Olga Vilshenko evokes the sensibilities from both her native Russia and those of a western woman from London, where her other Vilshenko studio is based. Vilshenko as a brand is synonymous with quality craftsmanship and flowing silhouettes. Olga shares below how her quaint upbringing has influenced her career and she provides an insight into the positives of saying no to opportunities sometimes.
As a fashion designer, describe what your role entails.
I am the head designer and creative director.
Tell us about your long standing family legacy in garment manufacturing.
I grew up surrounded by craftsmanship. During communist times, my grandmother and mother had what you would call a cottage industry, making one of a kind pieces to bypass the swathe of austere clothing found in stores.
What is your formal background, was it your life-long dream to become a fashion designer?
I was always able to make clothes, my mother taught me as a girl.
My earliest fashion moment was when I first saw haute couture fashion shows on TV in the 80s. I was mesmerised; I remember the super models and the beautiful clothes. At the time I didn’t think this was something I could ever do, as we had no fashion industry in Russia.
My first degree was in finance as there were no fashion design schools. But by the time I had graduated some schools were opening, so I went straight back to studying fashion. After I graduated I felt it wasn’t enough and I wanted to learn more so I went to London to study.
You have cultivated, a strong aesthetic, which focuses on Eastern heritage, artistry and folklore with western couture construction and tailoring. Where do you draw influence for each new collection?
There’s no set formula, it changes each season, it could be a painting, or an old image I’ve found. Or a book I’m reading or some old vintage textiles. I find inspiration everywhere.
Describe the VILSHENKO woman?
A strong, intelligent and feminine woman, who loves fashion and has a strong sense of style.
What are your favourite or preferred techniques to use?
Traditional Russian embroidery techniques.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned since starting your namesake label?
You must stay true to your vision.
What has been the most impactful moment of your career so far?
The opening of my London studio and Moscow atelier.
Dividing your time between Russia and London, time must be of true value. How do you balance all of your projects?
I’m very strict with managing my time; I’ve made a conscious effort not to take on too many projects at once, to be very selective.
What advice would you give to a young emerging designer?
Get as much hands on experience as you can.
Are business skills as important as one’s design skills?
Yes I think it’s very important in today’s world to have a good understanding of business and the skills required to run one.
In working with boutiques such as Parlour X, how important is your wholesale business to your brand’s success?
It’s crucial to establishing an international brand and so exciting for me to see my designs in stores around the world.
Does fashion week or showing internationally whether at LFW or PFW play an important role for the brand?
We don’t show during fashion week but we do present the collection to buyers, we have show rooms in NY, Milan and Paris and this is crucial to our business.
Describe your own personal style?
I love clothes and I love to dress up, but on a daily basis when I’m working or with the children I need to be comfortable, so I’d wear a Vilshenko embroidered peasant blouse with wide cropped jeans.
What designers do you find compelling or admire?
Phoebe Philo is always amazing and I love Erdem.
What are your interests outside of fashion?
Spending time with my family of course. I’m a big reader, especially of biographies. My garden is my sanctuary and I do love to travel.
What is your favourite city in the world?
I have two Moscow and London and of course I love Paris, who doesn’t?
What is next for VILSHENKO?
Focused on growing internationally, the world changes quickly so we don’t want to focus on one market. We’ve taken on new a partner to help us expand internationally. More collaboration with people we love. Very focused on doing what we do but doing it well. Of course I have lots more plans but cant talk about them just yet.
You can find Olga Vilshenko on Instagram at @olgavilshenko
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