Living in a globalised world it can be difficult to preserve one's identity and traditions, but it looks like a healthy dose of art with some elements of fashion can help doing so. At least that's the case with Ukrainian Zinaida Lihacheva.
Defining her a fashion designer is actually incorrect as Lihacheva is an artist expressing herself through performances, installations and fashion collections. In October, during the Mercedes-Benz Kiev Fashion Days, she presented a collection inspired by the architectures of Kiev, Ukraine's capital.
The country has been prominently featured in the news throughout this year and, while in Europe we followed the Ukranian revolution and the consequences of Russian involvement, Lihacheva pondered about the destruction of her city, trying to look for ways to raise awareness about the loss of architectural and cultural identity.
In the end she managed to do so through her Spring/Summer 2015 collection in which Kiev's landmarks - the Institute for Scientific and Technical Research, The Rodina-Mat, the unfinished Podilsko-Voskresenskyi Bridge, the Rainbow Arch and the Salute Hotel designed by architect Abraham Miletskiy in 1984 in the spirit of Soviet futurism and constructivism - were turned into iconic black and white prints.
The silhouettes of some of these buildings and structures were also mimicked in the cut of certain details such as the voluminous layered sleeves in a long Aelita-evoking dress or the thick fabrics employed for the coats, while grey, the colour of concrete and dust, dominated the palette, appearing also in the heavy duty footwear. Grey was at times rebalanced by a bright yellow hue, a combination of shades that brought to mind visions of the grey and gold monument to Berehynia on Kiev's Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), turned into a battlefield after the 20 February clashes (View this photo).
Lihacheva's garments are strictly linked to her art installations in which she often combines Ukranian history, folklore, traditions, costumes, and famous cultural figures or prominent women. Among her latest installations there is one entitled "Vytkani" ("Woven"), dedicated to artist, poet, thinker and humanist Taras Hryhorovyč Ševčenk and to the women who acted as muses for his poems and portraits.
Where you were born?
Zinaida Lihacheva: I am originally from Kiev, you have probably heard a lot about us from the news lately. I'm extremely attached to this city, Ukrainian traditions and history, they are my greatest inspiration, and I cannot imagine myself working or living in any other place. Although I do travel a lot around the world, after a week or two I get so homesick that I have to fly back home, it's the only place where I can recharge my inner battery.
Do you consider yourself more an artist or a fashion designer?
Zinaida Lihacheva: I'm an artist, fashion is just an additional area for my art projects. There are too many rules in the real fashion world for an artist to play it for real. For instance, my collections aren't replicated in large quantities, they are mostly sold as art pieces.
How did the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Days in Kiev go for you?
Zinaida Lihacheva: Great! I love their nerve. They are not as solid as traditional fashion weeks, but I like the way they involve young and new designers. They might have looked not so professional and neat, but they are more open to experiments and fun.
Your S/S 15 collection has got something architectural about it, can you tell us more about the background inspirations?
Zinaida Lihacheva: It's about Kiev. Unfortunately this is not the best time for our country as we're experiencing political and financial crises, the war on the East of Ukraine, and people dying every day. So no one really cares about architecture or city development at the moment. But I'm extremely concerned about Kiev being destroyed, and I'm trying to bring attention to some issues as there is a risk of losing the city's identity of which we don't have much left after WW2 and Soviet times anyway.
Which buildings and structures from Kiev get honored in the shapes and silhouettes included in the collection?
Zinaida Lihacheva: There are many structures. Among them there are also the Statue of Rodina-Mat (The Motherland), some Soviet modernism buildings, urban textures and lots of grey nuances, we took a little bit of everything and mixed it all in a urban pattern.
What fascinates you about the architecture in Kiev and who are your favorite architects?
Zinaida Lihacheva: As it has been mentioned above – Soviet Modernism. Not many historical buildings are left, as Kiev was mostly destroyed during WW2. A lot of things are hidden or were lost completely. For example, now we're working on a fascinating project – 2000 sq. meters of wall bas-relief, which had been covered by concrete in 1970s for being too avant-garde (same as Picasso's Guernica, which was forbidden in Soviet Union). It was almost lost and forgotten, and we're trying to bring attention to it now. My favourite architects are Zaha Hadid, Olafur Eliasson, Frank Gehry and, as for Kiev, I should mention ARVM – abbreviation for those artists, who made the most interesting buildings in Kiev, as well as the wall bas-relief I mentioned above.
Grey is among the prevailing shades in your collection, and it almost evokes concrete, does this material inspire you in anyway?
Zinaida Lihacheva: Absolutely - it has so many shades and offers a widest range of possibilities to an artist's imagination.
What kind of fabrics did you employ for this collection? Any special high tech fabrics?
Zinaida Lihacheva: I usually employ natural fabrics. Lately I've started experimenting with cheesecloth for my art projects, unfortunately there is not much use for it in fashion. For this high-tech collection I've chosen to use neoprene, it gave us some cool silhouettes, and we combined it with cotton, silk and organza.
What plans do you have for the future and will you be taking part in any fashion event in Europe next year?
Zinaida Lihacheva: We're planning to be quite busy - several exhibitions, the Venice Art Biennale (as a part of the "Personal Structures" project), and, of course, our dream project, removing the layer of concrete that covers at least some part of the wall and try to restore the bas-relief I told you about. It may not happen for a while yet, but one of its authors is still alive and it might be a great moment. We'll keep you informed!
Image credits for this post
All images courtesy of Zinaida Lihacheva
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