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Decodification and a deconstrucion of garments, an evolution in the silhouettes and a strict regulation in the patterns. Yulia Yefimtchuk brings us to the Soviet Realism in the same way that geometric forms and minimalism refer us to Cubism, to abstract art, to Malevich and to Suprematism. All these avant-gardes were thinking about the way to liberate art from being merely aesthetic, the same as she does with her designs. It seems that these inspirations become the political expression that Yulia’s art pursues.
Born in Kiev, this young designer caught Carol Lim’s and Humberto Leon’s attention, who ordered her collection for Opening Ceremony. Yulia, with an unconventional womenswear and unisex fashion label, explodes fashion as a social arm.
Your work is born out of reinterpretation of the conflict, isn’t it? You transform the crisis into light and hope through your designs. Do you think the power of art should be like this? A healing power that reinterprets misery and turns it into beauty? Or what should be the message of art, if there should be any?
Art to me is always carrying a message. Art is a tool, which shows everything around us. I believe that the power of art is light. The beauty of art inspires and makes this world better.
Your concept is closely related to the link you establish between fashion, art, literature, history and politics. Tell us about the necessity to make political fashion and the possibilities it embraces. Have you always wanted to design by creating and searching for a fashion utopia?
Lately I've become interested in researching politics and fashion to find my own utopia and share it. Fashion and politics have always been interdependent. Now it seems fashionable to demonstrate your attachment to some political power, demonstrate your political position, your belonging to a subculture, caste or group. It makes you stand out from the crowd, with a slogan on your tee shirt or in a ascetic outfit; it is a silent protest against the system.
There is a lack of designers who approach more provocative themes such as you do. Often the world of fashion falls into the habit of trivializing these topics, attending obsolete or merely aesthetic concepts. In your case, Ukrainian political instability has led you to what you define as “unconventional design”. Why is this kind of fashion still unconventional today?
To me, each collection is a picture, and I should clearly understand the idea and the reason I do it. I share information that touches me. My country really faces a big crisis and my team does its best to do things well and succeed. And I do not look for boundaries. Art is endless.
Ukraine’s political situation has potentiated the emergence of the aesthetics that represents your national conflict and your culture, as we could see at the London Fashion Week, where the British Council organized a showcase for emerging Ukrainian designers. How can a concept inspired mainly by soviet communism fit into a world as capitalist as fashion?
Everything is pretty simple. Sources that I use do not bear the negative information or something with a hidden sense, on the contrary, it all shows the beautiful aesthetics but without the rules of old soviet communism. Art for the masses!
Another one of your inspirations are Soviet Union posters, what do you find in them?
Soviet placard is my big aesthetical pleasure; it has power and celebration, strictness of lines and colours.
On many occasions we have seen you using the Cyrillac typo. Your first capsule collection, characterized by this typography (a risky proposal), impassioned Carol Lim and Humberto León at the Hyères Festival (2014). Actually they created a special prize for you and ordered your collection for Opening Ceremony, right? What did this mean to you?
It was a good commercial start, an original prize, I am very thankful for the support. When Umberto personally was curious to know my plans for the future I felt much more self-confident and I felt confidence in my project.
The way you treat colour is very authentic. You express work, confidence and strength with black; joy, happiness and love with red; and peace with white. Are these the colours that radiate your country?
Each collection has three main colours, which have their authenticity; they are three main colours of national embroidery. All of them have their own power and meaning.
And what about feminine power? Your collections are essentially for women, the models are usually girls with a raw, unalterable, and forthright appearance. Has it something to do with the gender equality that soviet conflict defended, where women were also part of the army, for example? How does fashion represent women today and how should it be represented according to your point of view?
Fashion in general advocates women’s sexuality. I prefer more hidden sexuality, which is seen in women’s eyes.
With clothes so rooted in tradition and culture as yours, with such propagandistic pieces, who is your target? Someone interested in history, someone who looks only for aesthetics (which paradoxically would be far from your intention), or both?
These are different people, for sure; they are brave and independent.
To sum up, two quick response questions: your main references and a collaboration you would like to do.
My main reference is a workwear shirt, it can be endlessly. Best collaboration would be with Banksy and Comme des Garçons.