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Delicate brushwork and precise pen-strokes entwine while an effortless nonchalance oozes from the creases of the perfectly placed fabrics that bring Maria Lavigina's work to life. She’s a Russian fashion designer whose self-proclaimed "tailored constructivist" approach to design comes glaring through her illustrative interpretation of collections as they come off the runway; from Chanel and Gucci to Comme des Garçons and Valentino. Maria spoke to me about finding the perfect equilibrium between a person’s attire and their behaviour, how her time at Central Saint Martins taught her to really see the world around her and how the fashion peacocks continue to spread their feathers in attempt to attract all manner of attention.
What inspired you to venture into fashion?
I always loved fashion, and everything related to this fascinating world. Despite my father was a chemistry professor, my grandmother was in the finance industry, and my mother is a computer programmer, from a very young age I was predisposed to the art world. The black sheep of the family, but I never questioned whether it was the right way to go. From the first moment that I can remember, I was always into the arts, drawing and sketching everywhere. However, the real moment that drove me into the fashion world was actually the scarcity of my mum’s financial resources when I was growing up. As immigrants from Moscow we didn’t have a lot of money, and I remember my biggest wish was to wear the garments of my dreams, or at least the same garments that my classmates had. So instead of listening to my teachers I was doodling and fantasising about what I was going to wear to school tomorrow.
Your drawings are spectacular in their own right but they go hand-in-hand with garment design, how would you describe the style of the clothes you create?
I would define my designs as “tailored constructivism” since my starting point for any design is miniature pattern constriction. Before draping on a real size mannequin I try my ideas first on a smaller version, and I always think about the construction first.

Is there a specific fashion designer whose influence has shaped this style of design and equally, who inspires you in the present to continue to design?
Italian fashion designer and fashion illustrator Gianfranco Ferré. I love his way of showing the silhouette by just utilising abstract lines and basic shapes, he stresses the shape and the mood but leaves the details and garment’s patterns out. His design and illustrations are elegant, classic, and chic and will be always contemporary and timeless.

The element that strikes me personally in regards to your illustration work is the use of mixed media. If you could only work in one medium, what would you pick and why?
I would use various 3D shapes for my illustrations. The creative process of designing and illustrating is almost the same for me. Before approaching a real size stand I experiment on a half size mannequin first… for me it’s already a fashion illustration, a 3 dimension illustration from which is very easy to understand the design and garment constriction.

“I believe that the big part of a great style story is a person’s natural and uncontrived posture.”
Do you look for individuals with specific features or details before you base an illustration on them or is there a spontaneity to your approach?
When I am out there taking photos, I never think about a specific style or feature. It can be anything. I base my illustrations not just on the style of a person, but also how they are carrying themselves. I usually take several photos, and then choose the one that I like the best. One that shows style, character and charm. The first thing that I notice is the perfect combination of clothes and posture – how people carry themselves in their clothes. When there is a perfect equilibrium between the person’s attire and their behaviour it’s really chic! I believe that the big part of a great style story is a person’s natural and uncontrived posture. It is not enough to wear the perfect suit, the perfect shoes and to have the latest accessories. If the person doesn’t have agility, and grace, all will be in vain.
Street style is of course an omnipresent force and always will be but do you think that social media and instantaneous sharing, particularly during fashion weeks, has eradicated the natural flair of dressing and made it a lot more conscious and thought-through?
It has always been thus. There are peacocks everywhere, and whatever the medium; internet, print, TV… people have always dressed to impress. There are a lot of stylish and well-dressed people during fashion week who dress well every day and their clothes and lifestyle go hand in hand with their attitude and persona. It is very easy to recognize “style imposters” at fashion week and at fashion events. They do not feel confident and comfortable in their costumes.
What is the most valuable thing that you’ve taken away from your time at Central Saint Martins?
To know how to look. They taught me how to really see the world around me.

With its stellar reputation and highly influential alumni, was there a looming pressure from CSM to become the next Alexander McQueen?
No, that was never the case. Our tutors were always interested in our personal progress as designers. I always tried to improve myself and learn from the tutors and my colleagues at CSM. It was a privilege to work with, and learn from such knowledgeable and professional people.
What is your favourite ever work of art and why?
It is very hard to choose just one piece. I like very much the Bauhaus movement. Especially the Triadisches Ballett. I always found avant-garde ballet costumes very fascinating and inspiring.
Do you have any plans to develop a new collection soon?
Yes, I would like to design an accessories collection in the not too distant future.


Ailidh MacLean

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