Fashion Designer Olga Vasyukova the founder of Red September sits down with our fashion director Katarina Djoric to to talk about her beginnings, sources of inspiration, as well as the important lessons she have learned so far.
How did you first get interested in fashion?
I grew up in the 90’s when Russia was in the period of perestroika. All the stores were almost empty, and the only magazine about fashion was the Burda magazine (one with patterns in the middle to sew by yourself). All this somehow did not contribute to a great interest in fashion. At school, I sewed costumes for the school theater, and then became a railway engineer. I think I just like the process of creating something new more than fashion itself. I am fascinated by the idea that I create something out of nothing that makes sense and evokes emotions in other people, inspires and encourages them. And doing this, I feel most comfortable in the fashion segment.
Did you always dream of becoming a designer?
I had no idea about fashion industry in 90’s and no interest in it in 00’s. When I decided where to go after school, it seemed to me, there was not even such a profession as fashion designer. Being turned for technical science and continuing family tradition I’ve chosen Moscow State University of Railway Engineering and over the next five years have studied logistics, higher mathematics and descriptive geometry. Right after graduation I was hired at Research Institute for Information Technology on Railway Transport and accepted as a member of the Russian Federation delegation at annual session of WPTPF, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. My mother is a scientist, there was no chance for me to stop my studies after just one diploma. After a few years of engineering career and lots of extra classes and activities, I began to feel a growing internal anxiety about wasting my time. I can hardly remember how I even started thinking about design, but I clearly remember myself late at night sitting in my pajamas in front of the computer and studying Polimoda website. Let’s say it was confidence at first sight. Other options like design schools and programs, did not exist for me. At that moment I already felt that I’m in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. In 2013 I left my positions in Research Institute and international delegation to move to Florence and to start the new beginning. I graduated from Polimoda in 2017 after studying Fashion Design Course under the tutorage of Patrick De Muynck.
I know what I am striving for and the waste of time is very destructive. I try to minimize everything that distracts me from achieving the goal.
What are your sources of inspiration?
Inspiration strongly romanticizes artistic working process and often justifies your own laziness. If there is a goal and a pleasure from work, then only perseverance, hard work, competent time management and a clear deadline lead to the result. The brain itself, processing all visual information, will look for the links with current project. These processes are always active, no matter what I do. I’m probably speaking now as a boring grandmother, but I know what I am striving for and the waste of time is very destructive. I try to minimize everything that distracts me from achieving the goal.
What does your creative process look like?
I am a creative director and the only designer in a team of 10 people in the brand that works in Russia, Europe, and America and is preparing to enter the Asian market this year. During the fitting, I can give adjustments to the patternmaker and the dressmaker, discuss shooting of a lookbook or preparing a fashion show, and at the same time pack an order for the client, because everyone else is busy. The work of the entire team is built in one plane – so any member of the team can be integrated into any process.
How has your work evolved since you began your own label?
You can laugh at me – when I graduated from Polimoda among the top 19 students, I thought that I knew and was able to do nearly all, if not all. Good girl, well done… Instead of an internship, I immediately received a very good job offer from the largest Polish fast fashion company and spent there the next 8 months. There I realized that I still have a lot to learn. Right after that, I started my brand and have been working on it for 1.5 years by now. During this time, I realized that I know nothing and every day I learn something new. I deal with issues of stress tolerance and how to make myself as effective as possible. Although I try to remove from life everything that slows down the work of the brain…but still my brain is constantly not enough for me, I always feel like an idiot. An impostor who takes someone else’s place and you constantly feel that you are not good enough compared to some conventional genius. This motivates to constant self-development, becoming the best version of yourself.
Failure is part of the game. You always fail because you try all sorts of crazy new ideas. If you don’t fail, then you’re not trying risky enough.
How important is individuality to you when it comes to designing?
Individuality is important everywhere, not just in designing. This is why we do not position ourselves as a closed luxury brand, but an emerging gender-fluid creative space. This is not a statement with trendy logos, its my direct speech, the events I’ve seen with my own eyes and put in my own words. I was lucky enough to be a witness of so many changes in the history of my country and it all formed my vision and way of thinking. Its not my choice its simply who I am. And in response to our transparency, over time, people have begun to give us more attention and trust, share their comments, stories and reactions. This is how a dialogue is born. This is the way to our audience feel more confident wearing an emerging brand in which they can identify and express their true selves.
Do you have particular pieces you enjoy designing and making more than others?
I love outerwear-bombers, leather jackets, trench coats…For some reason, I am very pleased with the idea that one of my jackets will warm another person in cold weather.
If you could describe your design aesthetic in three words, what would they be?
Russian Engineer in Fashion [trying hard]
After a failure, you are not a loser, but a person with experience.
What is the most important lesson you have learned so far about fashion?
Tolerance to failures. Failure is part of the game. You always fail because you try all sorts of crazy new ideas. If you don’t fail, then you’re not trying risky enough. You need to think outside the box. But how? Try all the time. Make mistakes and try again. After a failure, you are not a loser, but a person with experience.
I’m sure you have come across moments of struggle, maybe lack of inspiration. How do you overcome these times; especially if you have a deadline?
I try to re-engineer and design my life with optimization not only for success, but also for happiness. As soon as I begin to realize that what I’m doing is no longer bringing me pleasure and starts to cause stress, my productivity is falling, I abstract and let go of the situation. Until I get the balance back. I can go for a swim in the pool, walk in the park, sleep or read a book, whatever. I return to work only with a clear mind without negative emotions, otherwise all this will affect the results of my work.
Who would you consider to be the most inspiring person today?
Andrey Doronichev, the Director of Product at Google. Recently, I often listen to or watch his interviews and frankly, a lot of what he says is thought-provoking and encourage analysis of many fundamental things. His open-minded views and outstanding approach to organizing life, creativity and work are very motivating. I really hope that when I’m his age, my brain will function in a similar way.
What are you working on now?
Now the whole team is coming out of quarantine step by step, and I’m thinking how to prepare them mentally for all the crazy ideas that I came up with during the lockdown. They are ready for anything, but just in case… In general, I am preparing to turn on the nerd mode – now I am working on SS21, next week I will start working on AW21/22 in parallel, and all this should be done quickly and preferably without major failures. Again, starting next week, we will start building up a schedule for all additional activities related to these two seasons – photo and video shootings, showrooms, etc. Good time to start learning French. Anyway, the usual creative routine.
Where do you see your label 10 years from today?
As my grandmother used to say, let’s make it through this day, and then we’ll see.
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