O N N O W
I N T E R V I E W
S E R I E S # 6
published by Naz Kisnisci
27 January. 2021
WITH BRAND SINOBI
ONNOW “WHAT’S ON?” Interview Series Questions for SINOBI
1. Could yoVu present yourself and your brand to our readers?
My name is Shushan Pambukhchyan. I am co-founder and CEO at SINOBI and I have been in the industry for 5 years. My partner is Alexander Vernik. He is co-founder and RnD (- Research & Development - Editor’s Note) at SINOBI and has been in the industry for 15 years.
SINOBI is an orthopaedic shoe brand on a mission to spread health consciousness. Our shoes have a futuristic design and are made of sustainable materials. SINOBI is not only about fashion. It’s about a conscious attitude to health, feeling our best selves and saving our planet.
2. What is the inspiration behind your designs and your brand's name?
«Let’s try to create cool square slippers!» Alexander said to me a year ago. 5 months of hard work and choices, sampling and tryouts - and as a result, SINOBI was created :)
Alexander’s family has been in the shoe factory equipment industry for 40 years. He founded the Ukrainian mass-market footwear brand LAPTI and gained a lot of experience in the field. I had a childhood dream to be in the fashion industry and used to have a homonymnamesake womenswear brand.
We both wanted to be useful and conscious in what we do.
Our experiences and desires overlapped resulting in the creation of the concept behind SINOBI. We drew a lot of inspiration from the Japanese culture: their sensible attitude to life, spiritual values and the importance of health as a priority.
SINOBI (often confused with shinobi ninjas, but a completely different phenomenon) - is a concept Alexander was fascinated by when reading a book about samurai philosophy. It stands for a set of values, essential for life in general: mindfulness, endurance, the ability to take responsibility for one’s own destiny and devote oneself to other people. And those are exactly the pillars we wanted our brand to be built on
3. Could you tell us a bit more about the process and culture of your brand?
We call us SINOBI Family. And that’s true.Our team is not big, it’s 11 people. 11 is our favourite number by the way. Our new releases always come out on the 11th day of the month. We are located in Kyiv and Odessa, so we love to do business trips to meet each other. Our culture — is the culture of respect. It is reflected in our relations, in the energy-efficient production facilities and in the excellent working conditions. The employees are offered the opportunity to educate themselves at their workplace as we believe in growing together.
Every member of our team shares SINOBI philosophy with their family and friends. And I think that it’s the most important thing.
4. Your designs are somewhat bold yet simple, a combination that is not very traditional. Do you feel there's a place to be daring even in minimalism?
What feeling would you like to convey through your pieces?
Through our work we want to convey simplicity. Simple shapes. Simple colours. Simple textures. A simple way of thinking, walking and living.
We feel that there is always a place to be daring anywhere. Otherwise, you can’t be unique. Be original or die trying :)
5. In the past year, we’ve seen an increase in the amount of shoes brands on the market. What, in your opinion, really makes yours stand out the most? Do you think your success lies in the importance you attach to orthopedic health and sustainability?
We think that everything works together: design, philosophy, sustainability, the orthopaedic approach etc. The important thing is that all aspects are sincere. We don’t ensure them because we have to or need to. We want to. There’s also one of our major philosophies - simplicity. Our design is simple, our message is simple, our content is simple. So that’s why our success is simple as well :)
6. How did you decide to go with this concept? Did you notice a gap in the industry or was there some other motivation for you to pursue this adventure?
There were two gaps that pushed us towards going with this concept. First of all, from the market niche side — we were a company taking up almost an unexplored space of healthy orthopedic fashion. Our first step in the process of creating Sinobi was to investigate the industry together with medical professionals. We searched for solutions to enrich the market with something fresh and highly useful for those who care for their health and style at the same time.
On the other side, we wanted to be a part of the process on the way to more cultured and honest businesses. We feel that there’s still a lack of mindful companies, with the culture of sustainability and respect inside their own eco-systems. This is why our aim is not only to promote the mindful product philosophy but also to popularize a
respectful attitude in the business itself, providing a transparent and honest example.
