Askin’ Irina Dzhus: “Growing up, living and working in Ukraine, what do you think it offers emerging designers over other countries?”Posted: May 1, 2013
I’ve recently developed an abnormal interest in Ukraine, Ukrainian fashion and Ukrainian designers and brands. The freedom Ukrainian designer’s show through their work is unbelievable, developing extraordinary experimental collections unlike those of designers and brands from any other country. On that note, I asked Irina Dzhus, founder of Ukrainian conceptual wear brand DZHUS, “Growing up, living and working in Ukraine, what do you think it offers emerging designers over other countries?” and she replied…
“The fashion industry is relatively new to Ukraine. Because of this, many local brands are avant-garde and experimental, and so are their presentation and development strategies. This makes Ukrainian fashion promising and notable for talent scouts from all over the world. The big benefit of being a designer in Ukraine is that it is not difficult to get recognised on a local level and then remain in popular demand. However, this applies to the media more than anything. Talking about commercial success, retail business hardly exists in Ukraine, which makes this country rather disadvantageous for new brands.”
Working with Ksenia Schnaider, a unisex brand from Ukraine, I’ve seen how a brand can become recognised very quickly in their local community, and I’ve also observed the struggle that most Ukrainian designers face when it comes to making designing full-time financially viable. However, it’s incredibly refreshing to speak to a designer who does, in a way, admire the Ukrainian fashion scene, regardless of its disadvantages.
You can view and purchase some of Irina’s work through Hako.
Images courtesy of Hako
I find it interesting to see what attracts emerging talent to London over other cities such as Paris, Berlin and New York. To try and understand what London offers that other cities do not, I asked London based designer Claudia Ligari, “What do you think London offers emerging designers that other cities lack?” and she replied…
“To be honest with you, things have changed a lot since I moved to London and, at the moment, if we talk about emerging as a designer; the places to be are now cities like Copenhagen or Berlin. However, London is always London and what you can have here you will never get anywhere else!
London owns a powerful energy, created from his multicultural background. This city is the “cradle of the world” where every culture is living together and, involuntarily, sharing energy. Everything seems possible in London and it is possible thanks to the easier bureaucracy (I come from Italy and everything there it’s so much more complicated!)
What really makes London different isn’t the fact that everything is much more accessible but it is the way of thinking. People here are much more open and happy to support new ideas. I wish my county would understand this!”
I think Claudia’s right. London is overflowing with people who are willing to support something new and different. Industry professionals and consumers in general are happy to take a risk with their style, and that’s definitely an important factor for a new, independent or emerging designer or brand. However, I’m delighted to see cities such as Copenhagen and Berlin receiving more recognition for their contributions to emerging fashion.
You can check out Claudia’s work on her website and purchase selected pieces through the Claudia Ligari e-shop.
Images courtesy of Claudia Ligari
I was chatting to Spanish unisex designer Pablo Erroz one evening last week and I asked him, “What inspires you most when designing?” and he replied…
“That’s a tricky question… It’s not that easy. I can be inspired by a story or philosophy, or even a single moment or place. It’s all about timing!”
I think Pablo is right… Inspiration can come from anywhere!
Today I asked German menswear designer Tim Labenda, “What do you love most about being a designer?” and he quickly replied…
“Aside from being able to hang around with handsome men left, right and centre? I love being able to influence a person’s lifestyle through my work, creating beautifully crafted garments for my customers in order to influence another person’s perception of them, such as creating a crisp white shirt to show elegance or an urban jacket for a more casual appeal, for instance. What a person wears influences opinion, and I love being able to control that.”
It’s always inspiring to speak to someone who is genuinely passionate about what they do. I speak to Tim quite regularly and, as well as being funny, pleasant and completely genuine, he is incredibly passionate about designing. It’s refreshing!
In light of me falling completely and utterly in love with the work of London-based photographer Steven James Emberton, I had to interview him…
When did you discover your interest in photography?
When I was a boy I learned with a friend and by trial and error to develop and print black & white. I had the bathroom at my parent’s house blacked out.
What is it about fashion photography that you prefer over other forms?
