By Katherine Ellis
Photography courtesy of Ekaterina Kukhareva
Ekaterina Kukhareva burst onto the fashion scene using a fabric seldom seen in high-end couture. Kukhareva’s knitwear – conceived, designed and created by the designer – offers her unique pieces dimension, structure and feeling.
Her Russian roots, love of history and interest in powerful women are also reflected in Kukhareva’s clothing, which has been worn by the likes of Nicky Minaj and R&B singer Brandy.
FAJO Magazine caught up with the London-based designer in the midst of the holiday season.KATHERINE ELLIS: Born in Ukraine, you moved to London, but your inspiration is drawn from your Russian roots and the world’s history, including monarchs (specifically Queens). In what shape or form do these inspirations come to life in your work?
EKATERINA KUKHAREVA: The world’s history has always inspired me naturally: the patterns, the forms you find in different architectural historical locations, the people who lived in them. I tend to take an element of form or pattern, and translate it into a cut or a jacquard pattern, whichever I find most aesthetically beautiful.
For instance, in my ‘Russian Tsaritsa’ collection I took the element of the Cupola Domes and played with the lines on a female body form to create a beautiful pattern, and it translated the inspiration perfectly once you knew the design process behind the garment. I am a strong believer that you can’t just create something out of nothing, most of the work has to go into the research.
How does your background influence your work?
My Russian background helps to see things from a different perspective. Many designers draw inspiration from Russian culture, and I really wanted to do something that shows my vision of it. So I did one of my collections on that subject, but somehow I see these inspirations reappearing in my work. Whether they come from Egyptian wall paintings or mosaics, I always seem to have an element of my own culture.
Why did you decide to focus on knitwear?
When I was studying at Central Saint Martins, we had a choice of subjects: weave, print or knit. I have tried everything, but only with knitwear I found that you can create 3D forms easily and play with fabric textures, creating them from scratch; starting with the yarn spinning, until the final product. At that moment, I thought there is nothing better than that. You can choose you own colour, structure, patterns, textures. There is so much left to the imagination!
Where does the wool come from?
In my collection, I tend to work with viscose and cotton. I get my yarns from Italian suppliers, so I know the quality is the best you can get. A lot of people have the perception that viscose is unnatural or cheap. In fact, viscose is a natural fibre and easy to wear once it is in a garment. It allows the fabric to breathe and that is why my collections have been so popular in hot countries.
Do you create only knitwear, or do you use other fabrics?
Yes, I only create knitwear, so I don’t have to shop for fabrics, because I make them. That gives me so much freedom to do what I want. I first create pattern and fabrics, which I design and program myself with the special software, and then the fabrics are knitted on the knitting machine. I am flexible because I can offer a customer a different colour combination of any garment that they like. After the fabric is done, it is sewn and finished into a garment.When did you decide you wanted to become a fashion designer and move to London?
I have lived in London since I was really young. My parents sent me to a boarding school in England when I was 12 and I have stayed here. I remember that I always drew a lot when I was younger, but I never thought of becoming a fashion designer. I wanted to work in finance, but alongside my business studies, I always had art as my subject of choice.
When the time had come to apply to university I really wanted to go to Central Saint Martins and applied there. After graduating, I worked for Temperley London, and after that I saw the number of young designers coming onto the market and decided to become one of them. I had the opportunity to make garments that no one else had to offer, and created my brand Ekaterina Kukhareva.
You have a variety of pieces, from the green frock in the Brigitte Bardot-inspired spring 2013 collection, to the red dress in the autumn 2011 line. So, who would you say is your client?
My client is a woman who is not afraid to experiment with her style and loves fashion. She can be 20 or 50 years old; I don’t have a set age range for my collections. I think fashion is different nowadays and it shouldn’t restrict a woman of any age. It is all about her style!
Why did you decide to base your spring/summer 2013 collection on Brigitte Bardot? And why Saint-Tropez?
Sometimes in my collections I try to have a muse, to have a feeling or a vibe of that woman who will be wearing the clothing. I first created the patterns and jacquards for the collection that I really wanted to use. They were inspired by ancient mosaics, and they were so colourful and hippie-like, so who else would wear it better than Brigitte Bardot?
I did my research, watched nearly all the movies and documentaries on her. The only thing I haven’t done was go to Saint-Tropez. In this collection, I really wanted to create that feeling of a girl who can be chic from the daytime into night time, like Bardot. And she is a really beautiful lady at heart.
Ekaterina Kukhareva, spring/summer 2013
In three words or less, how would you describe your aesthetic?
Chic and sexy.
You have dressed many celebrities, including Brandy Norwood and Tulisa Contostavlos. Who were you the most excited to dress?
I am always pleasantly surprised or even shocked when I see the celebrities in my garments; it just really makes me feel that what I am doing is really worth it. And seeing it on Brandy, Tulisa or Nicki Minaj is always a huge honour to me!