PHOTO credits: simon soong
NATASHA, YOU HAVE A DISTINCTIVE BACKGROUND COMING FROM BELORUSSIA, BEING A FIERCELY DEVOTED MOTHER, WIFE, AND HAVING SUCH A THIRST FOR LEARNING. WHAT IGNITED YOUR PASSION FOR FASHION?
I am an artist, painter, and fashion designer. I was born and raised in Belorussia where there were few resources to be creative. In school, I had many friends that had elective classes for theater but at the same time, there were no costumes for any productions. So, they asked me to help make their costumes. We found and even stole construction material, cardboard, paper, and other untraditional materials to be used instead of fabric. When I was growing up, our government gave each family vouchers which we turned in for clothes. These clothes could have been t-shirts or dresses in all different colors or they could have all the exact same color. I remember when I was 6 years old, after waiting 5 hours in line for these t-shirts, all that was left for me was 5 shirts in an ugly flat brown color. I never wanted to be the same as everyone else. So, this disappointment only made me want to change what I received even more. I used pigment, from my mother’s pharmacy allotment, and water to tie-dye these shirts with a bright pink color. I was so happy then and it was the first experience in my life where I made something new, and it made me feel different. Another time, my brother played hockey and he wore high socks up to his knees. They were pinkish in color. I begged my brother to give them to me. So, then I wore them to school which enforced an extremely strict way of dressing. My principal called my parents to extract me from school because I was wearing these socks. I was so lucky to have parents that did not want to cut my wings. So, they said, “Okay Natasha, wear the socks outside the school”. I was trying all the time to be different. I am a tall girl, and, in the USA, I wear a size 11 which was difficult to find in Belorussia. So, I ended up buying men’s shoes and painted them to make them more stylish with rhinestones and beads. My fashion passion started in my childhood where it opened up my imagination and creation. I am a mother and wife and my kids have grown enough, so I can do more. For some people being a mother is enough, but for me? There is more. I am hungry to learn new things and I expect to continue learning all my life. There is so much left in the world for me to discover.
YOU HAD SOME FIERCE COMPETITION IN THE FINAL PRESENTATION OF YOUR GRADUATING CLASSES’ WORK, HOW DID IT FEEL TO GET THE BEST OVERALL DESIGNER AWARD?
I was enormously proud of myself. I knew that I wanted to enjoy all these moments leading up to the final runway. I did not want to be stressed during this time. I wanted to enjoy every second behind the scenes and on the stage although I did get a little nervous after the award was announced. Usually, instead of being nervous, I just look at the work that must get done and focus to finish with minimal nerves. To achieve what I wanted, this final presentation took a lot of preparation. I am a deeply passionate student and an overachiever, especially when it comes to a competition. If I cannot put in 200% of myself into projects or tasks, then I do not want to do it at all. You must always go all-in on any goal or competition with a feeling that you are going to win. No matter what happens, you are going to win. I enjoyed every second of working on my design, although it was a long process. In the end, the process was approximately 11 weeks, which was almost too long for me. I work better with shorter time frames to make a garment, but in the end, I was proud of what I achieved. My professors and family were also proud of me which so also important to me.
GIVE US THE INSIDE SCOOP ON THE VIBES BACKSTAGE? STRESS, FEAR, OR PURE CONFIDENCE?
I had been working a lot backstage for over 30 fashion shows and photoshoots. But the Miami International University operations team was always perfect. The organizers and technicians have extensive experience in this type of work, they are punctual and used to the various needs of students throughout the years. For me? There was no stress. Behind the stage, there were also a lot of students helping each other. In addition, the professors were helping all of us and designated academic mentors were helping their students behind the scenes. But this fashion show was special since there was such a big gap of time, 1 year from the previous show because of Covid-19. Everyone was so excited to be in this type of rush again. Everyone was enjoying each moment. One teacher even said when models go to the runway, there will be a silent moment before the storm. Everyone felt this moment. It was so great even though there was a limited number of garments we could present this time. All of us were relaxed, we were still in a rush but enjoying our moments because when a team is working together there is such positive energy behind them. All these 20-25 people were working for this one special moment. And this moment is important for all of us, so everyone worked together, and it is such a great feeling. So, I enjoyed my time backstage very much and I hope to help more behind the stage because there is some magic that happens there. People who are sitting in front and watching the show see the beauty, but they cannot see what is going behind. It is a rush with broken zippers, last-minute adjustments to garments, models needing to get dressed super quickly because they need to get back to the runway. It is super fun.