7. It’s pretty rare to find fashionable brands that use such technical words as their selling point. However, this unusual strategy has not prevented you from growing and developing a strong and unique visual language. How did you manage to make your brand so specific yet so relevant to such a big following?
We believe that fashion can be useful and meaningful. We believe that everyday choices regarding what to wear can be conscious. We believe that art, technical and medical approaches can work together. We truly believe in our product because SINOBI makes sense. It’s not just a pair of sandals. It’s a lifestyle.
8. On a more technical point of view, could you briefly explain to our readers your process when making an orthopedic shoe, from the design to the choice of material? What is the most important factor in developing footwear?
The most important factor is solving problems. And this rule directly influences the “making of”.
For example, for some of our customers, our square shape was too unusual, this is how ROUND came to life. Some of them wanted SINOBI to be a part of their nights out — hence, HEELS. We noticed we had an excess of leather, and came up with the additional soles production from the leather wastes. Now, we’ve discovered that our clients are lacking the everyday model for the seashore vacation, that’s why we came up with... Well, you’ll see ;)
The process for orthopedic shoes is not that different from any other, aside from the consultations with the medical staff. We create the mood board, prepare the sketches, choose the materials - prioritizing
them by sustainability, long-lasting qualities and comfort. Then we create the samples and make the adjustments to receive the expected result. Finalization and, voilà, a whole new SINOBI collection comes to life.
9. Your pieces can be described as futuristic as well as minimalist. What is your design process?
When we came up with the general concept, it has never ceased to serve as the base on which we build each new design But our process is peculiar in its personal nature. When developing new items we always reach out for feedback from our friends and families and ask them to do the same. This ensures that we stay open- minded, and not closed-up in the team perception. We also share the first samples with them for a “test-drive” :). Furthermore, we always follow the market trends and analyze them.
These are the most important stages of our design process as they help us to always stay in touch and in line with the audience’s mood.
10. As many have noticed, the word “sustainable” and its derivatives, is starting to be overused by brands. It’s used as a marketing strategy, without necessarily meaning that companies are actually taking action towards a better future. Customers no longer know who to support and trust. Your brand claims to be using sustainable materials and to be mindful and aware about the world. What is your position regarding this topic? What steps are you taking to ensure a more sustainable future?
We absolutely agree with you. Sustainability turned into a word screamed at every corner, sadly, more often than not — with no content behind. But we have to understand that for modern business it’s not something that makes you special, distinguishes or privileges you in any way — it’s a must. Lack of sustainable approach will
sooner or later pull you out of the field.
We believe that everything starts with ourselves. It is a mindful way of living and consuming that can organise our lives in a sustainable way. The way we treat ourselves shapes our attitude to the world around us.
And we believe that not just consciousness but health-consciousness is the core. We should take care of our body, as a clear and sharp mind directly comes from a healthy body.
11. What do you think about the new way of productions when you consider the new digital age?
As regards of SINOBI, our production today is the combination of handicraft and machine operation. We understand that not far away will be the moment when production will involve much less craft. But for the small brands, it is a complicated moment, as a mechanical type of production demands a bigger sales volume and more investments. Plus, with the handwork, we can always ensure the highest quality.
12. In your opinion, how important is online presence for brands?
The world has changed. If your business doesn’t exist online, it doesn’t exist at all. It’s the main and the most important place to be present. The pleasure of seeing the items live and choosing by touch gave way to visual appreciation.
13. What advice would you give to an emerging brand, trying to stand out amongst so many others?
First and foremost, listen to yourself. Know what you want to do and
the ultimate purpose of that desire. The question to live by is “what is the aim of what I’m bringing into this world?”. This will ensure the honesty behind any of your beginnings.
When you do something — do it to the highest extent. Put all of yourself into it, 100% and more.
Don’t make compromises with yourself. Let it come from your heart. Believe in the product of your creation.
Never cease to learn and improve. Explore and search the market and your competitors. Be your own strictest judge.
Make your creation useful — solve a problem with it or fill the gap. Don’t keep up — outrun and lead.