As soon as I saw Nikolay’s collection I knew I was there for a treat. If I could compare his work to anything out there, I would definitely choose Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera Ready-to-Wear combined with some Galliano for Dior touches when it comes to Haute Couture pieces. Virtually unknown in Europe he seemed to have come from nowhere bringing a burst of colourful silk-wrapped Malyavin-inspired magic with him. Needless to say, I adore this designer not only for his incredible talent, but also an ability to keep Russian traditions, colours and style alive without making the clothes look old-fashioned or out of touch from the rest of the world.
His CV is already pretty impressive: a winner of several competitions, a student of the prestigious Lab founded by Vyacheslav Zaitsev, then – his apprentice, now – a Moscow-based boutique curator for Dolce&Gabbana and finally a designer in his own rights.
It's been a great pleasure for me to interview Nikolay for Fashioned by Love and share his story with you.
WHO: Nikolay Krasnikov, Moscow-based fashion designer
WHAT: his very first Spring 2012 collection inspired by Russian art and history
WHY: a beautiful blend of modern and classic that never goes out of fashion
LOOK FOR: beautiful tailoring, floating silks and gorgeous prints and lace that celebrate female form and beauty
What is fashion for you?
Fashion is a very complex substance that is constantly changing depending on what’s happening in the world and the society. I think that a good designer is able to express those changes in his creations and, of course, build-up a profitable business.
When did you realise that you not only want to be a consumer, but create your own fashion?
It was 1993 when I first learned about Haute Couture. We used to have a TV programme called “Matador” hosted by Konstantin Ernst. One of the episodes was about collections from Haute Couture Fall/Winter 1993 and included a story about Gianfranco Ferre’s collection for Christian Dior with the commentary by Vyacheslav Zaitsev. For somebody living in a country of deficit it was something so fascinating, something I’d never experienced before in my life!
Back then I was only 16 and didn’t really know what career I would like to choose, but that story completely occupied my mind. There was nothing else I could think of and it totally changed my life.
What did your family think of your ideas and interest in fashion?
They’ve given me so much support. I am not sure I would be able to get through all the challenges without them.
Were you still living in Perm when it happened?
Yes, I was. I received my education there, too, and then started everything from zero. I went to study dressmaking, became a dress cutter, a tailor, a pattern designer and moved to Moscow in 1999.
What was it like to find yourself in Moscow and start your new life there?
To be honest, I was surprised to see how many people were willing to help me – they found me a place to live and helped to get accustomed to life in the city. We stay in touch, although some are now living in Italy and others took a different path. The most important thing I’ve leaned from this experience is to be grateful to people who were there for me and, in return, be there for people whenever they need my help.
You’ve spent several years as an apprentice to Vyacheslav Zaitsev. Do you remember what you first day was like?
I’ve dreamed about this apprenticeship for 6 years. It began when I won a prize in a young designers competition called “Exercise” where Zaitsev was among the judges. Right after the competition he invited me to take part in The Lamanova Prize competition for Professional Fashion Designers where I got to compete against several students from the Zaitsev’s Fashion laboratory who showcasted their works. One of the Lab students, Sultana Frantsuzova, won the 1st prize. I was absolutely blown away by their designs and imagination that seemed to have no rules or boundaries. They turned fashion inside out and upside down.
It’s impossible to describe how much I dreamed of being a part of the Lab, but the course fees were quite high. The answer came from Vera Tugova, the founder and president of the “Exercise” who helped me find my sponsors.
And then the first day has finally come… We all gathered around Vyacheslav Zaitsev and listened to his stories about childhood memories, post-war hunger and years he spent establishing himself as an artist.
The course was incredibly interesting. Perhaps, there were difficulties, but I was so happy about being there I didn’t notice anything else. I took part in two competitions and won 1st prize in the Lomanova’s one and 2nd in the International contest in Berlin and was offered an apprenticeship at Vyacheslav Zaitsev Haute Couture House. I was the first Lab student who’s ever received an apprenticeship of this kind. During this time under his watchful eye I have created seven couture collections.
Has Zaitsev ever given you any advice that you will remember for the rest of your life?
He hardly ever gives any, but instead pushes you in a right direction. It was much more valuable to me than any advice.
