There are designers who travel to places to find inspiration, and then there are designers who discover their true calling while traveling. Ekatrina Malysheva - affectionately known as Katya - founded EKAT while at Burning Man. Showing that one person with one idea can change the festival wardrobe game, Malysheva’s “katsuits” popped up in Glastonbury on trendy A-list celebrities such as Sienna Miller, Rita Ora, and more, selling out her first collection immediately.
While talking to the designer, we loved her free-spirited nature, yet her intellect really managed to shine through. Not just a designer, she attracts like-minded individuals, even working on a film called "The Square," which was nominated for an Academy Award and won three Emmys. Read on to find out which festival Malysheva considers "more of a party," as opposed to getting "muddy and grimy,” her current inspirations, and about expanding her brand to menswear - she already tested out one item, which ended up being a fan-favorite.
Labeling Men: Let’s start at the beginning. How did you get into designing “katsuits?”
Ekaterina Malysheva: Well, I went to the London College of Fashion, but didn’t love it. I graduated and got into film where I started working on a couple of films in production coordination. Every team that I was a part of did super well, so I was really lucky. On one of the movies during post-production, the team went to Burning Man and I had made some catsuits for myself to wear. We met a bunch of people and I started speaking to this one guy. I was telling him how I don’t really know what to do professionally moving forward because the films I was a part of were finished, going into post-production. He basically told me to make these catsuits because everyone was asking me where I got them. So I came back to London and got started with the project. With the help of my PR [team] it really took off because a bunch of celebrities wore them at Glastonbury and every single newspaper wrote about it. We sold out our first 900-piece collection in about a month. It was fun! We never expected this. I thought it was going to be a really slow project that I’d do on the side. That’s kind of how EKAT happened.
Labeling Men: Going back to the films that you worked on, were there any experiences that stood out memorably to you?
Ekaterina Malysheva: “The Square” was the first one I worked on. It was done by my very best friends. I literally saw these guys quit their jobs and dive into something they never worked with before. They risked their lives every single day for four years bringing on this huge team. There were so many times that we didn’t have enough money and people were going to jail for protesting; it was crazy. I never thought I would experience anything like that. So many times they got turned away because of the amount of money the film needed. Any other person would’ve turned around and said, “Fuck this, I’m going back to my job to make money and live my comfortable life.” But they believed in it until the very last minute, and then they started winning all these awards. It was successful and was nominated for an Oscar. The amount of blood and sweat that was personally put into this movie by them is forever inspiring. That was the most inspirational project and inspirational groups of people I’ve known thus far in my life.
Labeling Men: Visually speaking, what inspired your previous “katsuit” collection?
Ekaterina Malysheva: The last collection was based on places in the world that I’ve been to or really want to go to. We looked at architecture and design from places like Cairo, where I’ve been to. A lot of my friends are Egyptian. Then there’s the art in Sumatra, where I’ve never been, but want to go to. We drew inspiration mostly from architecture in an abstract way.
Labeling Men: You sound like a worldly person having traveled all over. Pinpoint a best-dressed city for us.
Ekaterina Malysheva: Stockholm. London is a given; you get to see everything because London is super eclectic. I love the way Parisians dress. And then Tokyo is a completely different spectrum, fascinating and creative.
Labeling Men: Are you drawn to any certain colors?
Ekaterina Malysheva: I like all colors. Anything goes. I have a creative graphic designer that I work with and we feed off each other.
Labeling Men: Any plans to move into menswear?
Ekaterina Malysheva: Yes! Actually, the first items that sold out from my collection were the swimming trunks. All of my friends are asking when I’m going to do them again. A friend of mine named John Glass just came out with this unbelievable swimming trunk collection that’s super cool. So I’m getting inspired by him and want to get into menswear again. I feel like it’s easy to sell and it’s also really fun. It’s nice to have a men’s section. The prints from my new collection would look cool on swim trunks. That’s something that I’m definitely going to do and I’ll solely sell it online and not retail. I also did a little research and found that swim trunks are mostly bought by mothers, girlfriends, wives, etc. So for me it makes a lot of sense to sell them online on my site. A woman can buy a dress and a matching swim trunk for her boyfriend from the same place.
Labeling Men: How adorable!
Ekaterina Malysheva: Yeah. Especially baby swimming trunks. A huge thing right now is men’s adult swim trunks with a matching baby pair. That’ll be in our SS16.
Labeling Men: Any “OMG this celebrity is wearing my design!” moments?
Ekaterina Malysheva: Miley Cyrus messaged me on Instagram after Coachella wondering where she could buy the “katsuits.” That was crazy. I thought it was someone else pretending to be Miley Cyrus [laughs]. I immediately contacted my friend Jessie, who’s Miley’s stylist, and she was like, “Yes, she really likes them send me them now! I’m going to give them to her tomorrow!” So I was on a flight from LA to London from Coachella and as I arrived, Miley had posted two photos of herself wearing the suits. That was surreal. Nothing really beats that, but anytime someone wears the designs it’s exciting.
Labeling Men: Do you go to a lot of music festivals?
Ekaterina Malysheva: My first music festival was Burning Man. Then I went to Glastonbury, where a lot of celebrities wore my suits. And then I went to a couple of other ones, but it’s not like I go to every single festival. It’s tiring and time consuming! I love it, but you really have to choose your battles and priorities.
Labeling Men: I get that. Go to one a year and call it a day [laughs].
Ekaterina Malysheva: Yeah! It takes me about two months to recover [laughs]. Recently I did Coachella and afterward I was thinking, “Okay, that’s going to be it for a while.” But I don’t think Coachella is really a festival. It’s more like a party on a field. A real festival like Glastonbury, you can get grimy and dirty, but then you need a huge rest.
Labeling Men: Any future plans we should look out for?
Ekaterina Malysheva: The collection is expanding beyond “katsuits” and swimwear. We’re now doing ready-to-wear, like dresses, rompers, jumpsuits, and mixed silk attire. It’s a natural evolution of the brand. And there’s only so many “katsuits” you can sell [laughs]. Once you see the new lookbook, it’ll all come together.
Shop the collection at ekatsuits.com to learn more
Written and Photographed by Nisim Frank