Ulyana Sergeenko is a Russian designer, photographer and serial socialite, who launched her first collection last year. Living in Moscow, she is a cult figure at fashion weeks, appearing in her own, unique designs. She talks to Wonderland about street style, Soviet cartoons and the unusual Russian-and-1950s influenced silhouettes of her self-made empire…

How would you describe your designing style?

It is strongly influenced by my childhood, with all its memories… also, old Soviet cartoons, small towns in Kazakhstan and Russia, family traditions. And then there are movies; it can be anything from Visconti and Fellini to Nikita Mikhalkov and Wong Kar-Wai. I love old Soviet films. Also, I was mesmerised by the way my grandmother looked; I guess she was the one who has influenced my style the most: she wore printed cotton dresses worn with hand-knitted sweaters or cardigans and heels.

Are your designs influenced by life in Moscow, too?

In my work, there are a lot of references to Russian culture, especially Russian cinematography. I find inspiration for my collections in works by Mikhalkov, Kalatozov, Khuziev, Gerasimov. And I like traditional Russian crafts – all those embroideries, bead-works, hand-made laces and knits. They combine naivety with intricacy of technique.

What were your inspirations for the forthcoming SS12 collection?

We imagined Brigitte Bardot coming to the Soviet Union. So we have swimsuits, puffy skirts, shirts with few buttons open…and then on the other hand we reinterpreted traditional Russian themes. So the spring/summer collection is based on a mix of modesty – the essential quality of every Soviet girl – and the sensuality inherent in Brigitte.

Your looks outside shows have gained you a lot of popularity with street style photographers. What do you think of the street style phenomenon?

Of course it’s useful – street style photography is often viewed by huge numbers of people. The thing I don’t really like is that often it’s all about the clothes. Notice the popularity of detail shots – you see nothing but accessories, and I find it to be quite boring. There is nothing special or intriguing in the ability to buy a trendy bag or a runway hit. As Diana Vreeland said, “I don’t go to the theatre to see a great play. I want to see an interpretation.” It’s the same with street style – I don’t want to see clothes, I want to see interesting, unique people.

How do you feel Russian women differ in their approach to fashion compared to women in London or New York, for example?

In Russia we had no fashion for almost 80 years, then there was the 90s with all that fake glamour. There are still a lot of clichés about luxury in Russia, but it is not about wearing logos anymore, today people have become more sophisticated. There are quite a few women with a great sense of style here. Globalisation has influenced women around the world and for me it’s sad, because they all started to look the same… I like people who are a bit crazy, who dare to provoke and surprise.

What are your plans for this year?

2012 is a very important year for us as we are planning our first show outside of Russia. Since there is no fashion industry in terms of production in Russia, it makes the working process very complicated. We create, produce, photograph, style, and do PR all in-house.
And I’m very happy, as my team is what makes the Ulyana Sergeenko brand so unique. It’s not another clothing line, but a small world we invented here in Moscow.

Words: Olivia Gagan