If you had a chance to meet any fashion designer who would it be?
John Galliano, no doubt about that. Others would be Dior, Saint Laurent, Chanel and Ferre who are no longer with us, unfortunately.
You’ve created so many beautiful collections while working with Zaitsev. What made you decide to move on and work for Dolce&Gabbana team?
I wanted to try something new, see what it’s like to work on an European level, and they paid well. I received a lot of support from Natalia Kozlova, a journalist and host of Russian TV show called “Magic of Fashion” / “Магия Моды”. I can’t thank her enough.
What is your role at Dolce&Gabbana?
I look after the merchandise managers and design of the Moscow boutiques. I work with a small but very talented team of designers. To be a luxury brand merchandiser in Russia is very different from Europe where your desire and hard work are enough to get the job. In Russia one must have a degree in art as a required minimum.
How did it feel to begin working on your own collection?
I haven’t done it for about 10 years and it felt as if I lost the skills and ability to create, but it turned out that I’ve gained so much experience, both as a designer and stylist. It was frightening to make the first step, but my confidence grew as I “kept walking”.
What inspires you?
Russian art, theatre, paintings, ballet, Russian crafts, history are my endless source of inspiration. My job is to adapt them to the modern reality.
From the choice of fabrics, couture embroidery to one-off prints and silhouettes, “The Improvisation of Inspiration” is a technically demanding collection. How did you manage to combine all the element in such a harmony and what was the most challenging?
The embroidery was created by Russian artisans – luckily we still have these wonderful people who know this art, while I designed every single garment, from the very first sketch to the very last stitch. My experience made is quite easy for me to achieve.
I begin by pinning the fabric to a mannequin. It’s a very old-fashioned way of dress making that can only be found in Couture houses these days. Then I transfer everything into paper and create patterns. This technique allows one to be more creative when it comes to creating a silhouette of a garment.
Who created the fabrics and gorgeous prints for the collection?
The prints were custom-designed and created in Italy. First, the pattern is created out of all the elements, then scaled and, once ready, printed on fabric. All my clothes are made from silk, linen, chiffon and silk lace.
Your Spring 2012 collection is very feminine and resembles a dance of flowers. What kind of woman you design your clothes for?
First of all, she is confident and, of course, intelligent, beautiful and a little bit romantic. She has a strong sense of style and is a winner in any situation. It sounds a bit too perfect, but isn’t it what we all are trying to achieve?
Your Fall/Winter 2012/2013 collection will be shown in March. Can you give us any idea, a hint of what we should expect?
The new collection will be even more technically demanding that the previous one in terms of tailoring and textures, but the colour scheme will be toned down.
It’s inspired by Matilda Kschesinskaya, the Russian Prima Ballerina who was able to perform 32 fouettes. The richest woman of Imperial Russia she was also a mistress of two Grand Dukes and the future Tsar Nicholas II. She lost everything during the revolution, but managed to save herself and her family, find strength to overcome the loss of her homeland, friends and title and start a new life in Paris.
Where do you see yourself in, say, 5 years from now?
Future is such an unpredictable thing. It’s hard to plan something for sure, but it’s worth trying to achieve something special.
So… are we talking Paris, Milan, London, New York or is it going to be Russia?
We’ll see… I am quite superstitious. Only time will tell…
5 things about Nikolay Krasnikov
Favourite dessert: anything chocolate
Favourite season: Russian winter, but I do love the sun.
If you could be anywhere right now, where would you find yourself? Italy. I love this country, the mixture of ancient history and the latest technologies, art and wonderful weather. And, of course, wonderful Italian cuisine!!!
Most favourite item in your wardrobe right now? Shearling jacket and fur coat – it’s freezing in Russia.
Books or glossies? Bulgakov’s Master & Margarita – he has an ability of expressing all the tragedies and contradictions of a human race with such an ease… it’s so inconceivable, so beyond me…
I also love Pushkin. His Evgenii Onegin is not just an encyclopedia of Russian life as it’s often referred to, but also a wonderful source of irony and wit.
Photo source: Work for Vyacheslav Zaitsev (3-5), Nikolay Krasnikov Spring 2012 Lookbook courtesy of Nikolay Krasnikov, photos by Anton Bundenko