I like many types of photography. In fact, recently I’ve been shooting street scenes in a Canadian prairie town. It was almost by accident that I found myself involved with fashion.
In 2001 I was shooting for a motorbike magazine in London. Those guys are quite tough and back then never seemed to like my work much at all. It was a struggle. Then one day I got a call from Storm asking me to shoot for them.
What were you doing before you became a photographer?
I was involved with music and also painting. In the late 70s and early 80s I played in various bands as a bass player as well as doing session work at Amazon Studios Liverpool. I did that for about 8 years. I also tried my hand at music production which seemed the natural step and I would still be in music if photography didn’t exist – but at this point I realised that the visual world of light and colour was where I needed to be.
What advice would you give to aspiring photographers and fashion photographers in particular?
Fashion is a people business so you are always working in a team, which is basically in conflict with the nature of most photographers; we are loners so being among a lot of people whilst trying to be creative is not that easy. I think it’s vitally important to understand this.
I always identify mostly with the models that are in a quite unique and vulnerable position, they are highly scrutinised and need all the support they can get which is what I try to do.
Being able to motivate people is important although it’s not that easy with some of the people you encounter. It’s a fast and ever changing business so some inner strength is needed. I would say just try to stay real and find something uniquely yours.
What has been the highlight of your fashion career so far?
For me it’s the building of The Camera Room. But on a personal level, the time spent working with Storm was a great fun and meeting all the young models and their families.
What are you doing when you’re not taking pictures?
The usual normal stuff… Spending time with family and so on, and playing the guitar a little while planning the next photography project.
If you could work with any designer or brand, who is it that you would work with?
On the fashion side of things of course I like the big names like Westwood and even Prada but I also like the ‘High Street’. Some of those brands would be interesting to me.
What would you consider to be your ‘signature’ style?
I’m aiming for understated but distinctive.
In your opinion, what camera should beginners be using?
There’s a lot of superstition and chance involved with photographers and their cameras. Probably you start by getting the same camera as your hero? At least that’s what I did, only, my heroes (August Sander, Richard Avedon and Paolo Roversi) all used an 8×10 inch plate camera at times, which is very cumbersome to use and today really hard to get film for. Nevertheless I obtained one in 2004 and I love the results. I met Paolo and he said he hoped I didn’t regret getting it, but not so far. I also use a Leica which is the opposite end of the scale. I like the results of this too but I can’t explain why it works. I mean if you look at it, it shouldn’t work when you compare it to the super technological cameras of today. I do shoot digital at times, but never much liked the results. Yep, it’s complicated!
Photography by Steven James Emberton
Images courtesy of Steven James Emberton
After interviewing Shahrzad and Ashkan, the duo who founded online store Rtister in 2012, I couldn’t help but ask Nikoletta Sedlak, Rtister’s buyer, a few questions…
How did you come to take on the role of Buyer for Rtister?
After working in the Fashion Industry wearing many different hats, buying was the next step for me and something I had always looked forward to in my career.
What do you look for in a brand or collection when considering what to stock on Rtister?
I look for inspirational potential. They have to make me want to NEED their pieces and give me creative inspiration so that I can feel confident they will inspire customers to want to wear their looks as well. Also, fresh ideas that stand out from the crowd.
What were you doing before you took on the role of Buyer for Rtister?
I had been working as a denim specialist and assistant buyer with popular brands and was a stylist.
Describe a ‘typical’ day in the office…
Everyday has a bit of a different flare to it. Normally there is a lot of communication happening between the designers and me because I like to have a more personal relationship with them. I make sure to check how sales are doing, read the industry publications, and am constantly searching for the next best designer to bring on board. So, going through tons of look books.
What has been the highlight of your fashion career so far?
It would have to be working with Rtister and having a hand in its development.
What’s your favourite garment to buy?
It would have to be shoes and not a garment. Are shoes not a girl’s best friend? I love looking at how creative the shoe industry is getting each year and how a great pair of shoes can change your mood.
Do you prefer to buy for men or women?
Women because it’s more fun. I love men’s clothing as well but women have more options when it comes to accessories.
