One to Watch: An interview with Ekaterina Gerasimova
As hard as it is to look at the graduate collections and spot the next McQueen, one that certainly seemed to be in the right place at the right time was the luxurious yet deeply cool collection of Russian-born LCF graduate Ekaterina Gerasimova. In her hand-crafted, illustration-heavy leather and fur creations Ekaterina captured the current move towards sustainability through luxury and intricate design that is dominating thoughts on the future of fashion. Added to the fact that the anticipated release of Anna Karenina starring Keira Knightly is fast turning minds towards Russian-inspired opulence for Autumn/Winter, and the collections are festooned with regal brocades, furs and embellishments, it’s no wonder that the young designer is attracting some attention in the blogosphere. The Upcoming interviewed Ekaterina about her varied influences and, like any new graduate, her hopes for the future.
Could you tell me a little bit about your background and how you decided you wanted to work in the fashion industry?
I was born in Russia and from my early years I was drawing things; I went to art school and had done some fine art courses when I was a teen. But it was always interesting to create something with a function to it – for me fashion is a combination of arts, craft, commerce and logic. It is practical as well as beautiful and that’s what I like about it. When I went to university in Russia I did fashion illustration and knitwear as my majors so I could both be visually narrative and technologically professional. Later I developed those skills when I went to LCF and when I worked at McQueen. For me fashion is always a story of some sort like a fairy tale, told with print, textiles, illustration, shapes and styling.
How do you begin the process of working on a collection?
The creative collaboration between garment and print is a massive inspiration to me that I juxtapose onto sophisticated and playfully elaborate garments. A major influence in all the areas I’m researching is Latin American parables and common lavish imagery (often seen in tattoos or religious imagery) deconstructed and reconstructed with my own illustrations. I explored worship from the point of view of the individual; the way people perceive their beliefs and how they display them. I love expressive Latin American cult art and I think that tattoos are the best way to reflect one’s values and inner story because the one who makes it understands that it’s going to stay there forever.
I love strong visuals. I begin working on my collection by making a board of images that inspire me. My work is narrative and graphic-driven. Then I draw prints and toile (test the pattern) with the shapes. Colours come last.
What was the concept behind your final collection?
My work is a collaboration of illustration, symbolic imagery and their application to textiles. In my artwork I use religious symbols. The range revolves around a multitude of surface textiles techniques such as print devore, felting, appliqué and embroidery, in traditional and digital variations, including some specialist fur crafts (sponsored by Saga Furs) that are engineered into womenswear designs. I love colour and quality finish – I am a detail perfectionist and a printmaker. All the furs I use are ethically sourced and the technology I use allows as little as possible of it create a garment.
I love to combine and merge things – I appreciate the idea of fashion as a means to unite people of different backgrounds, to explore the story behind a garment and to share beautiful things various cultures create around the world.
How far does your Russian background influence you? Do you think this is an important time for Russian design?
I think my Russian degree benefits me in my work, but honestly I do not think that my background matters a lot. The only big influence I guess is a quest for unknown and love for exotics that I had brought from Russia. I lived in Siberia (the place where winter stays for seven months a year) and always dreamt about travelling and exploring other countries and cultures with brighter nature and more sun. But in general, Russian and English fashion is very different because of the various climate, cultural, aesthetic and economic backgrounds.
British fashion is influenced a lot by street fashion, youth, multicultural diversity, personality and innovation. Russian fashion tends to be more glamorous, to do with iconic visions of femininity and showcasing one’s financial success via all sorts of embellishment possible. I think for me as a designer it’s great to know both approaches to fashion and to be able to combine luxury and playful in one product.
What kind of person do you see wearing your designs?
My outfits have layers. I intentionally created them active but functional, so anyone can choose what they want depending on the individual’s budget and level of confidence. It’s highly priced but it’s a one-off product and it is done with a lot of involvement and love, so I think it might suit anyone, it mostly depends on styling.
My collection was not intended for the high street. I think as a student it’s more important to create a statement of your work as a designer more than something highly commercial. Most of the garments are hand-crafted and if sold would cost upwards of £2000. But as a student I decided to show all my potential. Creative approach came first and price came second. I had to sacrifice all my time and budget to do it, but I am happy with a result. Now I have many offers to sell my collection and individual pieces and I am glad people are interested in it: it makes me very happy as a designer.
What are your plans now and what do you hope to achieve?
I want to find a job as a designer, and stay in the UK. As an international student with new government rules a steady contract is the only way to stay, but due to a new visa policy it’s almost impossible so I tend to suggest companies from China and Hong Kong as my future employer. But I do all I can now.
What are you influenced by right now within fashion and culture? What inspires you?
Surprisingly I am inspired now by lower American and English middle-class sub-cultures. I do not like the terms “white trash”, “chavs”, “hooligans” or “bikers” but that idea is something that I like now. Of course it’s only the starting point for my research, but I think to have a sort of Givenchy take on that idea might be interesting. I want to create something highly commercial but with a creative twist.
Photo: Courtesy of Ekaterina Gerasimova