I woke up one morning to find a message in my inbox, it was 7:30am when I read what it contained, making me jump out of bed to gather my notes. That preparation still did not save me from my nerves that were mixed with excitement. I was excited, (and still am) to be able to interview the Russian Fashion Designer and Artist; Iulia Filipovscaia who created the brand LANA SIBERIE. She makes custom made pieces, and has made sweaters for the Russian supermodel Natalia Vodinova and her charity Naked Heart.
It took me a while to interview Iulia as she is someone who truly invests her time into her work, and when we managed to have a conversation through Skype call, I noticed the brilliance in her voice, and her accent that switched between being a true Londoner and a Russian. She comes from the mining town of Mirny, Siberia- which was a place that had one of the largest diamond mines. Now she is residing in London, and that’s where you can find the Lana Siberie shop (her pieces are also available through LN-CC). Iulia answered each of my questions flawlessly, giving me insight into her brand that first launched in 2010. A brand inspired by her mother Svetlana’s knitting abilities, and aptly named after.
Iulia discussed the importance of quality in her collections and that she works with the same Spanish family who manufacturers knitwear for the labels Balenciaga, Marni and J.W Anderson. What I enjoyed from the conversation was our mutual love for sweaters, agreeing that sweaters should feel comfortable enough to not want to take off, ever. Her sweaters were created with that thought in mind. Think Cashmere & Silk. She’s dedicated to her art and collections the latest being Foundation SS 2014 and Growth aw 2014. Her mom Svetlana is not only the one who inspires her, but keeps her grounded when she needs to keep that balance in her creative ventures. In short, moms rule. Enjoy the interview Matryoshka’s, and the tour of Lana Siberie in pictures.
Zaychishka: This is my first interview on Skype call- usually I send questions via email, and have them answer them that way!!
Iulia: -And have people reply, sorry well; maybe you will do more of these in the future, I don’t know, we will start a new trend!!
Zaychishka: Yeah, I think prefer this too, it’s nice. So did you participate at fashion week , and have a catwalk??- In Paris, London and Copenhagen? Didn’t you just finish something? And what is that like?
Iulia: Unfortunately I haven’t had the privilege to have a catwalk yet; we showed the AW collection within a showroom where the clothing is presented on a rail. But funny enough for the next collection I’ve been drawing almost whole outfits, I drew hats. And today I saw somebody who makes hats and spoke to them on how to approach something like that which I’ve never done in my life, make hats that is, not that I studied fashion in the first place! For most things, you just have to explore and learn how to do them, but what I’ve been drawing so far, it looks very catwalky – so it needs that attention. Potentially there will be a catwalk. Then I would be able to answer your question about how it was like.
Zaychishka: So you’re not only a designer, but an artist- I’ve seen The Mineral Man, and your collections FOUNDATION SS 2014 and GROWTH AW 2014 have artistic elements- it’s more than fashion.
Iulia: I studied Fine Art (B.A.) at Central Saint Martins College, and then I went to the University of Goldsmith for Image and Communication (M.A.). I still sustain my art practice and it has moved away from photography which I done predominantly. – I use mixed media and like tactile things. I collect different materials. It could be dried flowers, different kind of papers, fabrics, anything that grabs the attention. Then I create pieces of artwork of them and I’ve been doing that more and more. Originally, I started the brand because of my mom, she is an amazing knitter, I don’t even know how to knit to be honest.
Zaychishka: You still haven’t picked up how to knit yet???
Iulia: I have no idea how to knit, but she can knit everything and anything. You have to be a particular person to do it. I am embroidering a canvas at the moment, finishing an artwork, for example, it is different. It is similar in terms of it being very meditative experience, but knitting is very calculated, one stitch wrong and you have to do it all again. I approach my work intuitively and given it is found materials I work with to create collage it is a lot more lets say “natural” of a process. However, I find my mom’s talent quite inspiring and the brand caries her name. We started with doing everything handmade, and we still do that on bespoke basis. We made a jumper for Natalia Vodianova, and her charity Naked Heart, which was pretty exciting.
Zaychishka: Were you nervous for that? To impress Natalia Vodianova?
Iulia: Yeah I think was difficult at time, it was trial and error to get the right outcome, but it was fun we would love to do more. We’ve also done a knitted wedding dress for a singer/songwriter in Japan.
Zaychishka: So tell me more about your background and how you applied it to your designs.
Iulia: I come from one of the biggest mining towns in [Mirny] Russia. I grew up around diamonds. I see it as Earth gives birth to these beautiful things, some are more rare than others. I like the texture and the patterns of minerals, there is a series of collages that I’ve done on the subject. So when we were doing handmade pieces, I was wondering if it was possible to create a fabric, which is going to be a total replica of a pattern of marble or a stone. There was a lot of print last season in fashion, but to actually knit something that’s almost your exact vision is not easy. I think that this year Shima presented a machine, which has 21 gauges, which means you can almost get a full picture, which is quite a difficult thing to achieve.I lucky to also have met this amazing manufacturer who was willing to experiment and we have created such a thing, so that was fantastic!