What do you like about emerging designers and brands in comparison to the more commercial designers and brands?
Emerging designers are fresh and they are always happy to hear feedback on how to make their collections even better. When a new designer gets picked up by the industry it is because their collection(s) offer something that isn’t being seen in that way at that moment. That’s what I love! It creates more inspiration.
What is your idea of an ideal weekend?
Finding markets and seeing what is out there. I love vintage jewellery. It’s my thing. I can’t get enough of it.
What’s currently your favourite designer piece in your wardrobe?
My Alaia shoes. But I am looking forward to getting my pieces from Rtister’s SS13 designers in the next few months.
What advice would you give to those who are looking to become buyers for stores such as Rtister in the future?
Be prepared to work hard and stay focused. It is truly a fast paced industry and career. You need to have a vision that coincides with the company and keep pushing forward.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – be sure to have a snoop around Rtister, where you can purchase some of Nikoletta’s brilliant designer choices.
Images courtesy of NOIR, provided by Rtister
After my meeting with the lovely team behind Rtister a couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shahrzad Amoli and Ashkan Alavi, the duo behind the innovative store. I bugged them about their past, how Rtister came about and their plans for the store in the future, and I couldn’t have been happier with their answers!
What is Rtister?
Rtister is the new online store where we offer users enviable choices in contemporary luxury fashion and empower them to influence what’s available to shop. Our designers are scouted from all over the world and are all ones to seriously watch on an international level.
When and why did you decide to establish Rtister?
The decision to start Rtister first came about towards the very end of 2010. Within our own networks and circles we noticed that there was an increasing interest in seeking out fashion that stood out as unique and original, that brought up a conversation about the designer. The feeling when you wish you had come across the next Alexander McQueen and you were the one wearing their pieces before they became fashion giants. At the same time, we believe that there are many designers around the world that fit this bill very well. We knew that the concept of online fashion is the ideal space to bring the user and designer together.
What were you both doing before you established Rtister in December 2012?
Well, we come from different backgrounds, working in finance and management within the United Nations and other large international organisations but we’ve always been passionate and fascinated about the world of fashion. At the same time we’ve been surrounded by designer friends with their own labels and have come to know about all that’s involved in their journey towards success. We’ve been living and breathing Rtister for quite a while now and over the past 18 months the team has been working towards getting the website ready, scouting for designers, selecting and buying stock and testing the user experience on the site.
What do you hope to achieve with the store?
Over the years we’ve all been hearing about how accessible fashion is becoming which is absolutely true. We hope people find that Rtister.com is where they need to come to find the next label that’s creating a lot of buzz and to be able to get their hands on excitingly fresh and trendy pieces. We also want the customer to enjoy discovering designers, their collections and pick out pieces they love and not just shop from among what we pick for them. They need to have a say in what they prefer to see available to shop. And we also hope to facilitate a bond between shoppers and their favourite designers that will be long term.
What sets Rtister apart from similar stores?
We’re an online store; we feature amazing designers and provide excellent customer service. That’s what makes us similar to other stores. But what sets us apart, we think, is the role the shopper has in influencing our buying decisions because they’re given access to the designers’ collections ahead of season. They take a discovery journey through these collections and tell us which ones they love and so would probably buy if it’s available in the shop. If an item of a collection has a substantial popularity going on, then it’s included in our season’s buying. So the customer has been empowered with a voice rather than just being offered what we decide is what they want. And because they’re among those who have helped us in our decisions, they receive offers they can use to make their shopping more exciting and rewarding.
What influenced the name of the store?
You’ve probably heard endless quotes from famous fashion figures about the art of making and wearing clothes. Everything about fashion is indeed an art. We make choices about what to wear with what and the designers create them from just an idea in their minds so there are artistic aspects involved in creating, buying and wearing. Rtister is pronounced ‘artister’ and we’d like to think of every single member in the website as an artist or to be more precise, an “Rtist”.
What has been the highlight of your fashion career so far?
It’s getting to know the people behind the labels so up close and personal. It’s such an eye- opener to see so many talents in this industry who are not only amazing designers of clothes and accessories, but are also accomplished painters, sculptors and even movie-makers! It makes us even more excited to be working with them.