YOUR FINAL PIECES WERE BEAUTIFULLY STYLED AND HAD SOME AMAZING DETAILS, LIKE THE 3D-PRINTED CRAB PURSES. WHAT DREW THESE PIECES TOGETHER? DID YOU HAVE A SPECIFIC INFLUENCE? WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE LOOK?
I consider myself not just a fashion designer, but also an artist and creator. Because I like to combine many things together. I believe that I have a good vision, it was hard to prove this myself at first. But now I know that I can put together strange, different things and in the end, they look great together, cohesively. All the time when I make a garment or a composition from a couple of outfits, I always want to add some details to push this garment to a higher level to complete the look. I am not a natural stylist, but I can do this type of work as well, I do like to mix and match the details, but I also like to use high tech in my looks, such as a 3D printer. Not many people know what this printer is nor how to use it. My son introduced me to this concept as he was playing with it. I ended up learning and experimenting with the programming and I found the images that I wanted to use and digitize them to make them real. My accessories are sustainable since the printer used recycled plastic for the final creation which is important to me. Something old into something new. I am also passionate about the antique stuff, the vintage stuff. I do like exploring flea markets, antique stores, and auctions. In Belorussia, I used to work in auctions for probably 2 years. There was such a big energy in auctions which shows that I do love working when there is energy whether it is from an auction or anyplace else. I do not have specific influences, but I do admire designers who brought something new or different to fashion. I admire Gianni Versace, some people may not like his aesthetic, but he brought a new, colorful, and sexy feel to fashion. I also like Elsa Schiaparelli, but my favorite designer is Rei Kawakubo, the female Japanese designer, who created Comme des Garçons. She did a lot for fashion, she reinvigorated the old broken stereotypes in fashion, silhouettes, lines, and what she is doing for young designers is especially important. I like her vision; she is a creator not just a designer. Versace, Vivienne Westwood, and even Rei Kawakubo are not my influencers in my designs instead, they act as guides for what I want to bring to fashion. If I was forced to pick a favorite look in my designs for the runway, it would be the striped bird of paradise in a cage, but I love all of my looks equally, to be honest.
FASHION DESIGNER, PRODUCTION ASSISTANT, INTERN AT AVESSA, AND BURGEONING PHOTOGRAPHER, YOU HAVE A RELENTLESS AND ADMIRABLE DESIRE TO TRY IT ALL. WHAT ASPECT IS YOUR FAVORITE, OR DO YOU WANT TO DO IT ALL?
I am a deeply passionate person and I enjoy everything related to art. I want to look at all perspectives of any artistic piece, I can always find something to love or even something that can drive me crazy. I do believe that artists should not be narrow and just focuses on one specific area. I do not want to be a painter that just paints roses. I want to be a person that finds these roses, takes a picture of them then puts them into a garment. Even more, I would want to layer the roses with leather and then put some architectural structure on top of that. And only if you study a lot and are passionate about many things can you then create something that is interesting, that people can enjoy. Art should be enjoyable, it does not have to be beautiful, but art should pull to many people even for a second and hopefully catch their passion. If art can make people think then only this makes sense to me. I have a master’s degree in economics, which was my nightmare. When I came to the United States, I decided to switch to something that I was in love with for all my life. And it’s Art. I went to Miami International University to study costume design because my biggest dream is to create costumes for films. And I think that with everything I know, I can combine them to be able to work in film costume design, not just for a specific piece of clothing but for the whole look.