The Victoria Gres brand has twenty years of history and recognition not only in Ukraine, but also abroad. Ukrinform spoke with its founder whether it is easy to engage in fashion business and what to wear this summer.
Q: Victoria, your first boutique in Kyiv opened in 1998. Given your experience in the fashion industry, is it easy to run a fashion business in our country?
A: It seems to me that this is even more difficult than people can imagine.
Q: What kind of difficulties do you mean?
A: The biggest problem is the economic situation in Ukraine. Whether we want it or not, we work in our economic area. It is necessary to be realistic - the Ukrainian textile industry practically does not exist today. In any case, the greater number of domestic facilities that produced textiles and finished goods in the 2000s closed due to the fact that they did not fit into the realities of the country's economy. The main reason is powerful contraband flows from China and other countries. A small number of enterprises survived and have been operating since then. It is much more complicated and more expensive to re-create production facilities of the light industry than to modernize what already exists.
For example, Rivne Flax Factory underwent upgrade and even produces something, but you understand that this level of textiles is not demanded by the fashion industry. Designers are not ready to work with it, and consumers are not ready to buy it.
A successful fashion industry is possible in a country with a developed textile industry. We have very good creative design potential, even at the global level, but it cannot be said of production. The industry involves manufacturers, consumers and marketing. Everything is imported into Ukraine.
Q: Which fabrics do you prefer? As far as I understand, not Ukrainian ones.
A: Show me Ukrainian-made fabrics! I do not see them. We do not have Ukrainian fabrics of good quality. We have fabrics from Italy, Spain, Portugal, China, Korea, Turkey, and India. I think our government is not interested in the development of the textile industry in the country. If Turkey made a breakthrough in the light industry, then it made it under favorable conditions created by the state. It introduced special conditions for everyone involved in the textile industry, and there was a serious breakthrough over the past 30 years. There is no wonder. There is legislative framework and political will.
The fashion industry involves great effort and enormous costs, and the designer is the tip of a big structure that everyone sees. It is beautiful, presentable, but it cannot exist without a foundation.
Q: Do you have a large chain of stores?
A: No, we have not had stores for a long time. We closed them in 2008-2009.
Q: How do you communicate with your customers? How can an ordinary woman get dresses from Victoria Gres?
A: Unfortunately, an ordinary woman does not need a Victoria Gres outfit. The number of consumers of designer clothes does not exceed 1%.
I understand that I dig out deeply, but without it I will not give the correct answer. You cannot take and throw out a layer of our culture for the last hundred years, which includes the Soviet period. We all watch films and easily recognize different periods, because they are all immediately recognizable - silhouettes and proportions were understood. After all, fashion was sufficiently totalitarian, and everyone looked roughly the same. Due to the closeness of our country and a shortage the black marketeers felt great. They did not need to think about assortment, and nobody cared about marketing. All inaccessible was desirable. Everyone was sewing at home in the kitchen. It was mentally transmitted to the heads of people that designer clothing should be affordable to an ordinary consumer. This was a general message from journalists from the mid-1990s. All people began to persistently wait until Ukrainian designer clothing becomes affordable to them. I think that it will never happen. The middle class does not need designer clothes. For example, people from the middle class in France will not even think to go for a Chanel suit. It is simply impossible under a number of circumstances. There are established rules, and they are not bad and not good, they just exist.
Q: That is, for the middle class there is a phenomenon called the mass market?
A: First, designers are different. It has historically been so that I am working as a designer in the luxury segment. I can create high-class clothes, and someone can work with the mass market - it's not easy either.
The right mass market is collective work, and it's difficult to create collections individually for one designer, because you need to take into account the tastes of a huge number of people who consume it. This is the work of a marketing team.
I am convinced that my work, as a designer, is only necessary for those people who have an inner necessity and aesthetic worldview. Such are the nuances that need to be clearly understood and known by consumers.
My products consume a lot of efforts, time, expensive fabrics, and all this is multiplied by many years of experience of specialists - they cannot be cheap. Honestly, I do not want to work in the mass market segment. I am convinced that marketing, rather than money influences the appearance of a person. Again, now there is a fast-fashion trend - a lot, cheaply and quickly. Marketers educate disorderly consumption, and this can already be classified as a disease. I adhere to a different position – high quality, expensive and for many years. Sometimes, my clients bring my dresses to me in 10-15 years and say that they cannot part with them, asking for restoration work, so I am happy to do it.
Q: You started talking about the age of consumers. How old are your clients?
A: Perhaps those older than 30.
Q: From 30 and until what age?
A: In fact, there are clients of all ages.
Q: Are there any people that attend all fashion shows - fashionistas?
A: Of course, there are, but, most likely, they are no longer fashionistas. This has already become a way of life for them. It seems to me that the word "fashionista" in general has lost its original meaning. The longer you stay in this profession, the less you can answer the question of what is fashionable. Am I fashionably dressed?
Q: You're wonderfully dressed.
A: You see - that's another word. That is, fashion today is different. Now every stratum of population lives in its own fashion. Today fashionistas choose their own niche. There are three IT companies in front of my fashion studio, and they generally have their own world and their own fashion. The main thing for them is convenience - a sweater and jeans. Can it be called fashion? I do not know. I think this is a way of life that influences style.
