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Unknown A MODERN RUSSIAN FASHION FAIRYTALE: VILSHENKO Thursday, December 19, 2013 Posted by Bethan Holt, Junior Fashion Editor at Large Vilshenko SS14 A new fashion niche has developed over the past few seasons, possibly s... 5


Posted by Bethan Holt, Junior Fashion Editor at Large

Vilshenko SS14
A new fashion niche has developed over the past few seasons, possibly spearheaded by Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paulo Piccioli's designs at Valentino. I like to call it fairytale fashion; dresses come either very short, or very long. There is intense detailing and bold colour, the likes of which you might expect to see in the modern-times wardrobe of Game of Thrones' Cersei Lannister. It's the new way to nod to the traditional and feel like a Princess (more the medieval kind than the Beatrice or Eugenie kind). One such brand which taps perfectly into this aesthetic is Vilshenko which I first discovered when I kept rushing past the room where the collection was on show during LFW. Each time I looked in en route to another appointment, I would catch sight of a model swathed in one dreamy but demure gown after another.

Olga Vilshenko is the designer and businesswoman behind the brand which I remembered as a little oasis of calm amongst the fashion week rush. As the fashion world's focus remains firmly on the ever-growing Russian market, now seemed like the perfect time to find out more about the Vilshenko world which as you'll learn is this season centred around the idea of a modern-day Tsarina with the clothes always referencing Vilshenko's Russian heritage and costume collections….

BH: Russia has become a big fashion focus point over the past couple of years, what do you love about the Russian fashion scene?

OV: Russians are very welcoming to everything new. Here the volume of fashion consumption is quite high, and it is continuing to grow rapidly. People like to see new brands and new trends, meaning Russians have now arrived at the forefront of everyone’s minds for trend setting and have stepped away from the flashy style we saw a few years ago. The influencers who are trickling out of here at the minute make it a really exciting time to be a Russian designer.

BH: What led you start your own brand?

OV: A love for fashion runs in my blood. My mum used to make clothes for our family and I always wanted to get involved, I definitely have my mum to thank for inspiring me. I graduated from the Design Institute in Russia and then went on to study at London's branch of Instituto Marangoni. Naturally I decided to try and show people my vision of fashion.

Vilshenko SS14
BH: Tell us about your SS14 collection, what's the story?

OV: In this collection you can see my vision of 21st century Tsarina. When imagining my heroine, I wanted to see her both feminine and elegant, refined but with a slight tomboyish sparkle. The collection sees a variety of styles - romantic silk floor-length gowns, flirty embroidered dresses, lots of polka dots which comes through in different fabrics and shapes. If I had to describe it in one word, I would say it's delicate. 

BH: How are you moving the brand on each season?

OV: The evolution is very natural, I begin with previous seasons - analyse what worked and what didn't and I that keep it in my mind when I'm coming up with the creative concept. It’s also important for me to add new types of fabric and embroideries each season. For SS14 we’ve made a few pieces decorated with silk balls sewn on netting, all of them are handmade so it’s very time consuming. I love the mélange embroidery I use on organza dresses; the multicolor thread makes the garments really opulent. 

BH: What's been your most successful design to date?

OV: Oh I love all of them! I love the Mira dress in grey field flower print from FW13/14, as its neckline and shape is so flattering. One of my all time favorites though, is the Florence dress in printed silk.

Vilshenko SS14
BH: How do you spend your time? Do you travel a lot? Where do you get inspired?

OV: I often travel a lot for work so when I do have time to myself I love to spend it in the country house with my family. Gardening is one of my hobbies; it inspires me as it's very relaxing and gives me time to think. I also feel inspired from art, architecture, history, literature and music. I love the unknown of what may lead you onto the next collection.

BH: Are you still working with Sarah Richardson, what impact does a great stylist have on refining the collection?

OV: We've worked with Sarah for five seasons and it's hard to underestimate her contribution to the brand's growth, she is a fantastic inspiration. Stylists are often the eyes and ears of a designer, so of course they make quite an impact on the collection - it's team work and I have been really lucky to work with great stylists. We have been working with Cathy Kasterine since the SS14 look book and we have just done a shoot with Cathy and photographer Yelena Yenchuk so I’m really excited to see the results of our collaboration.

Vilshenko SS14

Vilshenko SS14
BH: Lots of your designs references Russian folk costumes. Do you ever or have you ever worn these? Is tradition important to you?

OV: It's not so easy to find and wear Russian folk costumes. I have a collection of Russian vintage pieces I’ve been accumulating from villages hundreds of kilometres away from Moscow over the years. I find it very important to know and remember traditions because we are nothing without our past. I like to infuse traditional elements in my collections. I also think it's crucial to keep a balance between traditional and contemporary; nobody wants to wear costumes unless it's a masquerade.

The only time I wore a traditional costume was in nursery for a holiday when we were performing a traditional Russian dance. It was so much fun but a bit awkward because I was tripping over the long skirt all the time and my tiara was a bit too large so I couldn’t see anything either! 

BH: If we were visiting Moscow, what would be your insider tip for things to do?

OV: If you were visiting Moscow for the first time, I would recommend going to the Armor Museum on the Red Square – they keep unique treasures from Royal families, it’s truly stunning. Now that the Bolshoi Theatre is open again, it has become a Mecca for those who like the opera and ballet. To try Russian cuisine, go to Pushkin – they have most amazing and exotic Russian food and the interior is beautiful. Gorky Park is also very nice, during summer and in winter time when they set up a skating rink.

Vilshenko is available to buy at Avenue 32 (in a rather brilliant sale right now) and at M'oda O'perandi

All images courtesy of Vilshenko. Photographer, Yelena Yemchuk styled by Cathy Kasterine with model Zlata Mangafic
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