Strong creative tensions can produce truly phenomenal results… Meet Yasya Minochkina. With nearly 40 stores carrying her designs in nearly a dozen countries, and a private appointment-only atelier in Beaulieu sur Mer on the famed Cote D’Azur, this Ukraine-born designer has quietly conquered the Eastern European “it-girl” niche. At a time when the post-Soviet fashion scene was divided between minimalist monochrome and the gaudy gold of the nouveau riche, her bright floral aesthetic struck a winning style chord.
In less than a decade, she has amassed a loyal following that spans generations within families on both sides of the smoldering international conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Over the past few seasons, Minochkina has assumed the unofficial role of a rising ‘fashion diplomat,’ showcasing her collections during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia, in hopes to bridge the growing divide between two countries. Politics aside, how does one become a new household name in the Eastern European market obsessed with luxury heritage brands?! I spoke with Minochkina in Monaco, where she now lives and works. That morning she was reviewing plans for her flagman store opening next year in the heart of Moscow.
Daughter of a painter and an architect, as a child Minochkina took after her tailor grandmother stitching hems, sewing skirts, playing in the aisles of a local textiles market. By high school, she had a clear idea that she wanted to design clothes. Her schoolmates and neighbors already knew who to call for style advice and made-to-measure dresses. Yet, fate intervened. At an uncertain economic time, parents insisted on a more practical education. Minochkina graduated with a diploma in financial planning. She got the first job she interviewed for: launching British Petroleum gas stations across Ukraine.Things move fast in emerging markets. Within four years she hard-worked her way into managing an operations team of 400 employees nationwide.
Minochkina was living large, but not living the dream. Then came her own personal Big Bang… She quit the lucrative corporate job, stopped eating meat, took up yoga, and headed to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp to build up her fashion acumen. In 2012, Yasya Minochkina was reborn as a brand.
Congratulations on this successful milestone…
Yasya Minochkina: Thank you, but this is not success, it’s just business! [Laughs]. I get messages all the time from my clients at night after they come home from events… Wow, I felt so good in your dress. Wow, everyone was asking me about my dress. Wow, wow, wow. This is the best news to read on your phone in the morning. This is success for me.
Do you remember your formal entry into the fashion industry?
It was a rocket ride. We showed my first collection at Mercedes-Benz Kiev Fashion Days in Ukraine. I thought it was received ok. Then someone brought me a Vogue Italia special edition where Sara Maino scouted me as one of international talents to watch. I couldn’t believe it. I burst into tears. It gave me confidence. Ok, I am on right path. I can spread my wings and fly to London, Paris, Moscow.
And how do you see yourself launching a business in an emerging market?
For the past ten years, I live in Europe and I relate to women in power here. When I travel back to Russia or Ukraine, men do not know how to talk to me at meetings. She looks like a nice woman but talks like a real businessman… [Laughs]. Sometimes I feel not quite human or maybe superhuman: manicure, spreadsheets, smiles, customs reports!
Her eights years-old daughter Alexandra interrupts the conversation. It’s time for a snack. Hands-on motherhood is part of the daily routine. Last season Alexandra (Sasha) made an appearance at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Russia in Moscow for the customary designer bow alongside Yasya.
People saw that moment as a feminist statement. Was that your intention?
Oh, it was much simpler. It was the first time that Sasha saw the whole process from beginning. How I draw, where we get fabrics, all the meetings, fittings, samples. She was with me for the casting, the interviews, backstage. Of course, I had to show her the last part of this runway tradition. Mommy is a designer. This is what a designer does. It was fun to see how comfortable she was in that environment.
Do you think your daughter will follow in your footsteps?
I think about family business, Italian-style like Missoni, Ferragamo, Fendi. Why not?! But I want her to make her own mind. My job is to give options, to teach her to make decisions. I always saw Coco Chanel as my role model. Maybe I can be that “Coco Chanel” for my daughter or someone else. The world was so different when I was eight, but my parents made sure I had lessons in art school and dance school and language school. When they said to study economics, they thought about my options.
Do you regret not starting your fashion line sooner?
I had my own garment factory at 27 years old! How much sooner?! [Laughs]. I think my degree in finance and experience in real international business prepared me to be creative in the right way. I did not have illusions like many young designers. I made a business plan before I made the first dress. It does not matter if you sell petrol, bread or clothes. I am lucky because I love what I make, but I also know how to make what I love. I am at home in studio, in office and in factory.
Is your ideal customer also so versatile in work and life?
When I meet girls and women who wear my dresses, I am always so impressed. Russian, Chinese, Arab, French, they are spectacular in their career and family. I often think, how do they do it?! [Laughs] I think we share this passion for beauty and harmony. I make dresses inspired by nature. For me, nature’s beauty is the true luxury. Beautiful and comfortable are kind of synonyms for me.
Did same response from such different clients surprise you?
No. If you yourself wear what you make, you will always be relevant. Quality cannot be unnoticed forever. This is how people relate. We just got sales figures back from our first season in USA. Our dresses sold out in Miami, New York and LA. Oh, and in Greece! People didn’t believe you could sell luxury in Greece at the moment, but we did well there. I have so many clients from the Lebanese diaspora that I will do a show in Beirut next! Yasya Minochkina style speaks for itself everywhere…
Do people have a hard time getting your name right?
I don’t think my name is different from Demna Gvasalia or Diane von Fürstenberg. You learn the name once and enjoy it for life! [Laughs]
With the projected expansion into accessories, footwear and perfume along with the Moscow store launching in early 2019, Yasya delivers on that Vogue Talents promise and continues to be the one to watch!