Therefore, now there is no global, total fashion, but there is a niche and people choose themselves. For example, a person is dressed in classical style or in clochard, or with an emphasis on folk... This all is very beautiful, very tasty, very original. There are also marginal people who do not recognize anyone. If we discuss all directions, this will be a topic for a separate conversation.
That is why I cannot find an answer to the question of what is now fashionable. I think that it's not fashionable when you are dressed from head to toe in a Louis Vuitton or Victoria Gres outfit. It's rather stupid, as we designers use to say.
Q: Which young Ukrainian designers do you like?
A: I practically do not know anyone. Sometimes I pay attention to collections and see that the designer is in search of his or her niche.
Q: Do you have an icon of style?
A: You know, probably I don't. I can visually like different people. At the subtle level, I can determine whether this is my type or not. Of course, there are those whose clothing I would be happy to wear - Fanny Ardant or Uma Thurman. Why not? They are understandable to me.
I treat the mass market as a feather test and a constant experiment with images. No matter what anyone says about such brands as ZARA or MANGO, they help consumers form their own style. Then people are looking for and choosing better brands.
Q: Are you from a creative family? Did you follow some of your relatives, or it was just your desire? When did you come to the profession?
A: I always knew that I would not do anything else. I'm not from a creative family. I'm from a military family. At the time, there was no concept "designer," there was a word "artist-designer." There were art salons, where artists could sell some dresses. But it had nothing to do with fashion, in the normal sense of the word. I sewed for my friends, mom and myself. I've always had a lot of customers. Again, we return to the fact that there was a total deficit in the country - that's the answer to all questions. I've been sewing from the age of ten. As far as I remember, I cut, sewed, and painted. That is, I learned the profession from inside. While studying at the textile academy, they structured my knowledge correctly, since there are things that you do intuitively, and there are things that would be nice to know - it never bothered anyone. I do not even imagine that I could do something else. For the last ten years I have actively engaged in interior and décor. I really like it. This is a slightly different profession, but it is very close. The experience of the artist in color and form helps me here very much. That is why I feel very well in the decorative world.
Q: What does Victoria Gres offer us for spring-summer 2018?
A: Dresses! I came to the conclusion that nobody canceled flower dresses made of silk and viscose in summer. No matter what they tell me about hygroscopic polyamides, which are just wonderful, I cannot work with them. I will be an orthodox - I'll be sewing from batiste, cotton, viscose, and silk. These are our favorite multi-layer dresses that can also be worn as a second dress. Urban pajamas costumes also remain relevant.
It seems to me that today the main trend is convenience. We cannot do anything with this - humanity has never massively put on corsets. Women of elegant age do not want to wear uncomfortable shoes all day long. Everyone wants to wear jackets and sneakers. Everyone wants comfort - this is the main message of our time.
For me summer is, first of all, a city holiday. This is my niche. It is clear to me, and I manage to make sure that in my dresses a woman was comfortable in the morning, in the afternoon and at night, again, depending on the lifestyle. I do not have office and bank employees. I have separate clients who are politicians, and the main part is women who have their own business or work about the house. Believe me, being the female masters of big houses is a very big job, especially in our time, when women should do everything and remain beautiful and intelligent. Therefore, there will be demand for dresses in the summer season.
Q: What are the colors? You talked about flower dresses. Are they pastel or bright?
A: The collection will feature various flower motifs, small and large patterns, spots. I know perfectly well that people wear all this with pleasure. Now the look at the fashion has changed. Earlier any combination in clothes was not acceptable, but now everything is possible if it is convenient. The main thing is to make it look appropriate - and here you have to think. This is the work of designers and stylists. We try to adapt the whole summer collection to no-heel shoes. Today, everybody wants convenience, comfort and again convenience.
Q: It seems to me that you succeed.
A: Yes, I succeed. I will not show off. I can do it.
You see, the world has changed very quickly, and we cannot do anything about it. There is no point clinging to what's getting over. It's better to look for new forms.
Q: Whose clothes do you wear? From your own brand or other designers?
A: I have things from Ukrainian designers - Anisimova, Zalevsky and Vozianov. Sometimes I buy clothes, but, unfortunately, I am deprived of shopping joy. When you're 40 years old in a profession, you can no longer be a target group. Sometimes I like completely different forms, other solutions in clothing. Another question is that I have not been interested in dressing myself for a long time. That's sad. When you can do everything yourself, it's boring.
Q: It's necessary to search for inspiration.
A: It cannot be searched for.
Q: Does it come itself? What inspires you?
A: I think that this is too vague a concept - to be inspirational. People just need different emotions. Someone left the city, someone went to his or her grandmother in the village – it does not matter.
If someone was able to describe the nature of inspiration, I would give you the exact answer, but until now inspiration, like love, remains a mystery that has not yet been solved. Inspiration means a huge amount of work and 90% of your knowledge and experience.
In the fashion industry, 95% is business and only 5% is creativity. Unfortunately, creativity is based on your experience, knowledge, finances, collective work, etc. Inspiration alone does not solve anything.
Liubov Baziv. Kyiv
Photos by Viktoria Kozak and Victoria Gres' press service