Today, Russia boasts its own separate thriving industry of luxury fashion thanks to its new breed of overtly talented faces that have revived the nuances of “old style” with the “new twists and turns” in a wholly colorful way. Thus, people here are already gripped with the notion of altering their looks suavely because of this realization, and most importantly fashionistas in the West are no less curious about these designers’ exhilarating collections which they know can only spice up their lifestyle. In essence, the demand for their ridiculously beautiful creations across the Atlantic is just getting bigger every day.
One such famous name to come out of the country is Alena Akhmadullina who launched her eponymous label in 2001. And in these 16 years, she has never wavered but strongly been on top of her game in establishing a solid customer base everywhere because of her unique designs.
In an exclusive interview with European Life, we caught up with her to find out what stirred her to become a fashion designer in the first place, what it means to her and much more.
As a child, Akhmadullina loved to design dresses for the cute dolls she played with. Upon seeing this talent of hers, her grandmother took the first leap to teach her a few basic sewing techniques. “As far as I can recollect, my grandmother would often bring leftover fabrics from the atelier she worked at and we would use them to make new clothes for my pretty dolls. It was quite fun,” she says.
Back then, she had no idea that the dresses she made for her dolls together with her grandmother were actually part and parcel of fashion design course. “I came to know about it only when I reached my teens. In fact, I realized that I was very conscious of what others wore. This feeling, in a way, allowed me to experiment with what I wore myself,” recalls she.
Akhmadullina’s drive to study fashion, which meant everything to her while growing up brought her to St. Petersburg Academy of Technology and Design (one of the best design institutes in the country) from where she graduated and embarked on her exciting journey ahead.
There is a never-ending composition of silhouettes inspired by the traditional Russian costume that her collections bring to life with a bang. “Each season we focus on a different piece of Russian folklore that we interpret through prints and patterns. Our collections are embedded with a lot of couture techniques like embroidery, embellishment and even painting to make our pieces stand out,” she says.
This is where her designed fur coats and fur-embroidered cashmere sweaters have an upper hand and so are crazily popular. “It’s a delicate work for which we use a hand technique called “intarsia” to knit unique patterns,” she says.
For Akhmadullina, working with natural fabrics is very crucial. Therefore, she mainly focuses on working with natural textiles like silk, cotton, wool, etc that she and her team buy at Premiere Vision in Paris.
When it comes to painting an overall picture of her muses that she constantly looks up to for impetus, prominent artistes like Charlotte Gainsbourg, Tilda Swinton, Meryl Streep, Marion Cotillard, and Léa Seydoux cross her mind like a rainbow.
“These women are my favorites because they are “risk-takers” when it comes to fashion, but at the same time they never ever fail to be the perfect embodiment of sophistication and elegance we all wish for,” she says.
In her actual point of view, women who buy her collections are avidly looking for clothes that not only make them beautiful but also have an intellectual quality to them. As she puts it well enough, “The perfect woman for my collections is someone who is unafraid to incorporate a little bit of fairytale into her everyday life. She is curious, sophisticated and above all daring,” Akhmadullina says.
The emergence of brands like hers decked with such a majestic influence is an ode to the Russian women who like to dress up. They take immense pride in how they dress and enjoy experimenting with what they wear. “We Russian women are always enthusiastic about trying new things in life. They boldly embrace trends, but the trends never go far enough to define them,” she says. “They know exactly where to intervene in order to keep the quagmire surrounding trends mania under control.”
One similarity that she feels both Arab women and Russian women have in common is that they are all the more a discerning group who never forget to appreciate handmade details and one-of-a-kind pieces.
This sharp insight of Akhmadullina stems primarily from her visit to Dubai last year where she noticed that the Arab designers were prominently featured in so many multi-brand boutiques. “Back home too, we have been very supportive of our local brands that have produced an array of amazing work.”
But people’s attitude in the West is a bit off-putting. “It’s quite the opposite in the US and Europe where people are easily swayed by price points and sometimes more likely to go for a mass-produced alternative as opposed to the original version,” she says.
Boom period for Russian fashion labels
This increasingly bright picture that the Russian fashion industry is experiencing today is only because the world had turned a blind eye to its vast pool of fashion savoir faire in the past. Now people are more aware of fashion trends through social media, leading them to find out something new and fresh daily in terms of alluring attire and accessories.
It comes as no surprise that even celebrities have been bowled over by Akhmadullina’s extraordinary collections, making them wear her designed pieces. “It’s an honor to have a diverse range of women from Naomi Campbell to Georgia May Jagger, Solange Knowles, Amal Clooney, Lauren Santo Domingo, Olga Kurylenko and Miroslava Duma worn my collections,” she says. “I’d love to continue seeing my collections on many different women who embody the perfect cocktail of sophistication and originality like Cate Blanchett, Marion Cotillard and Julianne Moore.”
So making the most of celebrity endorsement for Akhmadullina is an integral part of promoting her brand globally. “It really helps a lot if the individual aligns with the values of the brand. There are many celebrities out there taking risks and setting new trends routinely, and although we always associate them with “style”, it does mean a lot for a public figure to be part of it because it can define their career,” Akhmadullina says.
She rocks like a great admiring fashion designer because her stance on fashion is simple and clear that it’s the artistry of expressing oneself through what one wears. “To me, it’s above all an art form. I wouldn’t ever like to compromise my creative ideas for the purpose of growing a business. It’s all about staying true to your vision,” she says.