Daniela Karnuts is the definition of passion. She may not have had formal training to back her designs but with the inspiration that came from her mother’s and grandmother’s innate sense of style, she set out to create SAFiYAA, a label that revolved around being authentic, refined, feminine, graceful and strong. Sharon Carvalho speaks to the founder about the design dream
How did your journey with design begin?
My first career was in fashion media. I always had an affinity for fashion and understood the creative process. My journey into design began as a client, essentially, when I wanted to wear something that I could not find anywhere.
What inspires your creations?
Women and the female silhouette inspire me. Every woman deserves to look her best. The purpose of my design is to make the woman look her best and feel the most confident.
What is your design process?
I look a lot at texture, tailoring and colour. From there the story evolves and becomes ‘the look and feel’.
Who is the Safiyaa woman?
The SAFiYAA woman is a refined woman with a sophisticated lifestyle. She is smart and knows what she wants.
Where did the brand name come about?
Safiyaa is the name of my daughter. The word means ‘purity’, which is an essential core value of the brand. Nothing is ever overdone or not wearable. It also refers to the idea that a good piece is an investment and lasts for more than a generation, for example, I still keep a shawl that my grandmother owned. I believe women are becoming better and better at investing in pieces that contribute to their timeless style.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
When SAFiYAA kept growing, I decided to open my own atelier so each garment could be made in house and I could have full control and visibility over every aspect of the process of making. This meant that I had to run two start up businesses, one in manufacturing and one in design, branding and that I had to learn all technical aspects of design very fast, in order to give a proper direction to the atelier.
How have you and your brand evolved?
Building your own brand is like having a child. You feel very attached to it and to the process. I know that I could not have achieved anything without my great team, who are pillars in every sense of the word, and the support of people who have been amazing to me and the brand.
What was the ‘tipping point’ when you knew you had made it?
I am pragmatic, so, for me, ‘making it’ implies ‘making it and staying there’. In our fast moving world, this means creating a flow of pinnacles. It made me proud when both Jennifer Lopez and Kate Winslet wore our dress on the same day. One wore a long version and one wore the short version, but both were in different colours. But I am the happiest when my clients send me pictures and tell me how much they love their creation.
What are your plans for your brand?
We are really focusing on the demi couture, made to measure element of the brand, which brings us in personal contact with our clients. Eventually, we will open private, by appointment only, showrooms in Asia and Dubai to add to our London, Mayfair showroom. These showrooms can then grow into physical stores. The other aim is to grow our online presence.
What advice would you give to an upcoming designer?
I would tell them to understand, in full, the commitment they have for this dream. If they are willing to work on it and believe in it for years on end, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, then they should go ahead with it. I would wish them good luck too!
Which celebrity would you like to dress?
The celebrities I would like to dress are:
• Cate Blanchett
• Charlize Theron
• Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge
• Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned