The designer at work: Rhea Costa’s story woven with the threads of fate

Two breathtakingly beautiful and extremely fit women in their twenties try some clothes on, while obediently listening to Arthur, the stylist and designer Andreea Constantin’s right hand. One of them, a mother of two, although weighing little over 48 kilos and being ‘model tall’, keeps comparing her weight to her friend’s, when the designer enters the room. Andreea wears a loose overall, supporting her relaxed and unassuming, yet confident look. She seems laid back and pleased with where she currently is in her life.

By Corina Dumitrescu

It was only four years ago that Andreea Constantin was sitting on a bench just outside a multinational company building, about to accept a well-paid corporate job, when her phone rang and she was offered a much sought after fashion editor position. If her phone hadn’t rung at that precise moment, who knows whether the rising Rhea Costa Romanian fashion brand would have existed today.

Four years down the road, she spends most of the day at her workshop, imagining new outfits until late in the evening. She occasionally shows up at the showroom as well, to catch up with her clients, some of whom she has befriended. She has managed to build an original system, through which she involves the client in the creation process, by coding each component of every single piece of clothing. The customer can mix elements from already existing designs and have them incorporated into a new design, which is easy to order, design and put together.

Andreea Constantin’s usual work day begins at 9.00 in the morning, after staying late at night in her workshop. A quarter of an hour to get ready, grab a coffee and then straight to work. At the workshop, she checks the daily flow, answers e-mails, verifies orders, sees what needs to be delivered during the day, contacts various collaborators, in order to distribute products wherever they’re needed in Romania and then spends quite a lot of time working on patterns.

When she creates sketches, she begins by drawing a geometrical shape, located at the back of the dress, which she then develops and accessorizes. Not long ago, while modeling in Paris, Andreea discovered how much she loved doing this after she was given the chance to create her own outfit. She had done it for years, without even realizing, by offering fashion advice to her friends and family, who appreciated her way of dressing.

The beginnings

Somehow, Andreea Constantin’s life was always connected to fashion, and her path led to her current career with a suggestion of inevitability, although it did take some turns along the way. She started working as a model at the age of 15, while going to school and taking fencing classes. Her life was a “complete chaos”, as she recalls, but this eventually helped her gain the much needed multi-tasking skills so necessary in her current line of work.

At 24, she arrived in Paris, which was quite late for someone working in modeling, but her “childish aspect” got her the job, as the woman smilingly adds. It is this age that made her realize what she truly wanted in life. Since she did not find being a model challenging enough, as she did not feel involved in her job, she convinced a photographer, while in Paris, to let her create her own outfit. She then took care of her styling and the photo shoot’s mood, received positive feedback and realized how much she liked doing it.

A surprising turn of events

The next step, she realized, was to find a job in the styling business, which she eventually did at a local fashion magazine. It was with some difficulty, since the Romanian market was not quite developed in this sense. Her job was quite poorly paid, but all she cared was pursuing her passion.

With no opportunities for career development on the horizon, she had to leave the job at the fashion magazine six months after. She then invested all her efforts in finding employment as a self-standing stylist and no longer an assistant, knowing she was capable of more. But obstacles appeared along the way, so a change of perspective was required. She went to an interview for an assistant manager position at a multinational company. She had a bachelor’s degree in foreign languages, and had made previous attempts at law school and a polytechnic university, with the latter because she felt a particular attraction towards maths and technical drawing. All these efforts had come as a response to her parents’ dream of her becoming an engineer or an attorney, while ignoring her attraction towards drawing.

She had passed all the tests for the well-paid corporate job and was sitting on a bench, just outside her potential future workplace, dressed in a formal outfit, thinking that it was finally time to take up a more “serious” job. At that very moment, her phone rang and Andreea got the job she wanted, as a stylist for a lifestyle magazine, even though the pay was lower than the assistant manager position. She chose to go with passion.

While working as a stylist for various celebrities, she would reinvest her financial gains in her development. Realizing that she imagined outfits before actually entering a shop, creating them in her mind, she decided that it was time to start her own clothing. Andreea bought a sewing machine, which she learned to use by herself. She then took care of everything, from the purchasing of fabrics, to their actual sewing into the creations that her clients desired. Her workshop was established in her apartment and she was her only employee.

She gained an apparently “over-night” success in 2009, after arranging a photo shoot with one of her friends, Malvina Cervenschi, a Romanian TV presenter. To her surprise, a local magazine was so impressed with the shoot that they bought it and even chose a cover photo from it. That was the moment when everything changed and the Rhea Costa brand was born. Without having proper headquarters, a site, a blog or a Facebook page in the beginning, Andreea gradually learned how to grow her business. She learned how to use a design computer program, she gained marketing skills and reinvested all the money she got from every job she had. Initially overwhelmed with orders, the fashion designer now has a team of 25 people working in the showroom and in the workshop.

Now she eyes more international exposure for the Rhea Costa brand, after already sallying beyond local borders, as many Romanians living abroad order from Rhea Costa.

Late at night, after spending plenty of time on creating patterns, after dresses are created and accessorized, Andreea Constantin turns off the light at her workshop and returns home, where, in the past, people queued all the way up the stairs in her block to place or pick up orders.

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Pictures courtesy of Andreea Constantin



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