Thanks to the Ukranian fashion week, a few months ago, we discovered one of the most interesting talents of the last period, Yanis Stepanenko. The haute couture collection presented by the young Ukranian designer has a very strong identity and does not fear excess, on the contrary, this is its main ingredient.
Yanis Stepanenko’s world is very similar to the illustrations of fairy tails in children’s books.
Oniric figures, East European princesses looking like Madonnas appearing fierce and regal in their finely decorated clothes.
The young designer’s imaginary is full of contents and symbols taking inspiration from his Country traditions.
Even though “costume contamination” is quite evident, the designer has been able to give birth to something very up to date. His creations seem to be fresh and lively.
We would like to know you and let other people know your work. Let’s start from basic information. How old are you? Can you describe your learning process in a few words?
My name is Yan Stepanenko, a twenty years old emerging designer from Ukraine.
I’ve attended the Central Saint Martins and the Royal Bournemouth Academy of Arts.
I won “NFZ Young Designer Contest “ where I presented “Luminous shine of Eternity “, my first collection.
To increase my knowledge I’ve also attended a lot of short courses in different countries.
Through my study process, I realized that for me the purpose of fashion is to transfer people into another World when putting on my creations.
In my opinion fashion and art are the same, every single piece of clothing I create is an artwork.
What kind of music did you listen to during your work?
Usually, I don’t have a specific playlist, it depends on my mood. Sometimes, I feel like being in a mood for something funky and up bit, like “Willow Smith”.Sometimes, I feel more calm and relaxed so I listen to smooth jazz, like “Frank Sinatra”.
Who are the designers that inspire your work?
Personally, I don’t like when designers or artists say that they can be inspired by somebody’s else’s vision, as usually this kind of “inspiration” ends up by ripping (ASSEMBLARE) somebody else’s ideas and concepts.
However, of course, I have some couturiers that I admire.
John Galliano for example. From the moment Galliano became the creative director of the Maison Margiela, he brought a breathe of fresh air and a new perspective to the DNA of the Maison.
Among the modern couturiers, I was impressed by the aesthetics of “Nabil Nayal”, a British fashion designer.
I appreciate his work with “Elizabethan craftsmanship” and the way he reinterprets it into a modern “sport chic” way. Among the classic designers, I really admire “Christian Lacroix.” His work with artisanal couture techniques and embroidery, charm and brightness of color really links up with my personal vision and aesthetic.
Your creations are strongly contamined by traditions and folklore of your country. How much does History costume count in your work?What inspired you for the collection you showed at the Ukrainian Fashion Week? Specifically, what are your most recurring influences?
For this collection, I got inspired by the rays of eternity and light in Ukrainian and Ancient Russian culture.
In my opinion the only way to increase the evolution and the progress of a Country is to know his own traditions and keep them alive.
“The external beauty of the Ukrainian people had always intertwined with the internal” as said by our ancestors. Therefore, most of the elements in Ukrainian costume have various symbolic meanings that inspired my creative process. I mainly worked with historical ancient Russian silhouettes and techniques from the 18th and 19th centuries which I re-interpreted in a modern and avant-garde context. But, at the same time, the choice of natural fabrics, in particular white linen was very important, in order to symbolize the re-presentation of the pure soul of our nation.
We noticed that your dresses are finely decorated with some particular textile techniques.
Can you describe one of them?
I am an embroidery and textile maniac. The main techniques I used in my latest collection were: traditional weaving, hand embroidery, luneville couture techniques, crochet embroidery, weaving with beads and sequins, working with 3d structures, creating pleatings by hand.
All of the techniques I’ve tried out in my latest collection are quite basically the same couture techniques used in Ancient Russia & Ukrainian culture, but the difference between them is the aesthetic that I re-interpreted for the 21st century.
You’re a talented and emerging designer so how would you describe your style in a few words?
Sophisticated, elegant and avant-garde.
On instagram you describe yourself as a couture costume designer.
What do you mean? Did you ever think to focus on prèt-a-porter?
My ultimate focus is to create Haute Couture clothes for: red carpets, theater, film and television.
However, I also planned to create a “Pret A Porter” line in the nearest future. I want to make clothes – in which there will be no barriers, rules, canons or trends. My dream is to create a link between past and future, I want to create a timeless fashion.
Your next projects? Where do you see yourself in ten years?
To be honest, I don’t like planning anything so far. However, in ten years, I hope to be satisfied with what I am doing.
My aim in ten years is to change the view that people from other countries have about my nation.
I want to break down all the cliché and underline the beautiful traditions of my Country. And of course, another purpose is to make this World more sophisticated and beautiful in the way we dress.
Close your eyes. Try to imagine the first object that reminds you of your Country.
Our little bagels called “bubliki” in Russian. Traditional Ukrainian biscuits with a hole in the middle.