Exclusive Interview for Ondine Magazine
We caught up with Anna Abdulova, a young upcoming Russian designer, perhaps the only one in the world, who combines centuries old traditional Russian floral motifs with contemporary and fashionable designs. An exquisite example of old world/new world interplay in perfect harmony; designed using high quality print fabric from the world renowned Pavlovo Posad Shawl Manufactory in the Pavlovsky Posad region of Russia, Anna’s dresses are the ultimate embodiment of Russianness.
So Anna, where and when were you born?
I was born in the city of Azov in the Rostov Oblast region of Russia on 3rd July 1987.
When did your interest in fashion start and why?
When I was a little girl, it wasn’t an easy time in Russia. It was during the 90s and the beginning of the 2000s. Most people then lived modestly and seriously; they were all dressed alike, in cheap Chinese clothes. I wanted to stand out from this mass of identical people so I decided to join a cutting and sewing forum to learn how to sew. At that time we had Fashion TV, I marveled at the fashion shows of the famous designers, trying somewhat to imitate them. It was then that I had the first and the biggest interest in fashion.
When and why did you decide to start your own line of clothing?
One day my mother gave me a Pavlov Posad shawl. It was very suited to me in color and I loved her very much for it. At that moment I came up with the idea that I wanted to sew a modern dress in the traditional Russian style. The shops at the time were all the same, selling Chinese clothing, though of high quality, but still, of similar style. I wanted something Russian. I sewed my first dress from the shawl my mother gave me, she was in awe. I then decided to sew a second dress for me. Suddenly people began to approach me on the streets and in shopping malls asking where they could buy such a beautiful dress. It was then that I got the idea to make a small collection of these dresses [and see what would happen in the future]
How did you get yourself and your creations known?
When I sewed my first collection of dresses, in March 2014, I asked a friend to model and to do a photo shoot with these dresses. In Azov there were blooming cherry orchards at the time, it was very beautiful and we took some great photos. I then went and created a group within a Russian social network, after which I had a received a lot of orders and proposals for the dresses. In May of 2014 I participated in my first competition of designers; I immediately won it. After that, I applied for the all-Russian Seliger 2014 Youth Forum in the direction of fashion. There gathered the best young designers from all over Russia, a total of 160 people, while the overall event was attended by over 3,000 people. I was the only person from the Rostov region taken into the forum. Four grants were up for grabs for the best ideas, one of which was handed to me. All this was much unexpected for me, however it was wonderful. After Seliger I received a lot of suggestions. I went on with his collection to Italy as well as participated in competitions in Russia and sold my dresses online. In 2015 I was invited to participate in the all-Russian competition of designers called New Russian. It was a serious competition, with over 300 applicants. I was back among the winners and the 6 best young designers of Russia. The kokoshniks in my collection are made by the headwear designer Tamara Titova, these are just magnificent headdresses. On 3rd June 2015 my first fashion show was in the Moscow State Exhibition Hall “New Manege”. After that, I had shows in different cities all over Russia.
Did you have a lot of support when you decided you wanted to be in fashion?
I told none of my friends at first, and even now I try not to talk about what I do. I think it’s not a good thing to brag in front of other people
Talk me through your process of work. Do you work with anyone else or alone? Do you have any special techniques that make your work unique?
When I see these pretty fabrics I admire them; and nearly immediately in my mind the ideas come, what new design to sew with them. I see the beautiful drawings on the scarves and imagine a beautiful dress from them. Right now I have professional tailors and equipment that embody my ideas to life.
What’s your work schedule like? What’s a typical day for Anna Abdulova?
A typical day for me is wake up, brew myself a cup of coffee, walk around the house with it for 1 hour, read a book, think of something maybe an idea for a new design, record it and ride my bicycle. To get everything I need to do done I take time and gather the energy I need first. Last November there was a show in Chelyabinsk while in December I worked on the costumes for a famous vocal ensemble. And for a period of 2 months I did nothing, only accept and send orders worldwide. This March I have a lot of new business, I’m tailoring the collection for this winter, have a few photo shoots but most importantly on 15th March I’ll be participating in the Mercedes Benz fashion Week held in Moscow. After that I will again continue to do business. But I can at any time go and travel around Russia – the sea, the mountains, the forests; my work requires inspiration.
Tell a little about the textiles you use; the quality; the patterns; anything unique about them where they’re from?
Since I’m a creative person, I often visit inspiration. A few years ago I wanted a beautiful dress but one that I would not like anyone else. I really wanted this dress to blend in with the crowd. And I wanted to dress it was clear even abroad that I am a Russian girl. I spent a lot of time looking for such dresses in all the stores, but I never found it. I just saw the same assortment seems to be a lot of pretty colorful things, but in General they are all identical in style, and in different stores. And I felt sad, because I don’t want to be like everyone else. Then my mom gave me my first handkerchief – he was very handsome, he had a lively and colorful picture, very beautiful colors of lilacs and chrysanthemums. This shawl has been very to face, it is noticed all around. And I realized that I was a little handkerchief – I want to own such a beautiful dress! I became interested in the history of these scarves and have learned that it is an ancient Russian craft, and paintings on dupattas draw the best artists of Russia. But some drawings have survived since the 19th century. That is, these shawls is a real work of art! I suddenly realized that the artwork is much nicer to wear than the same clothes from the store
What plans do you have in the future for your designs?
I plan to go retail with them; a few stores in Moscow have shown interest in housing my work. I’m also planning to release soon a capsule collection dedicated to May 9th [Victory Day in Russia]
Do you think you’ll go global or keep your line within Russia?
I really want to enter the global apparel market, but it takes time; to have people know about me, my name and brand, it takes time. I’m not in a hurry.
Your designs capture the beauty of the Russian soul in a contemporary way. Where do you get your inspiration for your designs?
My inspiration is composed of two elements: a love for my Russian heritage and a love for fashion. In my country, many people are engaged in making Russian-style clothes. However, I wouldn’t wear any of them as they are mostly traditional Russian folk costumes which are worn at folk events and folk songs are played to the balalaika [Russian instrument]. I’m interested in fashion, in new trends.
Who would you like to see wear your designs?
I don’t divide people by age. I like to create things for the youth and respectable designs for the ladies; the main purpose, to make women around the world a little happier.
What do you do to relax?
I try to sleep more, spend my time often in nature as well as bike riding.
Which of your creations is your favorite and why?
All of them are my favorite; I would wear them with great pleasure.
Do you think you’ll branch out into other design areas like shoes, bags, jewelry?
Everything will depend on my current capabilities and circumstances really. But certainly one thing is true, like any business, it is necessary to expand eventually.
What is a fashion faux pas for you?
I know of some famous Russian designers who have always accused each other of plagiarism and created PR from this. I think it’s tactless because fashion has long since been invented before us: dresses, skirts, jackets, trousers, etc.
Do you currently sell your designs and if so how can a customer purchase one?
Currently, people buy my designs via Facebook and Instagram [Anna Abdulova]. If you liked something simply select the photo and send me a private message to discuss it. However, soon I’ll have an online store so keep an eye out for that.