Out of all the designers selling through Rtister, do you have any favourites?
Now that’s tricky! The right answer would probably be that it’s like choosing a favourite child and that it’s impossible. I think we’re really looking forward to seeing the labels who are relatively newer and who you will definitely hear a lot about internationally within the next two seasons; designers like Negarin London, Francis Leon, MASC and Altewai Saome but every single one of our designers amazes us.
What are your plans for the development of Rtister over the course of the next year?
We’re working on some exciting new features which will include personalising the shopping experience based on the individual shopper’s taste and giving a stronger voice to the user. So watch this space.
What advice would you give to individuals who are looking to establish an online store in the future?
Don’t be discouraged by all the learning involved throughout, but think everything through before, during and after the web design and development process. You have to be flexible to changes. And don’t try to reinvent the wheel, just be as innovative as you can and involve yourself in the details along the way as much as possible. Put yourself in the shoes of the user always.
Be sure to have a snoop around Rtister, where you can purchase pieces from numerous new, independent and emerging designers and brands.
Images courtesy of Jenny Grettve, provided by Rtister
Being an enormous fan of Brazilian unisex brand Vish, I thought it’d be nice to interview Luiz Wachelke and Andreia Passos, the lovely duo behind the brand, about Vish, their past and how they see the brand developing, and I couldn’t have been more right!
What is Vish?
Vish is something fresh. When we decided to create the brand, we wanted a name that would reflect our way of approaching fashion, design and art. What we like to do is take classic elements and put a fresh perspective – whether it is through prints, or through twists on traditional items of clothing. So Vish is freshness – we associate it with a sound, something fast, effervescent.
What were you both doing before you established Vish?
Andreia and I were both working in the fashion market, coincidentally in the same brand – she was fashion designer and I was a graphic and textile designer. Andreia first started as a journalist, but it was only after she decided to go live in London for a while that she discovered she was meant to design. She came back to Brazil after a while and in a matter of months she was already working on fashion brands, responsible for whole lines. In contrast to Andreia, I was still finishing college when we decided to establish Vish. It was only after a couple of collections that I went abroad and took a few courses in London so as to complement my background in fashion. When I came back I moved to São Paulo and established a second office.
What do you both do when you’re not working on Vish?
Andreia and I are a bit of a workaholic duo. Apart from Vish we have a creative studio where we work as creative directors for other brands. The projects vary from product development, print designs, branding, creative direction for campaigns and styling. It is safe to say we keep our hands full – but we love it!
On the other hand, as for what we do in our spare time, one of the most peculiar things about us as a duo is that we can be so similar and so different at the same time. It is easy to say we both love going to art exhibitions, watching movies and all sorts of cultural and creative activities – I’m not a big fan of theatre, though. I don’t actually know why!
Aside from Vish, what are your favourite brands?
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Our inspiration comes from both of our backgrounds and our present observations. Andreia and I have a great dynamic when it comes to our creative process; we are always talking and discussing things, as random as they may be. It is what we call a “never-ending-dialog” that ranges from what we’ve just read on the internet to our oldest childhood memories.
Where do you see Vish in 5 years time?
Vish will grow, that is certain. We have a very specific view on where we would like it to grow to. We know it will never be a gigantic brand. Exclusivity, limited editions and attention to detail are key values of Vish, so it is natural that is stays focused on that, rather than in expanding in numbers. We are very aware of the international potential of the brand and we strongly believe it will cross a lot of frontiers in upcoming years. Vish is already in Spain, Italy, New York and Singapore. We’ve just been approached by a Tokyo showroom and we’re also studying other countries to set foot in. So, in answer to your question, we literally see Vish everywhere in 5 years time!
When it comes to how we see the brand evolving, we believe it will get even more mature and complete. We plan on starting a basics line – smart and fresh plain designs – and developing even more the work on our signature printed aesthetic. As the collections go by, we are getting more and more involved in the textile design of our fabrics – from printed textiles to jacquards – so we believe our collections will show even more of that side of ours – with much more variety.
