Russian Fashion Designer Alena Akhmadullina Dreams Up The Modern Fairytale
CIIN's Exclusive Interview With The Designer
As the world gets more complicated we go in search of a fairytale to fall in love with. In the world of fashion this dream comes in the form of Russian fashion designer Alena Akhmadullina. A story teller of sorts, her label takes us on a journey of relatable luxury. Far from the decadence wildly associated with Russian fashion, this St. Petersburg native has managed to curate her collections to appeal to a wider audience. Extracting from her cultural roots the dreaminess and authenticity of a Russian novel and shrouding it in a veil of modernity which she then serves up to her enthusiastic clientele.
What Alena brings to the table are hero daytime pieces. The sort of thing that we are constantly on the search for, at the crossroads of special and practical. This destination is often overlooked by brands because it is a difficult balance to strike. It requires a superb cut and exquisite details, one without the other won’t do, this is the power of Alena Akhmadullina. A quick look at her latest Fall 2018 collection shown last week in New York and it is clear that she has tapped into a niche of great potential, especially in our Middle Eastern region. Her opening look, a baby blue, belted printed puffer jacket is perfect on a day when you don’t want to wear your run of the mill Moncler. Beautifully off the shoulders to show off a tulle embroidered top, its the daytime statement you’ve been longing for…Further into the collection two models wear a buttery leather in the lightest of pinks. Matched to an extravagant pair of tights and shoes that would make Tolstoy proud, the ensembles once again tick all our boxes of special but not OTT.
The CIIN team caught up with Alena before her New York presentation, curious to know how this impressive, modern-day, Russian fashion designer’s mind works..
To see the full Fall 2018 collection, click here.
Establishing your brand at the tender age of 23 in Russia must have been an almost impossible feat, tell us a little bit about that?
I started creating my collections while I was still studying at university. After graduation, I held my first show at the Russian Fashon Week in Moscow. The collection immediately got purchased by one of the most prestigious boutiques in Moscow - this was my first big break. After that, I opened a boutique on Nikolskaya Street, 500 meters from the Red Square and I’m proud to have received awards in several national and international competitions
You design for the strong, successful, inspiring woman, tell us who inspires Alena?
I’m inspired by strong and successful women like Meryl Streep, Amal Clooney, and Tilda Swinton.
How does the Russian/Asian fashion scene differ from and blend into the international fashion scene?
I would say that we have much in common: modesty, decorativeness, and brightness.
How were you able to penetrate the international fashion scene and become a fixture at Paris fashion week?
In 2003, I signed a contrct with a Parisian showroom. The press got interested in the brand, and we had good sales. Organisers of the fashion week wanted something new and fresh, so everything coincided. Soon enough it became impossible not to show in Paris.
Tell us a little bit about Alena the person?
I would let my friends answer that…
You have received numerous awards for your work; tell us which award is closest to your heart?
"The Admiralty Needle" is the very first great award I received in my native city St. Petersburg in 2000.
How were you able to incorporate folkloric symbols in your designs? And how were they received locally and internationally?
It was very natural; I was inspired by what surrounded me. For Russians, all these images of beauty are very natural and common. We interpret traditional symbols through the prism of actual fashion trends, therefore on the international arena we are perceived as an innovative brand.
One can’t help but notice an artistic element in your designs, how strong of a role does art play in your designs?
I'm inspired by Russian painters - Vrubel, Vasnetsov. Prints in some collections are stylised from the works of artists, for example, we have incorporated illustrations of the Firebird fairytale by Ivan Bilibin, and the countryside landscapes and images of the winter forest by Tatyana Mavrina.
Fur is such an important element in your designs, how do you customise it to appeal to different clientele?
We work with all different types of fur, we use different processing techniques, including the masterful technique of intarsia embroidery. In Russia we have such cold winters that we cannot livewithout fur. This is part of the traditional Russian wardrobe, which we re-think in a modern way in our collections.
What design elements do you feel the strong, successful, and powerful woman looks for?
Restrained elegance in combination with the uniqueness of the design allows you to feel confident in any situation.
A typical question, but where do you see your label in five years?
We'll see, I do not like to think that far ahead.
Is the Middle Eastern market included in your plans for expansion?