the russian designer bringing back the shoulder pad
Olga Vasyukova's structured shoulders were inspired by a milk carton.
All images courtesy of Olga Vasyukova.
Emerging Russian designer Olga Vasyukova grew up in what she says was the most usual scenario of a “respected Soviet family.” Born in the USSR, her parents “worked a lot” in the field of science, she “studied a lot,” and once a year they went to “visit the sea.”
After graduating school she went on to study logistics, higher mathematics, and descriptive geometry at Moscow State University of Railway Transport. During this time, she was unaware of the existence of the fashion industry. “I had no idea about the fashion industry in ’90s and no interest in it in ’00s,” she explains.
Now working full-time as the designer for her own label titled “Red September,” she can “hardly remember” exactly when she decided to make the shift. After feeling unfulfilled in her engineering career, she found herself studying the website for Polimoda, a fashion institute in Italy, late one night and left her role at the Research Institute for Information Technology on Railway Transport in 2013. From there, she relocated to Florence to study Fashion Design at Polimoda then returned to Russia last year.
She speaks about her family with pride, describing her parents as “remarkable.” “Perhaps in a past life, I saved the country or did something like that, so I was rewarded with them,” she explains. “They taught me how to allocate my time correctly, set priorities, and focus on the main thing here and now.” A self-confessed “workaholic,” she thinks they might have “overdone it.”
She also describes her childhood under USSR as “pleasant,” while sharing memories of empty shops and “many restrictions.” She’s convinced people at the time were kinder and often feels nostalgic for her youth.
“I remember the long lines, in which I first queued up with my mother. Then mother was replaced by my father, and then my father was replaced by grandmother,” she says. “ It seems to be standing in line that we made friends in childhood, then gathered at somebody's home to watch different films on VHS tapes.”
Vasyukova’s scientific background and fascination with architecture heavily influence her designs. She approaches fashion with her knowledge of construction, geometry, and technical drawings. “It could be said that I use reverse engineering,” she says. “I imagine the final shape of a thing in my head, break it into its component parts, and then I work with it in a flat.”
She didn’t fully commit herself to launch her brand “Red September” until November of last year. In a few short months, she has shown in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Paris, in two showrooms under NOB during Fashion Week. Her new collection “Sons of Anarchy” was the brand’s debut at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Moscow last week.
The idea for the collection first came to Vasyukova after she discovered a vintage motorcycle suit that was “completely scratched from asphalt” and she “sensed the story” while holding it. She describes the collection as a story about “a free rebellious spirit, about brave young hearts that demand changes.”
Collages are an important element of her design process. For “Sons of Anarchy,” she collected archives of photos around “everyday routine of ordinary Soviet people.” She also studied post-Soviet youth in detail and listened to the legendary Soviet rock song “We want changes…It’s the demand of our hearts!” on repeat.
It’s impossible not to notice that she has a fascination with shoulders and shoulder pads. She sees “so much more potential” in shoulders, compared with other design elements such as length and waist level, and calls them the “key moments of the figure.” She found her signature silhouette after she discovered a photo of a Soviet boy and a milk carton while collaging. Drawing inspiration from the shape of the milk carton, she works to bring shoulder pads and shapes to new heights.
Vasyukova’s introduction into menswear came after “failing in every aspect” to design a women’s collection. Exclusively working on the male mannequin for the last few years, she has only just now returned to a female one.
While technically a menswear brand, she’s not interested in casting by gender and hopes to “leave all divisions and labels in the past” and make casting decisions on who can best convey the spirit of the collection. She was one of the few “genderless” fashion shows at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia, casting a wide variety of models including Russian transgender model Nika Kraush.
When asked what inspires her, Vasyukova explains that she doesn’t believe in inspiration, but hard work. Her strict upbringing instilled diligent time management skills and a strong work ethic that will no doubt enable her to thrive under the tight deadlines and regimented seasons of the fashion industry.
With Russian fashion week over, her “most intensive work” is underway. She plans to “analyze everything, work on every mistake and move on.” The collection will be available in concept stores around France and Italy and she’s already working on a unisex spring/ summer collection.