In my world, every single day is a day to celebrate divine feminine power and creativity. Everyday I wake up alive I celebrate. But this International Women’s Day 2019 I felt compelled to step outside my introverted comfort zone. I decided I wanted to build deeper connections with like-minded female creatives and leaders who might also be feeling isolated in my Bay Area community.
On a bright sunny morning two week ago I found myself parking on a quaint street in Berkley – excited to finally meet fashion designer Xenia behind the distinctive, quirky, yet amazingly artful line of clothing and accessories Ultra Cat.
Having connected through a mutual friend I had already fallen in love with several of her dresses and coats through her beautifully art directed editorial images (which are all styled and photographed by Xenia herself).
As I power walked up the street in stilettos, (already running late in true Asha style), I stopped dead in my tracks in front of two huge glass windows that held inside them a candy colored world of beautiful clothes. The kaleidoscope of color I saw before stepping into Ultra Cat hit me immediately with joy and intrigue. I knew at that moment that this was the perfect place bask in being a bold woman!
Xenia is part of a new generation of radical creatives – who is refreshing fashion through making wearable art out of used clothing. Utilizing upcyling, Xenia tailors and adds her creative prowess to turn unwanted discarded garments, overstock, and estate sale treasures into beautiful, wearable pieces.
The speed with which Xenia has developed her philosophy of upcycling – turning the lowly into the exceptional, her re-worked sculptural trench coats, her joyous sense of color and originality of expression – is astounding. Each final piece has a sense of true couture – looking elegant and high fashion.
Get to know this distinctive female entrepreneur who empowers women through her clothes by making women feel like the best versions of themselves.
Who is the Ultra Cat woman?
I truly believe that you don’t have to follow the fashion, fashion needs TO FOLLOW YOU. I’ve been sourcing and redesigning vintage since I was a teenager because I couldn’t find clothes that would meet my desire to stand out and be unique.
I see fashion as an outlet for creativity and my girl really knows how to be creative and how to express herself. She loves unique designs and dressing up in the morning is her art therapy.
She knows exactly what is worth her attention and she’s not following the crowd. The crowd follows her. She is the girl I want to be… BOLD, UNIQUE, ULTRA.
Growing up in Moldova, your Mom was a huge source of inspiration for you. Tell me about your first fashion memories and how your Mom inspired you!
I grew up in the poorest country in Eastern Europe just when the Soviet Union collapsed and it was almost impossible to get clothes.
My Mom supported my creativity, agreed to enroll in me in art school, which I attended for ten years. She me paints, paper, and materials. She has always been very creative (she is a chef) and had a unique way to repurpose clothes. She always encouraged me to look different, but polished and clean. I have never had clothes from fancy boutiques, but I always had the most unique and wild clothes that she made for me out of what she had at home – (aka pink faux fur hat, second-hand jeans she embroidered herself, and dresses upcycled from my Dad’s sweaters).
When I was in middle school, I would wear bows on my ankles and get laughed at by my peers about it, but I absolutely did not care! My Mom taught me that being unique is being bold and doing whatever the hell I want.
You studied architecture at Berkley. How do you see the intersection between architecture and fashion? How has architecture influenced your view of fashion and design?
I think that design is design – it does not matter the scale or medium. If you are a visual person, learning some basic skills can help you in any medium. Architecture was not as natural as fashion is to me, so I constantly had to make myself learn – which taught me that hard work can you led you to anything! Architecture also helped me develop a thick skin to criticism!
What motivated you to quit your stable job as an architect and take the leap to found ULTRA CAT?
I quickly discovered my job in front of the computer and being in an office very daunting. I felt like I was a bird in the cage! A well-fed bird, but still in the cage. It was not an easy decision to take this risk, but I figured I could always come back to the cage if I want, but now it is the time to fly!
What advice to you have for other women or creatives who want to start their own brand or business?
THINK TWICE! It is not as romantic as it sounds.
There is absolutely nothing wrong in working for other people and having stability in your hands BUT if you feel that you are ready for a change and you ready to take full responsibility, just go for it!
Slowly and steady.
Start small, even micro, and then build it.
You DON’T need anything to start, you don’t need a fancy computer or much money, just a will to create. Nothing happens overnight. If you hear a story how someone woke up famous, rich and etc.. it is not true.
It takes time to get recognized. Also, a lot of people starting businesses do not recognize that starting a new business means hearing NO every single day. Day after day. It could be hard and discouraging for people who start a new endeavor for financial or fame reasons.
You have to LOVE what you do, otherwise, it will break you.
What does being a feminist and empowered woman mean to you?
It simply being UNAPOLOGETIC. It means not making excuses for anything, even if society says otherwise.
What women inspire you and why?
So many…I admire people who follow their passion and don’ give up ever – especially when the first problems arise.
I am inspired by women, who take responsibility, who are not afraid to speak up, who are able to sympathize and stay humble.
Some examples would be Sophia Amoruso, Gloria Allred, Frida Khalo.
What challenges have you faced during your career, and how did you overcome them?
I am still facing more challenges than acceptance nowadays.
In the beginning, I did not make a sale for two months, while working at the job that I did not like.
I kept going, I am stubborn and it helps!
It is hard to make it, and I am still learning so many things and I am absolutely open to new opportunities.
The challenge when you start is that you have to hear NO most of the time but say YES to all the offers. It’s hard to keep going when you don’t know where you are going but at least you know WHY you are going there.
#BEINULTRACAT – Join us tonight from 6pm to 9pm at Ultra Cat’s artful boutique 2824 Prince Street Berkley. Get a totally sustainable pieces of art from Ultra Cat now at ASOS Marketplace or http://www.Ultra-Cat.com !