Zaychishka: Is this the same manufacturer that Balenciaga, and Marni use??
Iulia: Yeah, the same person.
Zaychishka: It sounds like your collections are made with the best quality.
Iulia: The first collection was 25% cashmere and then this one is 35% cashmere, and 50% silk in both so I took the move to have a best quality yarn for LANA SIBERIE because I wanted to make this super soft product, so you can put it on and never want to take it off!
Zaychishka: As though you want to live in it. It’s like me when I have a good sweater.Well, if I buy a nice one I’ll wear it all day and night, and my mom will say what are you doing, when will you wash this thing? I like how when you did the photos for FOUNDATION that you made it look like the sweaters were mined from the earth.
Iulia: Oh yeah that’s true!! I didn’t think of that!!
Zaychishka: well I was thinking because you come from the mining town you’re probably used to seeing that sight right, so I’m thinking that’s where you got your inspiration from- so subconsciously that’s where you got that idea from.
Iulia: …because I was thinking for FOUNDATION – that I’m building the foundation for the brand from the ground, and laying the concrete or whatever you’re building first, but I guess you’re right.
Zaychishka: Like it’s coming out of the ground.
Iulia: Omggg you’re right!!
Zaychishka: Just say that’s what you were thinking if people ask!
Iulia: Okay for the future I will tell everybody that Zaychishka told me that. Subconsciously I was probably doing that!
Zaychishka: I really enjoyed the way you’re look book is. It’s raw; others just have settings and models.
Iulia: It’s probably problematic for me; I come from art background and always make every look book a piece of its own, I spend so much time thinking about it and then doing things one way or the other, when should probably just put it on a model and shoot it simple an there it goes.
Zaychishka: but you can’t do it simple, you have to stand out, and keep your uniqueness and keep doing what you’re doing.
Iulia: I’ll try!!
Zaychishka: Also, like some of your pieces for GROWTH is an ode to Taiga with its colours.
Iulia: It’s the colours of the nature, so for me GROWTH is the second stage of the whole process, that we lead from FOUNDATION and we are growing slightly, slowly, step by step and then the colours of the forest, pine needles, basically nostalgia. I miss Siberia -I never went back. Maybe one day I will.
Zaychishka: Does your mom live with you in London?
Iulia: Yeah, yeah. We live together actually
Zaychishka: What was it like for you to pick up from Siberia and move all the way to London?
Iulia: I guess at the time when I moved it was more for studies, we first moved to Moldova and then I went as an exchange student to America, Kansas. I was there for a year and that’s where I decided to do art- and then one day I had a letter from St. Martins. I didn’t know much about the university, it was a lucky call. And in some ways of course my mom was just hoping for a better future for me and was pushing me to explore other avenues and new countries. Her priority was to move away from Siberia, with its weather conditions -I remember I used to get sick all of the time.
Zaychishka: Is your mom one of your harshest critics? Do you ever say to your mom ‘What do you think of this?”
Iulia: I probably should!! But I’m not good with receiving or hearing the criticism especially from my mom. It’s the most difficult thing. I mean with a friend it is easier because you can accept it, but if it’s from your mom I just want to argue forever. It works out for us in the terms of balance: I need to get off the ground to get inspired by things, and she really grounds me when it’s needed. I’m young and jumping, while she has the experience and is much more practical than I am. It wouldn’t have worked without her support and hope and everything- with her persistence, her perseverance. If she didn’t have the talent that she had in the first place, then it wouldn’t have happened, because if a garment doesn’t work she just undoes all of the work.
Zaychishka: I’d probably break down and cry if I had to undue all of the work that I put into knitting something.
Iulia: Exactly!! When you start something it’s really important and it’s good to have someone who is a perfectionist to help you get that standard and quality that you want- an ode to mom!!
Zaychishka: It’s good your label is based on your mom, she’s important. I still live with mine too.
Iulia: There are good things to having your mom around!!
Zaychishka: Ha-ha, I guess!! but at least your career is set!!
Iulia: It takes a while. It seems like you do so much and it’s still step one and a half. It’s never ending it’s the beauty of it.
Zaychishka: Beautiful and crazy
Iulia: When I see the girls wearing LANA that’s beauty. I literally cry. When I saw some of my friends wearing AW14 I was just going to explode into tears of happiness, it’s fantastic, it makes me happy- clothes are another way of communication.
What can I say I thoroughly enjoyed this interview, she is delightful to talk to & a wonderful designer. And I’m thankful she let me interview her, and for the lovely images to show you guys into the world of LANA SIBERIE.
Check out: Lana Siberie Collections