FOREIGN RELATIONS: Zelionkaite (left) and Mezey collaborate on designs in their local studio near the Design Distric.
photography by Vanessa Gavalya
Romanian-born Zsofia Mezey and Lithuanian-born Sandra Zelionkaite may seem an unlikely pair when you first meet them (one, vivacious and five feet tall, the other, mild-mannered and standing five foot six), but they mesh like yin and yang when it comes to designing their contemporary clothing line, Koppani (meaning “outside the box” in honor of Zsofia’s pagan heritage). Both studied fashion in Europe: Sandra attended The Art Academy of Vilnius and then completed technical classes at El Centro after moving to Dallas with her boyfriend. The self-taught Zsofia, who grew up making clothes for her dolls and, eventually, her friends and herself, took a summer course at Milan’s reputable Instituto Marangoni. They each held an apprenticeship in Milan before meeting in Dallas through a mutual friend. In 2006 they launched a ready-to-wear line with a collection of dresses (which continue to be their focus), that has expanded to include coats, jackets, pants, and skirts. Every piece is designed, produced, and manufactured locally.

We interviewed the up-and-coming designers in January at their studio/showroom.

Their spring ’08 collection.
photography by Bode Helm

Q: How would you describe your designs?
ZSOFIA: They are classic cuts, re-invented. Edgy and modern, not old-fashioned.
SANDRA: Chic clothes you can wear every day. We always keep balance, proportion, and fit in mind. We design for real women.

Q: Who are your favorite designers? 
SANDRA: Yohji Yamamato, Raf Simons, and Jil Sander.
ZSOFIA: Karl Lagerfeld and Viktor & Rolf.

Q: What is your favorite piece from the collection for spring?
SANDRA: The short-sleeved white shirt with folded detail collar and pleated skirt. Folding detail is our signature.
ZSOFIA: The white Sea-Island cotton dress with gathered collar.

Q: What are you working on now?
SANDRA: Finishing up the fall/winter collection, which will consist of deeper colors (cinnamon and deep turquoise) and heavier fabrics (Australian worsted wool and cashmere).

Koppani can be found at boutiques in Austin, Houston, Port Arthur, and locally by appointment at 214-744-7500. www.koppani.com.