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Exclusive interview: Sisters Conspiracy

Alice Klouzková and Jana Jetelová are bringing an international approach to the Prague fashion scene. Josh Sims speaks to them about their label, Sisters Conspiracy

Josh Sims

Feature

by Josh Sims

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Sisters Conspiracy would be a good name for a womenswear company – but when Alice Klouzková and Jana Jetelová founded their fashion brand after meeting during an internship at the Glasgow School of Art, it was to design menswear. ‘The two of us look quite alike and people just kept asking us if we were sisters,’ says Klouzková. ‘Sometimes we just said “yes”. And we felt somehow conspiratorial because we were doing menswear. But that’s what the market needed.’

A change of focus
Indeed, back in their native Czech Republic, where they studied fashion design at Prague’s Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design, they were surprised to find so few young designers offering anything for men. ‘We studied womenswear, so it was all new to us, even understanding that men shop differently. They tend to shop less often but buy more,’ Klouzková suggests. ‘Even now, men in the Czech Rep`ublic are not that into fashion – though younger generations are getting into it. Sometimes the Czech Republic is referred to as “the outdoor nation”, because everyone seems to dress as though they’re going for a country walk.’

A studied aesthetic
Sisters Conspiracy, which in 2010 expanded into womenswear as well, is leading the way in changing that. Its collections are small and concisely edited, with its spring/summer 2016 offering including the likes of loose-fit short-sleeved shirts, horizontal-stripe shirt dresses and peg trousers for women, and shirts with a small button-down collar or no collar at all for men. They have an international flavour, even if the natural fabrics the duo prefers are selected where possible from within the Czech Republic, and all the clothes are made there. Any graphics and prints are designed by young Czech artists, too. This drive to support local businesses is also a reason for the relative lack of knitwear in Sisters Conspiracy’s collections; minimum orders tend to be prohibitively high and the only way around this would be to manufacture outside the European Union.

Pleasing the locals
‘But actually, we find that more and more local people, and visitors who discover us, actively want something Czech-made,’ says Klouzková. ‘Fashion as an industry has a long way to go here. There’s still no system for producing and selling home-grown fashion and few multi-brand shops, which means to get a profile a young designer has to think about opening their own, which is hard to finance. However, you can see it getting better.’

Sisters Conspiracy opened its first showroom in 2014, on Dobrovského, where customers can buy ready-to-wear pieces as well as order something tailor-made from the designers. The showroom is helping to raise the brand’s profile, and the company is currently planning a dedicated shop. But local distribution and an on-line shop are, in the meantime, helping increase the demand for Sisters Conspiracy’s crisp, modern aesthetic, which sometimes verges – quite deliberately – on the unisex. ‘Our experience in menswear has definitely shaped our approach to womenswear,’ Klouzková explains. ‘We might use the same material for a women’s shirt as we did for a men’s, with just a slight adjustment to the pattern.’

Girl meets boy
Klouzková points out that the gap between menswear and womenswear is getting narrower all the time. ‘We recently presented our new collection and men kept on wanting to try on this women’s coat,’ she says. ‘Our approach is just to keep the clothes simple – there’s nothing obviously “feminine” or “masculine” about them. It’s an elegant but sporty style. There are plenty of suits here in Prague if you want one, but not much that blurs the boundary between formal and informal, which is much closer to how people dress now.’

That’s not to say that Klouzková and Jetelová aren’t ready to take more direct action to address how some people dress in the city. One of their more successful lines has been a range of thick colourful socks, a sly nod to Czech men’s habit – they say – of wearing socks with sandals, a major faux pas in style circles, of course. ‘It’s just so ugly, so terrible,’ exclaims Klouzková. ‘We thought, well, if they’re going to insist on wearing socks with sandals, we might as well give them some nice ones to wear, rather than the white ones they usually go for.’

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