If you could collaborate with another designer or brand, who is it that you would ideally like to collaborate with?
We would love to collaborate with two different profiles of brands and designers. We have a soft spot for streetwear and major fashion chains – after all, that’s where most of the people find their clothes – so we would love to be involved in that sort of collaboration project. It would be indeed a dream come true to launch Vish by H&M or Vish by Topshop. Can you imagine?
Vish has a very strong conceptual take on fresh and easy pieces, so it would be very interesting to go into more conceptual scenario and collaborate with stores such as Colette and Opening Ceremony. We strongly believe these collaborations would work wonderfully, considering everyone is committed to the same fresh point of view when to comes to fashion and life-style.
What has been the highlight of your fashion career so far?
I think the moment we are living is the highlight of our careers. It is very reassuring to see the international potential Vish has and how it is coming true. When we were first mentioned on a WGSN report and we were featured in a book on fashion forward designers of the world, we realised there are no limits to where we can reach – and it sure feels like a highlight.
What initially made you want to establish Vish?
Vish was born in Buenos Aires from a desire to create something of our own. Both Andreia and I had been working in a women’s brand for a while and we both decided to leave at the same time. We were already great friends and we decided to go to Buenos Aires together for a couple of days. Visiting the city together and talking about our observations was the start of a dialog that never ended: we discovered similar points of view, similar takes on fashion, and similar takes on design. By the time we were back in Brazil, we started thinking of how to bring this desire to create something more personal to life. It was very interesting to discover how our own personal references and points of view would play such an important role in the process and very rewarding it would be to see people getting interested in the work.
Which do you prefer, designing for men or women?
One of the great things about being a man-woman duo is that we are always with both men and women in mind. I believe Andreia is more focused on designing for women and I do believe I pay a lot of attention to the men’s collection – for obvious reasons: we like to design what we would want to wear! As we’ve mentioned before, Vish is all about repertoire, personal references and observation, so it is clear that it assumes the role of solidifying what we would like to have for ourselves.
Designing for women can be very exciting, the possibilities are endless and girls tend to be a lot more open to new takes on fashion. When it comes to menswear the approach is completely different, we have to think about how to break the rules and create something fresh, without going too much. Although the clothes have a strong aesthetic, Vish is a wearable brand, so we need people to feel comfortable wearing them.
Do you have a ‘signature’ aesthetic?
There are two key elements that define our aesthetic: a fresh take in classic pieces and our printed aesthetic. As we’ve mentioned, wearability is very important to us, so we design clothing based in classic pieces with a twist, a new take.
Our textile work is also very important. We design and create all of our fabrics. From pencil and paper to ink and canvas, all of the designs are created by us, by hand – so, not only the designs carry our personal references, they also carry our own artistic identity, our way of drawing, painting, collaging. We realised it is very important to us to keep this do-it-yourself attitude towards our work, it brings a whole other level of involvement towards what we are creating.
Do you have a design process?
Yes, we do. It was something that started to take shape after a couple of collections, almost intuitively. Considering we had already worked in other brands before starting Vish (and we still work for other brands, so we are always in touch with processes), we already had already assimilated a lot of practical procedures. The dynamics between the both of us evolved through the first collections and nowadays it is so mature that we manage to design our collections living in two different cities.
It first starts with the previously mentioned never-ending dialog. Our conversations lead to a theme – usually our very own take on zeitgeist. From that theme we start reaching for references, interpretations and reflections on it. The next step is to think about colours, textiles and prints: we draw, design, test colours, start thinking about shapes. With the fabrics ready, we start deciding on shapes and pieces, we experiment with the different textiles and mix and match them so as to achieve the most beautiful group. The process ends when we think about the campaign, our visual representation of the collection – we always get intimately involved in the concept of our campaigns and lookbooks.
What advice would you give to aspiring fashion designers?
The most important thing you need to have as a designer is a point of view. All the other things – sewing, drawing, managing a business – are thing you can learn, but your own vision of the world is something unique. So hold on to it and use it to your advantage.
Photography by Hugo Toni
Images courtesy of Vish