In places like Kiev and Moscow, a thriving arts scene is giving way to a rising class of fashion designers who confidently fill their seasonal collections with color, texture, and glamour that isn’t afraid to be bold. We asked a handful of our favorite designers from these former Soviet countries to share how their heritage has helped shape their brand’s aesthetic. Here’s what they had to say.

The brand: Marianna Senchina
Hails from: Ukraine
Known for: Innovative proportions, large prints
Designer: Marianna Senchina

MARIANNA SENCHINA Polka Dot Cotton Belted Minidress

Three words that describe your brand’s DNA?
Fun, feminine, self-confident.

What core design elements define your collection?
I love color and large patterns, but I’m also not scared of volume, well-structured cuts, and massive details. My designs are not minimalistic—they’re a perfect fit for women who want to add a bit of quirkiness to their looks.

How does your Ukrainian heritage inform your designs?
I create looks for women who are modern, enjoy their power, work hard, and remain a bit reckless at the same time. My concept is ageless and not geographically tied to my motherland. But, emotionally, my heritage nurtures me. To come from a country where 30 years ago a matching bag and shoes were a rarity that now has a budding young fashion industry gives me lots of inspiration. To know that beauty and style are more powerful than politics, and even during complicated historical periods like perestroika, you can find people’s creativity instead of just poverty.

 

The Brand: Kalmanovich
Hails from: Russia
Known for: Bold colors, theatrical details
Designer: Julia Kalmanovich

KALMANOVICH Star-Motif Sequined Blazer / KALMANOVICH Star-Motif Sequined Miniskirt
KALMANOVICH Swiss Dot Tulle Minidress

Three words that describe your brand’s DNA?
Attractive, effective, emotional.

What core design elements define your collection?
Pure sexuality and femininity in every detail. My designs inspire women to be free and feel strong. I love to use sequins, faux leather, and linen in my designs. In the new collection, you will find ruffles and transparent details, but also classic suits and trendy silhouettes.

How does your Russian heritage inform your designs?
I love my country and its vast heritage. However, I also try to rethink some of the classical elements and create looks to inspire. I strongly believe that Russian fashion designers are very talented. Our industry is very young, but each creative has his or her own fresh vision. My clothes are more for festive circumstances—a special occasion or party.

 

The brand: Natasha Zinko
Hails from: Ukraine
Known for: Colorful stones, whimsical shapes
Designer: Natasha Zinko

NATASHA ZINKO Heart Drop Earring
NATASHA ZINKO Banana Stud Earring / NATASHA ZINKO Carrot Earring / NATASHA ZINKO Pineapple Stud Earring

Three words that describe your brand’s DNA?
Craftsmanship, femininity, street.

What core design elements define your collection?
I love taking icons and recreating them in unexpected ways.

How does your Ukrainian heritage inform your designs?
Being Ukrainian is my inherent starting point, and it influences the way I view the world and my subsequent reaction to finding happiness no matter what is going on. I’ve always had to achieve “against all odds.” Every single success is a blessing. Hard work is my heritage. There are stereotypical global perceptions about Ukrainian design, but the former Eastern Bloc where I grew up was filled with wonderful colors and joy. I have an innate appreciation and gratitude for what I have.

 

The brand: Sleeper
Hails from: Ukraine
Known for: Soft, feminine shapes
Designers: Kate Zubarieva and Asya Varetsa

SLEEPER Jane Floral Linen Minidress

Three words that describe your brand’s DNA?
Classic, funny, and sexy.

What core design elements define your collection?
We use lots of linen. It is our local fabric and ideal for hot weather, since it is breathable. Our aesthetics are about happiness. Our clothes are stress-free and meant for joy. This concept dominates every Sleeper mood board.

How does your Ukrainian heritage inform your designs?
Ukrainians have traditionally been very fond of colors. Many prominent avant-garde artists have their roots in Ukraine—Kazimir Malevich, Alexandra Exter, Alexander Bogomazov, and Vasily Ermilov, among others. The visual context of Ukraine is very joyful. We are huge hedonists, not only in terms of clothes and interiors, but also art, music, and food. We truly enjoy life!

 

The brand: Spencer Vladimir
Hails from: Russia and the U.S.
Known for: Chunky textures, cheerful patterns
Designers: Allyson Spencer and Vladimir Teriokhin

SPENCER VLADIMIR Colorblocked Sweater, coming soon to Barneys.com
SPENCER VLADIMIR Sweater, coming soon to Barneys.com

Three words that describe your brand’s DNA?
Crafted by hand, color, and a bit of a Magic Dance.

What core design elements define your collection?
We are about knitwear with character, sweaters that evoke memories. Some of our signatures are jumbo cables, oversized kid-like shapes, fun colored ombré degrades, stretchy crochets, and bold graphics that pop.

How does your Russian heritage inform your designs?
Our Fall 2018 collection started with the [Eastern European] Puli dog. The Puli looks like a dog made with yarn: a childlike creature. You must Google Puli dogs to believe they are even real! The “Loppi” Puli-like stitch is a very slow knitting technique that we have been exploring for years. Russia has somehow kept the craft of knitting and crochet alive. The grandmothers and mothers—babushkas and maminkas—still teach young people. Our desire is to create something beautiful and authentic, a little like art. We are Russian and American, and it’s really a collaboration. We both love classic American color because it’s full of energy and emotion.

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