INTERVIEW: THE EMERGING DESIGNER + ELENA BOBYSHEVA
I love the color story and the cuts - what was your inspiration?
When I started designing my spring/summer 15 RTW collection, I knew that it would be the first collection I would sell direct to consumer because I was in the early stages of developing my first e-commerce platform; so my main goal was to define what my signature aesthetic was by using my past collections’ silhouettes as a starting point. The shapes organically evolved through sketches and fittings and the focus for Spring/Summer 15 became asymmetry; clean, sharp, geometric lines; and pleating, which I touched upon in a past collection but wanted to explore further. I also made it a personal goal to incorporate color this season because my previous collections were mostly monochromatic.
What are some of your key silhouettes and signatures?
I love exploring asymmetry and creating architectural lines. I think asymmetry, if done tastefully, can look very modern and edgy. I’ve explored geometry heavily in my Spring/Summer 15 collection. One of the first dresses I designed for SS15 was a black wool tailored knee length dress with a crepe collar, a black silk organza asymmetrical bodice, and a full length two way zipper. It was inspired by a dress from AW13, but I’ve altered the fabric, updated the silhouette, and made the lines more modern.
I feel that my signature has become combining different fabrics and textures that are various shades of the same color. To me, it heightens the visual interest of a garment while still keeping the design clean and refined. It looks discreet but intentional. I’ve experimented with that technique in my senior thesis collection and it has evolved in each collection since.
What do you want to be known for?
I hope to be known for beautiful craftsmanship and quality designer womenswear that is animal friendly and environmentally-conscious. I’m against harming animals for fashion, or the environment through irresponsible manufacturing, and I’m currently focusing on delivering upscale ready-to-wear that doesn’t use fur, leather, or skins in hopes of expanding the consumer’s perception of what luxury is and encouraging their demand for more eco business practices within the industry.
Who is your woman?
My woman is intelligent, ambitious, and classy. She appreciates fashion, quality, and ethical business practices. She is a smart shopper. She wants to know where and how her products are made, and what her money is supporting. She doesn’t like excess. She has an upscale, modern taste but enjoys minimalism and simplicity. She loves to travel and learn about different cultures. She is someone who is health and eco conscious and she applies that to all areas of her life from eating organically, using green household cleaners, to using animal-friendly products. She is proud of who she is – she could be a doctor, a lawyer, a mother, an editor, activist, or a philanthropist. She is a modern woman with traditional values.
What type of stores would you like to be in?
Some of the stores that I think my label would fit well in are online stores like farfetch.com, mytheresa.com, net-a-porter, and a Russian online store called Aizel.ru. I find those stores to be revolutionary in selling and marketing womenswear on the internet.
What is your background? I saw that you went to Columbia? Did you start the line out of school or did you work for anyone else?
I went to Columbia College Chicago and I initially started as a Fashion Business Management major but after studying abroad in Florence, Italy, I came back and began my sophomore year as a double major of Fashion Design and Fashion Business. I’ve never had any prior training in sewing or patternmaking so the first couple design courses were very difficult for me. But I was determined to become very good at my craft because I felt very passionate about designing. I also interned with a local Chicago designer and I learned a lot from the experience. I learned what I liked and it also showed me what I would do differently in my own business.
When I was a junior, I started competing in both business and design competitions and I placed first in the majority that I entered. Half the grants I used to pay for my last year in college and the other half I used as my seed money to start my label. I designed my first ready-to-wear collection my senior year, (whilst also working on my senior thesis collection, which was a graduation requirement) because I was invited back as an alumni winner by the Chicago Fashion Foundation to present a collection. But I officially started my label after graduation when I was approached by a fashion show producer and was offered an opportunity to present a collection during Chicago Fashion Focus, Chicago’s version of Fashion Week. After my show, I was approached by a buyer. She was really impressed by my quality that she set up an appointment with me. For the appointment, I brought in all my collections I had designed so far – my senior thesis, my Autumn/Winter 2013 that I also designed while I was a student, and my Spring/Summer 14 that I presented during Chicago Fashion Focus. After inspecting every garment and looking at the fabric choices, construction, and finishings, she placed a big order for several garments across all collections. Two months later my label was in a boutique, hanging next to designers like Prabal Gurung and Ellie Saab.
Anything else that you would like to share?
In 2013, I received the Council of Fashion Designers of America Approved Certificate from the CFDA, which to this day is my most special accomplishment.
I launched my first e-commerce platform on Dec. 7th, 2014. I’m very excited about this because it will allow me to sell direct to the consumer for the first time. The process of developing an e-commerce platform and adding another point of sale to my wholesale accounts took close to a year but the final result has been very rewarding for me. I’m excited to have full control of how my label is represented to my customer, from the overall e-store’s layout to the design of my packaging. I’m also thrilled about this new chapter because I have the chance to personally hand pick which looks I want to produce for retail from the show collection. I plan on investing in some of the more fashion-forward pieces that the customer can purchase exclusively at elenabobysheva.com.
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