Thin layer of creativity

Will Gucci be able to resist Belarusian designers?
Both our guests Elvira Zhvikova and Yelena Tsokalenko follow the same career: they design clothes. But their predictions about the development of Belarusian fashion are diametrically opposite.

Correspondent: Who do you think - a state-run enterprise or a private business, which you, Yelena, represent - has better chances to compete with Chanel today?

Yelena Tsokalenko: I have just come back from Moscow, where I have attended Moscow Fashion Week for the fifth time. And I each time I get more and more convinced that my prospects as a creative designer are far more interesting in Moscow that at home. First of all, there is not a single-designer boutique in Minsk, while Moscow abounds in them. For example, "Marki" designer shop offers a range of clothes by Lithuanian, English, French, Russian and Belarusian authors (my creations were also there). "Marki" cannot be compared to such imperial brands as, say, Chanel and Prada, but is considered a top boutique with Moscow bohemia. After the demonstration of my collection, Zima (Winter), famous Moscow´s designer, came up to me. She is opening her own designer shop this year. Zima purchased a part of my collection and offered to cooperate.

Correspondent: Of course, it is a nice "widget," but far from being called a business.

Elvira Zhvikova: I have been working at a state-run company for many years and believe me exceedingly ambitious young designers are rarely able to succeed in practice. When a fledging artist tells me, "I want to conquer the world," I answer, "Go ahead. But first make a company profitable.

If your clothes will be commercially successful for a year, I will back any of your creative initiatives." Do you remember the dazzling triumph of Tom Ford? He possessed great marketing technologies. Sometimes he is reproached for exorbitant commercialisation of his line. However, when he popped up on the market, it was a shock, epatage, to wear him was cool. His collection was snapped up and brought him millions. I am in favour of this approach and do not like when people are trying to paint a "picture," to sew clothes just to satisfy their "ego" and remain an unrecognised genius. Well, I am not interesting in it. I remember when Yelena Tsokalenko failed to sell her clothes at a Fashion Centre boutique in Minsk. But on the other hand, we do have designers whose collections are sold out right after a fashion show. Enjoying good sales in Moscow deserves praise. Though, I prefer that Belarusian clothes-makers conquer the Belarusian market. When Ivan Aiplatov and Yelena Tsokalenko open their shops in Vitebsk, Grodno and Minsk, I will take off my hat to them, as the saying goes.

Correspondent: Do the goods promoted by Belarusian Fashion Centre enjoy a massive demand?

Elvira Zhvikova: We have always been trendsetters in an exquisite and quality women´s costume.

Correspondent: Yelena, do you have a special way of presenting you designs in boutiques? Have you developed some creative and non-standard way of your own here?

Yelena Tsokalenko: It is my personal belief that a designer should not deal with shops. There is a specially qualified staff to manage it. An artist has different tasks to fulfil.

Correspondent: Now that we are talking about artists and creators, I have recently come across a term "intellectual Belarusian fashion" in a Moscow paper. Could any of you explain to me what it means?

Yelena Tsokalenko: Our designers are very different from Moscow ones. The Russian capital loves glitter, richness of colour, lace, frills and gold. One of Galliano´s latest collections was dedicated to Russia, where he focused on this Moscow passion for embellishments. This fashion style is foreign to me. I prefer the wear that underlines the inner world of an individual and serves an extension of a personality, when it does not distract attention from it. After viewing my collection, people often say that the Belarusian fashion is akin to the British one.

Correspondent: Actually, I noticed that your range associates with English parlours.

Elvira Zhvikova: I do not agree. English design is more emotionally reserved. We are more lyrical and our fashion is more associative and subtle. I will never tire of admiring the clothes created by Olga Samoschenko. They are elegantly sewn and emanate light and spirituality. She knows how to bring femininity to perfection.

Viktoriya Popova: Then what are the ways to perfect the Belarusian fashion, to finally make it a commodity?

Elvira Zhvikova: Who buys domestic designer clothes in Moscow? Bohemians and party animals are the customers and there are few of them in Minsk. Therefore, creative design popularity is a distant future. I guess the future belongs to exclusive series. State-run designer enterprises should feel their customer, diversify the product range and produce ready-to-wear clothes in smaller lots.

Yelena Tsokalenko: I would like to make seasonal collections, but on a limited-edition basis for each model to retain its author´s creativity and exclusiveness, as mass production inevitably simplifies the style and has nothing to do with design.

Viktoriya Popova
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