"I always felt like there was something missing to finish the looks." Tired of bland shootings and monotonous fashion shows, Ruslan Baginskiy decided to get down to business, founding the definitive answer in millinery. Captivated by tradition and manufacturing techniques, the Ukrainian designer founded his eponymous brand in 2015. A risky project that, though it has awakened the interest of Bella Hadid, Kaia Gerber or Madonna –among many other celebrities who have become what he calls ‘RB girls' – entails several difficulties. “It's a huge challenge to find hat blocks' suppliers. I am constantly looking for new names”. Now, having consolidated his commercial line, he presents his second couture collection, Tsvit vol.2.
Baginskiy perfectly knows what his end goal is: return the tradition of wearing hats. That’s why he turns to cinema, architecture and even Pinterest for inspiration. And to music, one of his passions. “Every collection, I associate it with a certain playlist,” he says. A restless mind that, despite enjoying experimenting and innovating, has managed to create functional pieces while creating a huge community of fans – more than 150,000 on Instagram – where we find lots of influencers and artists. Since launching his star hat, the RB baker boy cap, he has not stopped working on his project, coming to sell in Browns, Farfetch or Moda Operandi. "And Mytheresa is coming soon."

After embarking on a couture line (complementary to the commercial one) last year, he now presents his second collection, Tsvit vol.2, in collaboration with two Ukrainian artists: photographer duo Synchrodogs and stylist Julie Pelipas. A poetic art project digitally presented in which he has resorted to 3D technology, turning Irina Shayk into one of its main characters.
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A hat designer and responsible for garnishing celebrities’ heads. Who is Ruslan Baginskiy?
And even more: Harry Styles and Harry Potter fan, adventurer, entrepreneur, flea market lover, introvert and party crasher (sometimes), aesthete, a flower shop owner in the future... So many roles, I love trying new things. However, at this moment I'm known mostly as a milliner and enjoying this part.
You founded your brand in 2015 in Lviv, your hometown, after years working as a stylist. How did your first approach to the fascinating – and unknown – world of headgear come about?
Actually, the brand was founded while I was working as a stylist. For the shootings and fashion shows I always felt like there was something missing to finish the looks. I was always looking for accessories that would perfectly reflect the aesthetics of the shows. That’s how I started to create the headpieces by myself. And that’s how I got carried away with the process of designing and crafting hats and I started to study the tradition technics of manufacture. It was a long process, but very fascinating and inspiring.
The vast majority of designers include a line of hats and headwear once they have achieved success with their fashion collections. The same thing usually happens with bags and perfumes, constituting the last link in the chain. However, you bet from the beginning on these accessories.
I like the idea of a mono-product brand. It helps to fully focus on quality, fit and perfect shape of certain style. There are a few hat brands in the world and even fewer in Ukraine. It's a huge challenge to find hat blocks suppliers, only a few craftsmen in my country know how to handle felt and straw. I am constantly looking for new names. They usually live somewhere in the wilderness and are really passionate about their work, but less interested in the business side. I want their craftsmanship to be appreciated. And, besides this, I want to return the tradition of wearing hats, show all their diversity and thereby influence the world fashion agenda.
“I love the idea that a hat can influence human destiny.”
You emphasise the influence your family and your country have had in your way of understanding aesthetics. A distinctive style that combines practicality with elegance and craftsmanship. What characters or artistic disciplines inspire you when creating?
You did great research, and it's all true! When I just started my business and had a huge number of orders, my mom moved to Kyiv for two weeks just to help with packing. Four years have passed and she still has not come back to Lviv. The same thing happened to my dad and brother. I am very glad that my family supports me so much, their trust in me is unconditional and this helps to build a business. I believe that the fashion world cannot exist apart from the global agenda. I am interested in politics, I try not to miss exhibitions of young artists, I adore museum shops, I scroll Pinterest for hours before going to bed and I can spend several hours on the train to see a certain architectural object.
I am also inspired by small local workshops and I have a ton of books at home about Ukrainian needlework techniques and embroidery. And music, of course. I have Marshall and JBL speakers in each room both home and at the office, and every collection I associate it with a certain playlist.
From Sherlock Holmes to Indiana Jones, passing through The Hatter created by Lewis Carroll. There are many cinematographic characters that have made the hat their hallmark. What role does cinema play in your creative process?
In high school, I adored movie marathons; cinema was my huge passion. So, of course, cinema plays an important role in my creative process. Interestingly, it's all mutual. Next year a film and a series will be released, in which you will see Ruslan Baginskiy's hats. Probably on the day of the premiere, I will buy all the tickets at my favourite cinema for friends and family, this is something incredible.
We also find good examples of this synergy in art, music and fashion. Coco Chanel, Frank Sinatra, Pharrell Williams, which is the most iconic hat in recent history? And why?
Just recently I was rethinking the traditional hat shapes for our Fall collection and found inspiration in the iconic Jacky Kennedy pillbox hat. It’s hard to single out the-most-prominent-hat, but as I said, I'm a fan of the Harry Potter movies, so let's say it's a sorting hat. I love the idea that a hat can influence human destiny.
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You also have your star hat: the baker boy hat. A piece characterized by its timelessness and versatility. Is this your best-selling model? What other hats have been very successful?
It just so happened that the RB baker boy cap became our first signature piece. I worked a lot on this shape and was really happy that it became a best-selling style, but the success of the cap only encouraged me to continue working. I didn't want a brand to be remembered for one product. In our collections, you can find all kind of styles from fedora to bucket hats, from baseball caps to berets. For example, this summer we have a new bestseller. It’s a classic straw fedora, embellished with chain and piercing.
