From familiar faces to new kids on the block, as part of our Haute Couture series MOJEH.com speaks to the designers making waves in the highest form of fashion. For our second instalment, Ulyana Sergeenko.
The Russian Mafia: not a group of organised criminals, but a term of endearment for the new pack of ochen-stylish fashionistas from the sprawling Eurasian nation. As part of this exclusive crew, Ulyana Sergeenko has already made a name for herself as a trendsetter, a jetsetter and an all-round aficionado of dress. But of course, more than a street-style star, Sergeenko is also a noted couturier. Rihanna, Chrissy Teigen and Jaime King are just some of the well-known names to have sported her designs.
A relative newcomer to the couture parade, Sergeenko’s impact has been immediate. Her fanciful designs and keen eye for detail have made the highly capricious fashion press take note. She’s a serious designer, with a serious point of view and a serious business, even if her aesthetic is playful. ‘Today many houses are trying to modernise their collections and make them more accessible and understandable. In a way, I consider my style as more traditional female couture,’ Sergeenko tells us. ‘My woman literally radiates femininity and it applies to everything: to the way she walks, the way she speaks and, of course, to what she wears. It’s something that unfortunately you hardly find these days. So, every inch of my work is devoted to the idea of giving this woman what she needs – a clean silhouette, which underlines her beautiful shapes, and romantic, sometimes even naïve, prints and textures, which evoke the feeling of infantile excitement, something we lose through time.’
As a voracious and long-time buyer of couture herself, Sergeenko understands the emotional pull of a beautifully crafted piece. Before she launched her own line, she was already avidly scouring the collections and the boutiques of the world in search of those perfect finds. ‘I love couture,’ she gushes, ‘especially vintage. One of my favourite things to do is to spend all day walking around flea markets, looking for the extraordinary. I must say, the feeling when you find that special something is just unexplainable.’
One would imagine that having such a personal appetite for couture would give Sergeenko an innate understanding of the nuances of good design. She knows how a couture dress should fit and feel because, after all, she lives her life in them. That’s not to say that she hasn’t developed her own very individual approach but, as a collector, she sees firsthand how ideas are brought to life through fashion. ‘I can’t say it helps literally, but I also can’t deny that my preferences in clothes help me in designing for my brand. I feel as though I want all of our designs to be complementary on women’s bodies, so proportions are crucial. Clearly it takes a while before the imaginary picture transforms into a garment, but the process itself is so exciting that I never view it as something difficult.’
With such fêted personal style, it is natural that elements of Sergeenko’s eccentric aesthetic also filter through to her work – her penchant for a natty hat and love of an accentuated waist, for example. She’s managed to take a perfectly honed ability in styling the work of others and translate it into originating her own garments. It’s indicative of the clarity and decisiveness of her vision on style. ‘My designs are always going to be a direct reflection of my character – my thoughts, my surroundings, my childhood. I believe that life experience is the most inspirational thing in the world. Sometimes the inspiration comes from truly unexpected things, like food that my grandmother used to cook for me, or a feeling I experienced in a certain period of my life, or old Soviet illustrated books I kept from my childhood. When it comes to the choice of fabrics or construction, I have some amazing specialists to work with. I am always trying to be a part of each step. For instance, I fit all the pieces myself, as it is a very personal story.’
Although Sergeenko’s journey is, in many ways, just beginning, she’s already bringing a distinct point of view to the field. Her Russian heritage – ripe for exploration – allows her to traverse territory that still feels uncharted. ‘I am very proud of being Russian,’ she explains. ‘Having all of that history behind me makes each of my collections so different and filled with all sorts of inspirations, from fairytales and nature to music and handcrafts, which in each region of Russia are absolutely unique. But my journey has always been a mystery. I never know what’s waiting for me. So far, I can’t be happier with what I have already achieved, because of course for me, couture is a dream, the quintessence of beauty.’ So whilst Sergeenko will undoubtedly continue to take the streets by storm with her inimitable taste, it would appear her collections will also be blazing trails on the runway for some time to come.