’s New York stores this Spring as well as other specialty stores, which is really exciting. Other exciting things, beach towels that we just launched for Spring 12. We also did an exclusive towel for the Ritz Carlton hotel shops that are shipping this February.

What’s your perfect weekend?
In the summer I go to South Carolina a lot with my finance, since their family has a house on the beach there. It is amazing. It is not only extremely relaxing, but everyone is Southern and extremely nice. It is an enjoyable break from NYC. Pool, beach, drinks, BBQ, What could be better!?
THANKS CARL

 

 

 

 

 

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