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Fashion Talk
Catalin Valean

Catalin Valean

Creative Director

I always design to educate and not to please

ATU Body Couture is a Romanian fashion brand which explores women’s world with its aesthetic manifestations reflected in two seasonal collections Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. Since Winter 2015, the brand has appointed a Creative Director: Catalin Valean. His designs are worn by celebrities like Kylie Jenner, Marlo Hampton, and several others. In an interview with Fibre2Fashion, Valean discusses the aesthetic and inspirations for his collections, his favourite projects, and shares some wardrobe essentials for women.

Fibre2Fashion: How would you illustrate your journey in the world of fashion and what motivated you to join ATU Body Couture?

Catalin Valean:

My journey with fashion had a pretty rough start. After going against my parents’ wish for me to study anything but arts & design, I decided to take matters into my own hands and enrolled myself at the University of Arts & Design in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

From there on things got much smoother; I was doing quite well as a student, graduated Magna Cum Laude, worked in Berlin and Hannover for two separate labels, and after that moved to Bucharest and started working immediately in the fashion industry.

In 2015, I met Lacramioara Ilie at the ATU Body Couture showroom as she and her team were launching the latest collection. I remember talking with her for a bit about how much I liked the direction of the brand, not knowing that a few months later she will propose that I become the creative director of her brand. Since then, we have managed to grow together as a team, and reach milestones we never thought of reaching, and we are not planning on changing this magic formula any time soon.


F2F: How would you define the aesthetic of your collections?


While developing our aesthetic we came up with a term that I think describes our direction perfectly, magic wear. Esoterism was always one of our key creative inspirations which just got refined and adapted subtly in time. We found a great balance between the functional aspect of the brand (Body Couture) and the more magical and inspirational elements of design which I think make our clothes stand out from the others. Every piece we make we consider an amulet, at times completed with small quartz crystals, destined to emphasise our customer’s personality and give them the comfort and confidence to dazzle everyone around them.

F2F: Where do you get your creative nutrition?


Creative nutrition for me comes from a multitude of sources. I could be studying the latest trends and runways, but I could also be watching a movie and be inspired by the sad storyline of the main character. I could be translating the latest exhibition at Hamburger Bahnhof Museum into a dress, but I could also be impressed by the way a random stranger on the street wrapped their scarf around their neck.

F2F: Since your designs are worn by celebrities like Kylie Jenner, Marlo Hampton, and many other leading ones, what things are to be considered before making them?


I always design to educate and not to please, so the only thing I take into consideration before making them are of practical nature. I like to dance to the beat of my own drum when it comes to creativity as I think it’s the only way to truly succeed. My partner in ‘crime’ Lacramioara is usually the voice of reason that makes sure I stay on the right track.

F2F: How do you keep up with the competition? How do you make yourself stand out?


Through consistency and dedication to our brand’s ID, we have reached great milestones.

As long as we keep our hopes and dreams alive and work hard to achieve them, we will surely stand out for the right reasons and for the right people.

Among many other things, ATU provides timeless yet distinctive designs, has a good understanding of the customer, and gives great importance to the choice of fabrics and the manufacturing aspect.

F2F: How would you include sustainability in your creations?


We are trying our best to have a more sustainable approach for our business as all of the fashion collective needs to be more mindful regarding the environment.

We have reduced the quantities we produce, and we try to leave as little waste behind as possible. Most of the pieces of fabrics left behind are either re-used or recycled and our less commercially successful items are disassembled and redesigned.

F2F: Tell us about your few favourite projects that you did?


One of my dearest projects was our latest collection, The Gem Collector, as it was the first time we shot the lookbook and campaign in Berlin. It was great to change the scenery and have contact with people with very different visions than the ones I was familiar with back in Bucharest.

‘The sea and her lover’ collection is also very dear to me. The shooting took place on the Black Sea shore in freezing cold, but the final imagery turned out great and translated perfectly the concept behind the collection.

F2F: How would you describe the evolution of consumers’ choices from earlier times to now?


Due to the rise of fast fashion, I have noticed our customers wanting pieces as far away as possible from regular retail sold items.

They are definitely more focused on quality and distinctive designs. They have more courage regarding their choices and if they come to us, they definitely don’t want to blend in with the crowd.

F2F: Name top 5 essentials that every woman should have in their wardrobe.


    • White cotton shirt  
    • Black oversized blazer  
    • Classic blue jeans with a relaxed fit  
    • A pair of kitten heels   
    • A timeless pair of white sneakers

    F2F: What are the upcoming fashion trends that can have the highest influence on fashion aspirants?


    I think the biggest trend that now has to become a business imperative is sustainability. Fashion is the world’s second-largest polluter and it’s our responsibility to straighten our mistakes and become better as a collective.

    There are a lot of brands and designers that are doing a lot in this direction (Stella McCartney, Pangaia, Christopher Raeburn, etc) and all fashion aspirants should follow their lead.

    F2F: What skills according to you are necessary to become a successful creative director?


    You can achieve a lot by having an intuitive nature, confidence in your vision, a great amount of information, and a hard-working business partner that believes in you.

    F2F: Whose designs do you admire the most?


    I have always looked up to designers who can provide a subversive element to their designs as I have always aspired to do the same. I appreciate true game-changers like Miuccia Prada, Raf Simons or JW Anderson, but also can give a lot of credit to new voices like Glenn Martens, Marine Serre or Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta.

    Whose designs do you admire the most?

    Interviewer: Kiran Sahija
    Published on: 08/07/2022
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