Designer Ulyana Sergeenko celebrates Russian culture in her collections. She talks to Mirror Mirror about inspiration and beauty.
“I was born in the Soviet Union, and I have always loved the culture of Russia as well as the cultures of other Soviet republics. USSR was a unique country that doesn’t exist anymore, there is a lot of nostalgia about it.
“My team and I like to travel through small Russian towns and discover their calm rhythm of life and curiosities. There’s the ancient white-stone architecture and the remaining examples of traditional Russian wooden buildings, endless fields and deep forests that literally come out of folk tales.
Our fall-winter collection was devoted to the utopian period of the two revolutions in the beginning of the 20th century, when the Russian Empire collapsed and the new country with a completely different system of government, society and culture was formed.
“In our collections we like to use and interpret Russian craft techniques of textile processing, embroidering and lace-making. It’s a great luck and joy to make something traditional and full of soul in a modern way, to give new life to almost vanishing techniques.”
“My last couture collection was devoted to my family and the magnificent, mysterious Caucasus, which is my husband’s native region. A lot of attention was paid to the works of the famous Armenian-Georgian director Sergei Parajanov, particularly to his movie The Color of Pomegranates. Several looks were devoted to the poetry of Mikhail Lermontov, the famous Russian writer and bright representative of 19th century romanticism. We had casually rumpled hats, created in a collaboration with Stephen Jones, and men's suits ‘to grow into’ in the casual style of comic characters.
The collection has a great number of different characters, which is always important to me, as its not only about garment but about personality and charisma.
The Georgian movie The Wishing Tree added a little drama to the collection. This film shows common folk’s way of life, that also serves a background for a love story, which blossoms out like a wonderful flower. It’s dramatic resolution reveals contradictions between traditions and human feelings.”
What kind of story do you want to tell with your castings?
“Every show requires a specific type of girls expressing the mood and theme of a collection. However, we have models who could take part in almost any show. Their beauty is so charming and timid that they seem to be characters from Russian literary classics, and that perfectly reflects the brand’s spirit.”
Why do your models wear buns?
“Their hairstyle was inspired by vintage photographs of Caucasian women, who were timid characters with a noble and austere beauty, and by women from the Soviet movies that were filmed in Georgia and Armenia. Famous Georgian actress Sofiko Chiaureli once had a similar knot-hairdo in a film, for example. The hair was done by Konstantin Kochegov. With the make-up, which was done by Savva, we tried to achieve a natural face, accentuating only eyes and lips.”
What has been an eye-opener for you, in the field of beauty?
“Meeting Natalia Vodianova was a true discovery. Natalia is a very kind person with an extremely pure soul - a rare example of how beauty can complement one’s inner world. Besides her successful career in fashion, Natalia is dedicated to charity: she has founded Naked Heart Foundation, which helps Russian children with special needs. She is incredibly powerful and strong, yet gentle and charming. I have a lot of respect and admiration for Natalia.”
What is your current beauty ideal?
“For me it’s always a person’s charisma that prevails.”
Who are your muses?
“John Galliano is one of my favourite designers, and my eternal muses are my mother and grandmother. They influenced me in all things, shaped my personality and will always remain ideal women to me. My grandmother Sonia was a very strong, kind, generous woman who always supported her close relatives and those around them. In spite of her many worries and responsibilities, she always looked incredibly elegant in very basic outfits.”
What do you consider the summum of beauty?
“The positive energy it can produce is beauty's feedback to the world.”