We met the morning before ModaLisboa, while Sofiya was still running errands. The morning before her first show, yet she was calm. Not stress-free calm, but a person who was sure of her readiness. We sat down for a coffee, and we got to understand the designer’s mind. Take a look inside:
In short, tell us how you started. How did you go from being a student of fashion design to presenting a collection in ModaLisboa?
While I was doing my master in Lisbon, I understood that the college experience wasn’t enough, so I decided to do an internship. That way I could get in contact with the real work of being a fashion designer. I could get in touch with every thing fashion has to do with. I had the opportunity of interning with Ricardo Preto and gained experience with making collections for ModaLisboa and Portugal Fashion – at the time he was making collections for his own brand and for another brand
So you came to ModaLisboa already knowing what you were dealing with…
I mean...ModaLisboa or participating in shows and contests was only a dream yet, because when we leave college we need to take baby steps, one after another, and to come here is the next step that allows us to put into practice what we’ve learnt in school.
Do you think that the practical aspect you are talking about is something that is still missing in our Fashion Schools?
I wouldn’t say there is a lack of practicality, because we have a lot of projects and hands-on work. The thing is that we don’t really learn in school the real and tough experience of what happens. We study and understand the processes: creating moodboards, understanding fabrics… but in reality, everything works more organically, by crossing different departments. And you have to be in ateliers and companies in order to fully understand how it all works.
Which was your biggest inspiration when designing this collection you’ve presented in ModaLisboa?
I have this thing about handmade work. I always try to pick fabrics that have some specific textures and that can be manipulated by hand. Each piece has a certain degree of hand work. I have 18 pieces in the collection, for both man and woman, and my main idea was to have handcraft and to make pieces that would last. I thought about both materials and colors that could be worn and kept. Even in the manipulations, I thought about hand crafting that is durable.
We are living in such a fast paced world and industry. Do you think this “durable” concept is important nowadays? Is that what you believe makes your pieces appealing?
Absolutely, because fashion is getting more and more affordable and with less quality, but we are also witnessing the rise of a conscious population that is aware of sustainability issues and that sees the need of thinking about the future and that prefer more sustainable fashion, that can last longer, even if they are a bit more expensive. And people are also in the look for special items - something that can give them a both physical and psychological experience.
And how did you apply the concept of sustainability in your collection? Do you look for sustainable materials as well?
Some of the materials are biological, yes. I’ve tried to use organic cotton and natural materials as much as I could, but in some pieces, because of the effects I wanted to create, I had to use mixes of synthetic and natural fabrics. But I always try to think about sustainability and durability – that’s why I’ve used colours, materials and applications that can last longer.
How do you think ModaLisboa helps new designers to grow?
For me it’s not much about gaining visibility or fame. It’s not about that. It’s about a step I wanted to take. I’ve developed this collection based on my thesis project, that I’m about to submit. I didn’t want to only do a theoretical assignment. I wanted to apply the theory and create something with it. I wanted to conclude my academic path in a hands-on experience that would allow me to grow and learn.
Talking about your academic path… why did you feel the need to enroll in a Master right after concluding your bachelor? Did you feel something was missing?
I did my bachelor in Covilhã in Fashion Design. I loved the course because it was well developed in terms of knowing about textiles, which is of the utmost importance for both Fashion, Textile and Accessories Designers. But I felt it wasn’t enough. I needed to expand my horizons – that’s how I decided to come to Lisbon, because Lisbon has so much movement, culture and information… you can find so many styles, trends and influences from so many different cultures. The environment in which you study and create has so much impact… The master was two years and it has influenced me in so many ways – both as a designer and as a person. It has helped me become a more informed person and to gain contact with several professionals from the fashion industry. I think this wouldn’t be possible in all cities.
Last question. What do you think is missing in Portugal for new designers to be successful? If anything, of course.
I think there are lots of opportunities, but people need to look and work for them. Thinks will not just fall on your lap. You have to look for opportunities and fight to get into this industry. People need to explore, learn more and get out of their comfort zone. If you look for opportunities, they exist. Of course, then you need to work a lot to reach your goals. Maybe what is lacking is a bit more effort. I’m not talking about everyone, of course, but if you really work for what you want, it is possible!
interview Catarina F. Pinto
photography Gonçalo M. Catarino
find out more at SOFIYA MALICHENKO