Fabrika has been bringing garment design dreams to reality since 2016. We spoke to Founder Karyna Sukha about her passion for garment manufacturing, her relationship with partners, and the importance of working alongside like-minded people.
Design District (DD): Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Karyna! Let’s start with a bit about your background.
Karyna (K): I grew up in Ukraine and moved to the UK when I was 16. Although I was always interested in fashion, I studied graphic design and illustration. I completed a BA (Hons) in Illustration and Visual Media at London College of Communication (UAL) alongside a Diploma in Professional Studies, which allowed me to spend a year in the industry interning for creative companies. I then worked in studios around the UK and internationally, and while my work was in graphic design and photography, the studios were mostly within the fashion industry. After print and textile work at Alexander McQueen and House of Holland, I moved to studio and production management for the London Fashion Week brand.
DD: How and why did you start Fabrika?
K: My first entrepreneurial step was recognising a niche in the market: manufacturing in the UK. While working for fashion brands, I found it challenging to communicate designers’ creative ideas to manufacturers. This led to me launching my studio, Fabrika, in 2016. Fabrika was founded to build transparent relationships with young creative fashion brands, to better understand and implement their design thinking. Since launch, we’ve grown from a one-person business to a successful and well-known manufacturer in London with a skilled team of 13.
DD: What makes Fabrika unique?
K: I build close and trusting partnerships with new and emerging designers across the UK market. At Fabrika, we help brands move through each step of development, from assisting with designs to sample creation and full production runs, all whilst offering consistent support. Transparency is key in all aspects of our work, including client observations, pricing, and ensuring all work is made within London. Our clients are welcome at our studio at any stage of development. And because we’re quite a small company, we can flex to adjust to each client’s needs. That means we can work to their priority lists and offer a very speedy turnaround.
We believe in partnership, which means manufacturers and brands working together to succeed. We love seeing brands we started working with years ago growing from orders of 10 garments to 100-200 each season. By growing together and building trusting relationships, British manufacturing becomes stronger and the creative fashion industry thrives. Because of this ethos, Fabrika maintains a loyal client base that returns season after season.
Finally, we’re part of fashion communities including Make it British and the UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT), as well as maintaining partnerships with London-based suppliers and vendors. It’s important to us to help brands make sustainable clothing locally, helping them lower their carbon footprint by reducing overseas deliveries. And as a workplace, we offer fair payment, a comfortable studio environment for local seamstresses and take great pride in taking on young apprentices.
DD: What is it about garment manufacturing that you love?
K: Garment manufacturing is a complex process that requires creativity, problem-solving, attention to detail, and technical skills. What I find interesting is the combination of both the artistic and technical aspects - taking a design concept and turning it into a finished product that people wear and enjoy.
DD: Tell us some of your career highlights.
K: There have been so many! To name a few:
- Working on graphics and prints as part of the Alexander McQueen team and seeing them on the catwalk
- Organising presentations during London Fashion Week for Tata Naka
- Being selected as a top-three finalist for the 'Alumni Entrepreneur' award at UAL’s Creative Enterprise Awards
- Getting a scholarship to study for a Master’s degree in International Fashion Business at Polimoda Florence
- Being a finalist for the Fashion Award at the Mark Challenge, a business plan competition run by the International University of Monaco
- Being selected from more than 4,000 applicants as a winner of the Go Beyond competition,
DD: You’re involved in mentoring. Why is this important to you?
K: When I started Fabrika, I did everything myself. Now I have extensive knowledge of registering a business, designing, sourcing, pricing and developing products, and this knowledge is helpful for other people starting in this industry.
I recently participated in the government’s ‘Help to Grow’ program, where I became a mentor volunteer to help small businesses with one-to-one mentoring and support. As part of Help to Grow, I’ve finished a business mentor qualification course by ABM UK.
I’m now starting to take a more organised approach to business mentorship within my business. I put a lot of effort into making free content for social media, which helps people who are just starting their fashion business. I’m also working on my online course, a more accessible group-based option for businesses starting on a budget. I’m interested in doing lectures and helping young designers navigate the business and technical side of launching fashion businesses. Learn more about Fabrika’s mentoring offering here.
DD: How important is it that you work in an inspiring and stimulating space?
K: I used to think I could do everything by myself. In recent years, this attitude has changed and now I understand that having reliable, like-minded people around is hugely beneficial for business progression and personal development. It’s important to create a supportive environment for the team to grow, and working in an inspiring and stimulating setting is the first step to building a strong community. We’ve already collaborated with fellow Design District tenants Faber Futures and we hope this is just the beginning. Manufacturers and brands need to support each other to build a strong industry.
DD: Why have you chosen Design District as your base?
K: We moved to Design District to grow our business and expand the team. We took our time to find a space which would meet our business needs as well as be easy for clients to reach. Design District offers a great community space which allows us to communicate with like-minded people. I love going to interesting lectures and events organised by Design District and its partners. Having all these events next to your workplace is ideal for small business owners as sometimes we spend long hours in the office. The ‘meet the neighbours’ events have been a great highlight for us this year!
DD: What’s next for you and Fabrika?
K: I hope to continue developing and growing Fabrika. I hope more designers will develop and produce their items in the UK in the future. It’s important to have conversations with the government to expand the UK manufacturing industry and get funding to support this. We’re working closely with UKFT and other manufacturers in London, discussing how we can encourage more young people to work as sample machinists and get into manufacturing careers.
As well as the mentorship programme I’m developing, I’ve started my own womenswear brand, Vavi. I created it for busy women like myself who don't have time to think about what to wear every day and while they don't chase trends, they do want to look stylish. Each collection is based on one colour of interchangeable items, which can be styled up or down depending on the day. So I’m very busy!