In addition to your commercial line, which you have been working on for five years, you launched an haute couture collection in 2019, which you presented in Paris, making the international leap to the city of fashion par excellence. What are the differences between these two business lines?
For me, launching a couture line is an essential step in developing our brand. I always dreamed of making not only ready-to-wear hats, but to create artistic pieces. It was only a matter of time. Couture is a pure art for me, where I can feel free and forget about any boundaries. In the era of fast fashion, I feel an utter need to make something timeless. People are overwhelmed with stuff which they don’t need, and at that point I want to find create something deeper, more meaningful to give to them.
Now you are presenting Tsvit vol.2, a collection that vindicates traditional manufacturing and Ukrainian culture. And for thus occasion, you have collaborated with local artists and experimented with Instagram filters, turning Irina Shayk into one of the faces of the action. Tell us about this proposal.
The global lockdown made it possible to slow down, look around and give ourselves time to learn. This second collection we decided to present it in a digital format, without reference to the official fashion calendar. The art project Tsvit is a collaboration between the brand and two talented Ukrainian artists, photographer duo Synchrodogs and stylist Julie Pelipas. We were searching new formats to present the collection in a lockdown environment, and we wanted to make couture pieces available to everyone in digital reality.
That is why, along with the release of the art project, we released an Instagram mask, which repeats one of the headpieces: a tiara with flowers made from recycled plastic. Irina Shayk, Tina Kunakey or Sasha Luss became the faces of the virtual couture presentation, as well as thousands of people around the world. The lockdown can't stop the creative process, we all need to be flexible and search for new solutions.
“In the era of fast fashion, I feel an utter need to make something timeless. People are overwhelmed with stuff which they don’t need, and at that point I want to find create something deeper, more meaningful to give to them.”
Let's dive into your crew. Madonna, Taylor Swift, Janelle Monáe, Gigi and Bella Hadid, they have all worn your creations, becoming what you call 'RB girls'. Who was the first to bet on your project? What do you think all these world-famous celebrities have found in your brand to become true fans?
I remember so well how it started, but the real furor began when Bella Hadid and Kaia Gerber both wore baker boy caps for V Magazine party. This was actually a turning point for our brand. I am always so glad to welcome every new RB girl in our crew! I am so pleased that they like what we do and to see them wearing hats a lot. Most of them have not only one, but a whole hat collection. I think it's a matter of sincerity. We have a very young team, we take risks and make mistakes and we get disappointed and inspired. Many things are super new to us, our business is our whole life and each client is treated as a celebrity. And, most importantly, we have fun and we rarely talk about money. Everything is based on passion.
However, if we focus on the street, there are still only a few people who dare to include hats in their usual outfits. "I want the headdress to be great again" you mentioned in an interview. What characteristics do you think the headgear should have to adapt to the new generations?
I met so many people who used to say that they didn't wear hats at all and after they tried a few, they became hat lovers and our clients. The only thing I can say is just not to be afraid to wear hats. Try different styles and you eventually will find your perfect shape, which will make you feel cool.
And what about men? Will they end up daring to experiment beyond the bucket hat phenomenon?
Of course, the bucket hat is a big thing right now, but if we turn to history, we will see a completely different picture. Traditional hats have always been a key part of men's wardrobe and still are. Look even at the guests of the Pitti Uomo or the Hasidic community. Of course, a hat is no longer an accessory without which you cannot leave the house according to the rules of etiquette, but I believe that men are ready not only for bucket hats and baseball caps.
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I guess an intelligent management of corporate social networks is essential, taking into account the time that young people spend on the Internet. Through which channels do you communicate and in what way do you interact with your audience?
For us, the main platform of communication has always been Instagram. We started embracing it from the very beginning of our brand, so I can say we were one of the pioneers who started building their business through Instagram. And I think we grew as it became a huge power in the industry. Here you can be connected with fashion people and communities and you can build your image and brand the way you want. This year we also launched our official website, which helped us to become more convenient and flexible for our audience.
Fast fashion companies have lost no time in joining the trend for berets and hats, offering these accessories at ridiculous prices. And there have already been many scandals and accusations of plagiarism towards independent brands and author firms. Have any of your models been explicitly replicated? Where is the border between copy and inspiration?
Unfortunately, this has affected us too. We have many cases of plagiarism of our signature baker boy cap. Most of these fake products are produced in China and sold all over the world. I often meet people on the streets in fake hats in different cities and in tagged photos on Instagram. We even had a few funny cases.
For example, dozens of fake baker boy caps were filmed in a video of one famous singer, and during Paris Fashion Week I saw a famous blogger who wore a fake cap for street style. The goal of copy is always making money using your signature identity: logo, embroidery, shape or signature details like piercings and chains. Where is the border? I don't know. Of course, we try to fight plagiarism, but it can take forever. More important for us is our loyal audience, which supports us and will never buy a replica.
Where can we buy your hats?
We finally launched our own online store this summer, and we are also represented on the main online platforms. From Browns, Luisaviaroma and Farfetch to MatchesFashion, Revolve and Moda Operandi. And Mytheresa is coming soon. Since my first trip to Paris, my big dream is to open a boutique on Saint-Honoré, and I hope it will come true soon.
And finally, what can you tell us about your next projects?
It was a busy year for us, we made a few big projects and our team doubled through the last year. Currently I’m working on a new holiday collection. My team and my family love Christmas, so every year I dedicate a special collection to this holiday. What is next? I'm thinking about launching a new product. Hopefully, you can buy Ruslan Baginskiy glasses and jewelry soon.
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