Robert Kalinkin: What Does It Take to be an Independent Fashion Designer

Fashion Agency London

Robert Kalinkin is a designer brand you might have seen in one of those artsy fashion editorials without even knowing it’s a Lithuanian designer. Always making a statement, Robert Kalinkin is the one to watch if you’re a fan of the unusual, like, for example, Play Pants that help you access your private parts in public. A great example for young designers who are still trying to figure out what does it take to be an independent fashion designer.

Schon Magazine Phoenix editorial by Gabija Varnaite featuring Robert Kalinkin
Schon Magazine Phoenix editorial by Gabija Varnaite featuring Robert Kalinkin

Fashion Bloc: How did it all start?

Robertas Kalinkinas: It all started with a friendship – me and my wife, then girlfriend, Agne started all this by nurturing each other’s personal talents and goals. I was always attracted by DIY and arts and crafts – I tried sculpture, painting, and other things, I even made my own electric guitar. Sewing was one o the things that I always liked and practised since I was a child. Agne taught me some sewing tricks at home, and we started sewing simple things like hoodies for ourselves and our friends.

Things started to evolve very quickly – I don’t know otherwise, and I like it that way. The best way to shut people up is good performance. I had to sew on my first label on a garment when I wanted to give it as a present to the Lithuanian musician Giedre (Empti, Pieno Lazeriai). After that, everything moved even quicker – more demand, more supply, markets, and exhibitions. Finally, I met my current business partner Indre and here we are.

Robertas Kalinkinas
Robertas Kalinkinas

FB: What is the most valuable lesson you’d like to share about your personal experience with young designers who are just starting off?

RK: My personal perspective is pretty straightforward. Don’t be afraid to invest all your money, you can earn it again; dive all in, make the mistakes while you’re young; try to observe and learn from everyone, aspire to your idols; don’t be afraid to share your ideas, be a doer. The old saying goes something like this: it’s better to regret the mistakes you made, rather than regret about something you could have done but didn’t do.

Personally, I try to evolve on the things that I am good at. For example, I am good at communicating, and I try to tell our story that way. I also noticed that my objectivity towards my products help me sell, so I’m always honest. It is important to stay true to yourself.

Robert Kalinkin SS17
Robert Kalinkin SS17

FB: What is the biggest achievement of your fashion brand?

RK: That fact that it still exists. For any organisation or a living creature to exist means a lot of many factors have to be in order. We don’t usually think that way, but it’s true. We face a lot of struggles, like everyone else. When you start your business, you learn on the go. We learn to count, predict, plan. Sometimes we fail, sometimes we have worse days than others which might be tiring. However, on the go, you learn how to change the path, not the destination.

FB: How do you manage to do it all – be a Creative Director and run a business?

RK: As you know, no one cares how much you have to work, how much we sleep and how much do we worry, how sickening stress and sleep deprivation can be. People see and want to see the result, some people don’t even know what that result is or should be. But I think that the grass will not grow by itself if you don’t water it. Get your hands dirty. We are not ashamed to do whatever jobs we need to do if we don’t have a budget – we do it ourselves. Not much time is left for creativity after all that. But genius is simplicity, right?

Robert Kalinkin SS17
Robert Kalinkin SS17

FB: Who are the people in your team?

RK: The number is changing. Me, Agne and Indre are the core. Then we have an E-commerce Director, Production Manager, our atelier team and sales consultants. We normally have 4 to 6 people in our atelier.

FB: You just launched your own outlet store. Are you the first independent designer in Lithuania to have their own outlet?

RK: As far as I’m aware, we’re the second. Julia Janus and Robert Kalinkin are the only two independent fashion houses that do that. However, that is not something to brag about; it’s a natural market placement that serves both, new clients and our loyal customer base who would like to get more of our range and cheaper.

Robert Kalinkin SS17
Robert Kalinkin SS17

FB: What motivates and inspires you most?

RK: My lectures I give to the students. By motivating them, I recharge myself, more than by participating at the tradeshows or so.

FB: What would be your advice to self five years ago?

Work more and quicker. Time runs faster than it seems.

FB: What is your secret to success?

RK: I judge myself critically, and I aim high and try to see myself in real light, I don’t make exceptions for myself. Luck is just other people’s opinion about your achievements judging from their perspective. In other words, it’s an illusion.

Robert Kalinkin Campaign 'Jesus, what jeans!'
Robert Kalinkin Campaign ‘Jesus, what jeans!’

FB: Which project or product of yours is most popular?

RK: “Jesus, what jeans!” campaign has been one of the most notable footprints in our brand’s history as it was controversial in Lithuania. While Playpants is one of our most successful products.

Visit for your own pair of Play Pants.

Discover Robert Kalinkin on Fashion Bloc.