For Vanguards and Nanushka, it’s a family affair
“From an investment point of view, fashion is not a normal business,” says Peter Baldaszti, co-founder and CEO of Budapest-born luxury fashion brand Nanushka – and he should know that. It’s no exaggeration to say that there has never been a fashion story like Nanushka. Founded by London College of Fashion graduate Sandra Sandor in 2006, the label, which specializes in syrupy tailoring in soft hues and loose-fitting pieces, had achieved annual sales of around £1.34million in 2016, but depended on financial support from family and friends. . That same year, Baldaszti, Sandor’s boyfriend of three years, saw the potential to turn Nanushka into a global brand with true fashion and invested through Agoston Gubicza of GB & Partners Investment Management, whose funds include Export -Import Bank. supported by the Hungarian government. Together, the duo – who describe Nanushka, now worn by everyone from Justin Bieber to Jeremy Strong, as a “family business” – contributed to a turnaround that saw a 30-fold increase in sales in just three years.
Emboldened by the success of Nanushka, in 2020 Baldaszti and Gubicza founded Vanguards, a burgeoning fashion group made up of their flagship brand Nanushka, Aeron (another Budapest-based brand) and Sunnei from Milan. The group represents a new kind of luxury fashion conglomerate – smaller and more nimble than the giants, values-driven and ruthlessly connected to the digital pulse of the fashion zeitgeist.
For example, just like this number GQ-style in press, the Russian invasion of Ukraine unfolded before the eyes of a horrified world. Vanguards moved quickly to sever all business ties with Nanushka’s Russian wholesale partners, a move that – at the time of writing – few other luxury brands have matched, and which will cost the group a whopping sum of significant money. Baldaszti is keen to emphasize the company’s respect for its Russian partners: “As a brand, with our values and our audience in mind, we believe that we should not do business with Russia until things are not resolved. This is not about punishing the Russian people – no one will be harmed by not selling luxury goods. We have the greatest respect for our Russian partners. But we are a company made up of people and we are simply doing our duty and acting with our deepest sympathy for the citizens of Ukraine. »
Hungary, where the brand is headquartered, shares a border with Ukraine and is expecting up to 600,000 refugees from the war. Nanushka has partnered with the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta to provide food, accommodation, clothing and transport to the refugees. “The first action was to use the company’s communications infrastructure and platform to support Ukrainian refugees in any way possible,” says Baldaszti.
This type of values-based (rather than revenue-based) decision-making wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the fact that the company is so well-oiled. “How do you do the financial planning? How do you organize store openings? How to execute supply chain projects and scale the business? We have a growing and extremely strong digital team in place. It’s really a pillar of the business, so we can support our brands in e-commerce, which can be a very complex business,” says Baldaszti, who insists that Vanguards will never interfere with creative decisions of its acquisitions. The common thread running through the companies they invest in is ‘sustainability’ – a vague and tricky term, but which, in Nanushka’s case, means sweatshop-free manufacturing based in Hungary and the use of recycled fabrics and leather futuristic vegan.