When transparency is sexy, romanticism makes you fall in love: meet Semi/Romantic.
with Alexa Kropveld
17 AUGUST ‘22
Words by Lucia Peirone Torti
In life, relationships are everything. Friendships, partnerships. After all, no woman is an island, and Semi/Romantic is no different. Semi/Romantic was born of a friendship formed more than 10 years ago, bonded over a love of beautiful things. It was the early aughts in Milan, and Donna and Alexa clicked immediately. Both were studying fashion, and both of them felt they could create something together. And that decade-long conversation finally blossomed into something concrete.
"Semi/Romantic is a conversation, and a conversation always has two sides. Our pieces are feminine and luxurious but not overtly suggestive. They're comfortable, but they're also elegant, and our passion for quality ensures they'll be with you for years to come."
Meet Alexa and Donna
Alexa Kropveld was born in Israel and studied Fashion Design at Istituto Marangoni in Milano, Italy, where she met Donna. After graduating, Alexa worked in Italy for a year and then moved back to Israel where she lives now. She is married to Tal and currently expecting her first baby.
Donna Milo was also born in Israel and raised between Israel and Italy due to her international equestrian career as a youth rider. She studied Fashion Design at Istituto Marangoni, too. After graduating Donna worked at the Max Mara Fashion Group as a Designer and Design Manager for 5 years. She moved right after to Amsterdam for a job at Tommy Hilfiger as Design Manager for 3 years. Nowadays, Donna lives in Amsterdam with her husband Eran.
Carly bikini triangle Shop Balou
Which type of lingerie?
When Semi/Romantic’s founders Alexa and Donna were talking about starting the brand, it came from their own need: finding high quality, beautiful, sustainable lingerie. They couldn't find what they wanted in their local possibilities –in Portugal–, so they decided to create it themselves.
“We wanted the brand to reflect our different personalities and how from that our friendship is so strong. Alexa is more sporty and casual, Donna more elegant,” they confessed to Staiy. Consequently, Alexa actually came up with the name almost by accident saying, "it should be a mix of us both, romantic but not too much. It should be semi-romantic." Just like that, they immediately knew that was their name!
Image source: Semi-Romantic.
From early on, we can feel that friendship is an important value for the community around the brand, which is made up of wonderful women who share values and vision for a more sustainable and responsible fashion industry. That's why they said in our latest interview: “We are inspired by all the women around us. Our friends, our moms, our collaborators. We try to tap into what they want and need from their lingerie and through these conversations a loyal community was created around Semi/Romantic.” It's evident from their latest collection that they always design thinking about the person who will wear the garment. In this brand, comfort and support are key: it permits you to be so comfortable you will forget you have lingerie on. Also, it's important for the brand that each garment is beautiful, timeless and makes the person wearing it feel wonderful in her own skin.
Talking to the owners, we can discover that detail in every step of the production process is in its DNA, therefore, sustainability is the essential kernel of the values they stand for. As being claimed “We are just as passionate about producing luxury lingerie of only the highest quality,” their pieces are both beautiful and timeless, and the fabrics – from the super soft ribbed jersey to the delicate lace – are as diverse as the women who wear them. These gorgeous, sustainable fabrics are ethically stitched together by an incredible all-female team at the factory Sylvan in Portugal, a small, woman owned and operated factory where workers receive a good living wage, healthy working conditions and all the benefits required by the EU.
Donna says: “I can’t speak for others but I start my design process with fabric. I believe that in order to have a great fit you need to choose the right fabric for the garment you are making. I then really think about the woman wearing the garment, what she wants and needs from it. I like to design modern but timeless pieces that are beautiful without too many frills.”
Furthermore, they believe they still have much to do and as they grow, they are constantly exploring more sustainable practices to adopt. At first their biggest challenge was finding the right materials and production partners.
They only use lace made of recycled polyester (that did not exist on the market until a year after they started researching the brand) and all their jerseys are made of TENCEL, which is a fiber made of discarded wood pulp and is completely compostable. Sustainably produced in Austria, the Lenzing fibers are of only the highest quality, able to promote thermoregulation and moisture control as well as to minimize bacteria from sweat.
They take on dyes beautifully and make for fabrics that are silky to the touch. Also, they do not use any plastic in their packaging: their bulk production is delivered in packages made of discarded plotting paper used in the factory, instead of the traditional single use plastic sleeves. Really, what more could you want? They ship goods to their customers in recycled paper packaging and envelopes with Quicargo, a logistics startup that pairs half empty trucks with goods to ship thus greatly reducing carbon emissions. For them, sustainability is a process: not everything can be perfect at once but we must continue to move in that direction.
It’s evident they live by the belief that luxury isn't just about a price tag: modern luxury is about owning a well made product that comes from a brand you trust and whose values you share. Luxury is in forming a lasting connection with a product or garment for the long run, caring for it, mending it, carrying it with you for years. It's about sentimental value and connection. That’s why their aesthetic is romantic but understated, timeless and feminine. As they say: “Our aesthetic came to us naturally by looking at ourselves and the women around us and trying to create something that we would want to wear. Something we can love and appreciate for a long time to come.”
Reaching the end of our conversation, when asked about the future they see for this project, they claim and hope to continue to grow their collection according to the needs of the customers. Planning to grow into other categories, the girls are really excited to incorporate even more sustainable materials and practices and continue to produce in small, seasonless collections. Their final advice is to take time to find the right partners, to listen and learn from the experts you work with. To have patience, with you and the ones around you – as a customer and an entrepreneur – starting a brand is hard and slow in the beginning. If you believe in your vision, work hard but give it the time it needs to grow.
As they said: “Transparency is sexy. This is our motto and we feel the word play really sums it all up. We are very open about where and how our garments are made. We design sexy and sustainable garments but always keep a touch of ease and humor.”