It may seem strange, in summer, to write about Mongolian cashmere, but rules don’t apply to Oyuna. The brand is challenging pre-conceptions of a fibre with deep roots in craft and in tribal folklore – and of the very nature of luxury itself.
Oyuna creates home, accessories and womenswear based on a design-led approach and a deep connection to the cashmere of Mongolia, where it defends its inhabitants against harsh climates. Founder Oyuna Tserendorj left her native Mongolia to study in Hungary before settling in London; Oyuna, the lifestyle label, was founded with partner David Bernasconi in 2002.
Its earliest incarnation was a labour of love, a capsule collection of meticulously sourced throws. Oyuna now offers an expansive range of luxurious accessories with stockists amongst high profile stores such as Harrods and Isetan Tokyo. Leading interior design practices such as Philippe Starck are regular clients.
Womenswear launched in 2009 and immediately offered Tserendori new scope. Working with fine quality cashmere and blends, the range is sports-influenced and minimal, cunningly draped to create new silhouettes. Assymetry and conscious imbalances lend drama to clean cut cardigans and long sleeveless vests; ruched necklines lend a sweetly gauche femininity to tunic frocks.
In warmer seasons, blends allow the fibre to worn in other ways. ‘We work with crisp cottons, linens, silk and also summer weight cashmere mixes and pure cashmere that works well for summer evenings, travels, etc,’ says Tserendorj. ‘So production does not really change, just yarns and fabric compositions. The design ethos stays the same: understated, crafted, pure with an edge.’
Inspiration can come from a variety of places: ‘An accidental fold in a fabric, a visit to a submarine, a painting, a book, a picture or just one amazing colour that can trigger a chain of ideas,’ says Tserendorj.
The aesthetic tensions between Tserendorj’s old home in the Mongolian steppes and her new one in the British capital add an edge to one of the world’s softest fabrics. Every piece summons the rich story and creativity behind the brand.
‘I always go back to my memory of my best holiday in my life, in Mongolian country side: galloping with local nomads and our friends in 360 degree open field full of wild flowers, wide open blue sky, and locals whistling and singing,’ reminisces Tserendorj. ‘That was quite a moment.’
Mongolia is a part of the world that once saw horseback warriors and hardy shepherds wrapping themselves in the down of cashmere goats: far from being a signifier of luxury, it offered respite from the country’s wildly varying landscapes. Oyuna Tserendorj places this fabric in a new context, whilst never compromising the rich heritage of her homeland.
‘At the same time, it feels great to be so connected to the land – like when the nomads start combing fresh cashmere in spring. It’s such a great event also for us, even sitting here in London. We somehow feel connected to the land that gives this amazing fibre.’