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FASHION O2W: Sveta Sotnikova

Tuesday 06 December 2011
Words Spindle

I know all the trials and tribulations of being a design student. It is tiring, hard and many a time you would catch me weeping onto a spinning sewing machine. Deadlines encompass your life and working till the wee hours perfecting your creation becomes a state of normality, leaving time for very little else. Recent graduate Sveta Sotnikova, however, has achieved so much in the same amount of time it took me to thread a needle.  Having just graduated from London College of Fashion, whilst holding down a full time job, Sveta has already established her eponymous brand alongside being snapped up and represented by POP PR, an accolade which occurred before she even graduated!

Through her fetish for leather, a fabric which allows for no mistakes, Svetta goes to prove just how skilled her talents are and why many a P.R firm would be lucky to represent this extraordinary young designer…

You recently showed your first brand collection, which was also your final degree collection at London College of Fashion. What was the inspiration for this S/S 2012 collection? 
My research has started from the book De Humani Corporis Fabrica (On the fabric of the human body)written  by Andreas Vesalius in 1543, which is one of the first medical books depicting human anatomy. It’s very detailed, with illustrations of how the body construction was first explored in the 16th Century. It provides striking imagery of stripping the human body layer by layer in order to study and explore its construction. The idea that once the last layer is stripped it would then be possible to reveal the human soul intrigued me. I was extracting details of the human body and tried to understand its construction and apply it to the construction of garments. It’s a bit like a vision of what’s hidden under your skin – if you dig deep enough, will you be able to find the soul, eventually?

Hence the collection title De Fabrica? 
The word Fabrica caught my attention, as it means “fabric”, which has a direct relation to the fashion.  Incidentally in Russian “fabrika” means factory, conjuring images of rows upon rows of huddled workers – exactly the opposite of what I am trying to achieve and represent; the opposing concept of  Fast Fashion. Also I feel that there is a darker side to it, which has a gothic feel, and a beauty of human body. That is how the name of the collection forms itself through research and experience.

It has been described that some of your designs play with gender and the application of architectural shapes. Can you elaborate? 
My research has started from looking at similarities with how the buildings and garments are created. I then looked at similarities of the architecture and body design and applied this to creation of garments – blueprints of the body from the architect’s point of view were transferred to the pattern design and execution.

Some time we would like to be strong and powerful, and even wearing the same garment we still don’t want to lose femininity and fragility. The spine dress would be a good example; it’s very severe at the front, but at the back it’s a strong spine detail suggesting fragility and femininity.  In my designs I always juxtapose things, because I believe nothing is settled and things constantly change.

Who is the ideal woman you’re designing for? Or is there even an ideal man in your collection? 
I don’t think that there is a place for a man in my collections, as I believe that the construction of the male body is different to a woman. In order to be able to design a good product you need to know the basics, so I think I’ll stick with what I know best! Regarding an ideal woman, I would say visually she is different for each collection. Each time I imagine how she would look like and then I try to play on  her appearance . But what stays the same is that she is never affraid to express her feelings and emotions. Quite confident yet fragile, feminine yet adrogenous, litlle girl and powerful woman combined in one. As a person it could look and be somone like Tilda Swinton or Mariacarla Boscono.

The main body of your collection is made from leather. What is it about leather that inspires and excites you? 
Leather is an extraordinary material, it’s expensive and unforgiving. Even a smallest mistake, a wrong cut will punish you as the whole pattern needs to be redesigned. I wanted to challenge myself from the off and I was trying to use leather in non-traditional way. I also loved the way the leather felt to touch and against the skin and the sensations it gave to the wearer. Everyone who wore the dresses were really surprised how smooth it felt – also, as a difficult material to work with it got me some brownie points with tutors who appreciated the challenge.

What are the three things that inspire your approach to design? 
The human body, construction and quality.

Do you remember your first fashion memory, the moment you thought,’ I want to design!’? 
I don’t remember it being a particular moment. It was a progression of my teenage experiences.

We are a cultured bunch at Spindle and always want to know the latest in fashion, music, art and film, so what are your current favourites in the worlds of design, sound and writing? 
Bjork last album and she is massive influence, also recently seen Woodkind, fantastic video and the track; loved its melancholy. In recent exhibitions a must see is the “Power of Making” at V&A. it’s incredible of how things are made and of how much we are capable at.

Would you say you have a particular style of design? 
I would say that is yes, I am designing around the body, trying to complement it not redesigning it.

What was it like studying at London College of Fashion? 
I did a Part-time degree at London College of Fashion, which I believe is different experience from being a full time student, as through out my studies I was working full time. It was actually like having two jobs, but nevertheless I’ve been given a great opportunity to gain the knowledge and had a lot of support from my tutors. Obviously, it down to you to make it happen in the end, which makes you more determent.

Do you have a particular fashion pioneer that you look towards? 
Yes, I love work of Ricardo Tisci at Givenchy, where he shows modern couture and great craftsmanship. Also I am very inspired by new generation of designers from London: work of Gareth Pugh , Christopher Kane and David Koma, I am always look forward to see what they’ll come up with.

It’s incredible to be snatched up so quickly by a P.R agency just as your graduating! How did that come about? 
I guess I’ve been lucky, I am very grateful and surprised too! I hope it’s due to the fact that Portia Shaw saw that I am challenging myself, trying to work with difficult materials and experimenting with design, constantly challenging myself, pushing he envelope.. Perhaps Pop PR has the similar ethos to me..?  Portia’s support and belief was great and so very encouraging so I must thank her for this amazing opportunity.

Finally, what do you have planned for the Sveta Sotnikova brand as it grows into to luxury brand? 
The future is still seems too far away to contemplate. I am taking it day-by-day, so the plans are all very short term. However, there are a couple of things in the pipeline next year that hopefully will go a long way in establishing my brand further, so, all I can say is: Watch this space!