are you wondering where you have first seen the name of care?cutare? on the cover of the first issue of the now defunct omagiu magazine? or perhaps at intro? or perhaps, like many others, you spent wonderful moments in the super ergonomic depth of that mnac bean bag. regardless which one of the above, i can assure you that there are many details that you will only discover while reading this interview with alina dobre, the brain, heart and spine of the brand.

alina studied visual communication at academie charpantier in paris and in london, where she opted for london college of fashion instead of central saint martins (where she had been chosen for the prints section and she couldn’t see the fit only to find herself, years later, doing pretty much exactly what that school had in store for her…). she returned to romania, dedicated herself to her brand for the past 7 years, struggling to be able to be her own boss and to keep total creative freedom. as in most cases, the future is uncertain.

who is care?cutare?

care?cutare is a team whose main element is me. i had the idea and i established c?c but, in time, i collaborated with several people. so the team is not just me, but i’m the common denominator.

what does c?c do?

c?c creates one-of-a-kind interior design items: on one hand, customized orders and on the other, our own range that we manufacture as such. most of the items are made of textiles as the initial idea was not to decorate the house but to dress it up. i think this is because, initially, i thoughts i was going to choose fashion. in the end, we’re somewhere between fashion and set design, but with this one-of-a-kind aspect.

did you use to do such things during your childhood?

not necessarily exactly the same, but i was making things because my mother was embroidering and kitting, my brother was making his own espadrilles, i was sewing… i have always sewn, first for dolls and then for myself. i think many girls were doing it, given the times and the fact that we had a arts and crafts class in school, i don’t think it was so special. it used to happen much more often than it does now.

what inspires you?

well, if it is an order, my main source of inspiration is the client. the requests are not specific, but we discuss and this inspires me. it’s more telepathy or empathy, something happens. afterwards, i start thinking for them. this is one of the sources and then, i pass everything through my filter as my aim is to create beautiful things that one can live with for years and years. it is a delicate balance: on one hand, you’re trying to impress, on the other, to keep the distance. that is why i never use any explicit message. perhaps it would work for smaller items, but for larger one it’s difficult…the message must be strong but subtle as well. this is my quest: i don’t want the item to end in the dumpster within one year, because it will not be worn out just yet. it’s a type of anti-consumerism. the ideal situation is that the respective person should benefit as much as possible from that item. i know mass production is possible, and that products cost very little and they last just as much, this seems to be the actual manufacture model. presently, it seems that good quality and lasting products are hard to find although i’m quite sure there is a market for such items. during communist times, the things we used had better quality than nowadays. a client can give up my product, but i’d rather they do it by choice and not because it is no longer usable.

what other brands are inspiring for you?

it’s like this: when i was studying, inparisand then inlondon, i tried to follow my path telling to myself: „this is it!”, only to realize subsequently that what i had found was not right. and it was not so much the job as the people, because each job has a certain costume you need to get into and i didn’t like that. the advertising world or the fashion world are not a healthy environment and that is why they did not inspire me. and i can say that one thing was clear to me since forever: the fact that i will not work for somebody else. i’ve known this ever since i was a kid and that is why i refused to adapt to that environment. i was thinking about what new things i could bring to the table, because each of us has a unique creativity, our own ideas. anyway, ever since i left the advertising and fashion world, they both went downhill. back when i used to live infrance, i was watching tv and i can say that good advertising exists. and once you get to have good advertising, you get used to it. but there is another factor as well: budgets were bigger in the past. but things evolve, they change: presently, for instance, i think that possibilities are multiplying and the difference between the lower class and the higher class is decreasing. and there are many beautiful things getting made in the world.

romanian traditional motifs+subtle humour

traditional print

do you prefer the private orders or your own collections?

i like both; it’s great they are co-existing. this was my intention ever since the beginning: to not get bored, to do as many new things as possible. it’s great that these two alternate. if for the customized orders i can go very far and the result can be very extravagant, the design of the collections must be well considered and restricted because the final result must be appealing to the largest possible number of people, not just one person. anyway, this is one of the challenges and i don’t think i managed to master it yet. i mean specifically the satisfying balance between the price and the hours dedicated to the manufacture.

there’s a ballerina hiding behind the curtains

the products are on sale on the c?c website but also at intro. are there any other distribution channels?

not right now. occasionally, there are fairs, but i just did a few and they are not my favourite experience. at the french institute it was ok, i liked the venue and the people, but in general it’s not a great deal: sales are limited.

if you asked how did i do it, i wouldn’t know what to ask. i was lucky to get orders. it would be different if i were to sell like during fairs or if i had a store downtown. presently, sales are low. on the other hand, people love my work, i get lots of congratulations and they tell me how they would like to get my products but, the irony is, i couldn’t afford to buy them myself. which is not a normal situation. passion and devotion is the fuel for what i do, all the revenue is re-invested.

is c?c is a full-time job or a hobby?

for 7 years, this has been my only job and it was more than sufficient: i wouldn’t have had the time, or the emotional availability necessary for anything else. for example, lately, we have been 4 persons and i was responsible for everyone’s salaries.

what is the structure c?c?

it’s me and 3 persons for the manufacturing, but it is difficult. the minimum of people needed is 3: me and 2 more for production. there are 2 separate operations and each of them is very important: the base and the embroidering. there were times when it was just me or me and another person, but it takes at least 3. thus, i can take care of the rest: ideas, processing, concept, etc. the process is complex: that is why the products end up being expensive. lately, the price no longer includes the creative work, because the physical work takes too long. the last order, two curtains, took 165 hours, even if i thought my generous estimation of 100 hours will cover it all. it’s a lot. the clients notice the well-finished details, the degree of complexity, but they cannot possibly realize the actual number of hours of labour that went into the final product.

what are your favourite hang-out places in bucharest?

i don’t go out very often, i’m kinda anti-social. i generally go out with my friends. not to restaurants, because i have given up meat and fish and, at the end of the day, the best meals are home-cooked. i lost my custom to go out with my girlfriends, for coffee… i prefer to do that at home or at my friends’ places.

i liked bufet and sub-bufet. i like atelierul mecanic, they have a very cool bar. i don’t even have favourite stores, but i can say i like intro, ana alexe and carla szabo. and i remember now that i liked a restaurant, some time ago: the food as well as the interior design at dada bistro. i’d really like to go back there!

thank you, alina!

NOTE: this is my first collaboration with arts and crafts magazine. the romanian version of the interview is featured in the current issue which is to be launched tonight. everybody is welcome, the entry and the magazine are for free!

photo credits: claudiu popescu for ram7, care?cutare facebook page