You have thoroughly approached the profession of a designer, having received two higher educations in the specialty, one of which is Istituto Marangoni in Milan. Did you immediately get an idea of what your career should look like?
I studied design in Ukraine, made individual orders for practice, but I always understood that I wanted more. Once, on my birthday, I went to Milan for the first time with the money saved, to “explore”. My friend, who at that time was graduating from Istituto Marangoni, gave me a tour, and I realized that I wanted to study there. At first, my parents did not take my idea seriously, but when they saw how I was burning with it, they decided to take a risk and invest in my studies, provided that I was in the profession - seriously and for a long time. So I had extra motivation: if I go to Milan, I have to achieve something. I took a three-year course in design, in Italian, and this despite the fact that before that I had only a dozen Italian lessons. It was very difficult, I recorded all the pairs on audio, came home, and translated them. The school schedule was insanely busy, I studied until 4 in the morning, and at 9 I was already going to classes.
In the third year, there is an opportunity to get into the top ten graduates and present your show in Milan, where editors and designers of fashion houses come in search of talent. There were about 180 graduates on the stream, and I nevertheless entered the top ten, this was my personal victory. I think it helped me, I would say, self-confidence - even if I realized that I did not hold out in something, I never doubted myself.
I was invited to work at Jil Sander, but I understood that the style of the brand was not mine, and I needed to show my vision. Even in my second year, I presented the Panic in Vegas collection at Kiev Fashion Days, received good feedback, and was invited to Paris. It was at that time that street style was dawning, and fashion influencers came to me for things to go out. That collection was very avant-garde, not the most wearable, but gave the brand a lot in terms of publicity. She helped us immediately express ourselves brightly, she was very creative, we got good feedback. Well, working with a showroom in Paris gave us great visibility, The New York Times, Vogue Italy, Harper's Bazaar USA, L'Officiel Mexico, Vogue Runway, ELLE Netherlands immediately wrote about us.
Tell us about how the brand started and how it transformed with you?
Girl Marianna Senchina grew up with me, turning from a girl to a woman. Of course, self-irony, prints, and non-standard styling remained. And if at the very start there were pieces in the collections that did us PR, then later we added things that were more wearable. Immediately, sales began to grow significantly, because customers cannot only wear showpieces. Now we are sold in stores all over the world, they are most popular in the USA, the United Arab Emirates, where girls love femininity and elegance. Of course, in each season I experiment because there are some trends, but in general, now things are more wearable and practical than at the start.
What are the main distinguishing features or iconic elements of the brand for yourself?
In one of the most successful collections, called Lolita, sleeves-puffs became iconic: then, with the dominance of minimalism in 2016, they were something unexpected. We develop original prints for fabrics that are made in Italian factories. Another important element is corsets and lacing, which create a fitted silhouette and feminine shapes. Our bestselling jacket dress with a dropped shoulder line has been in the top sales of the brand for the third year already.
Another important element of my collections is color, I love to experiment with playful and non-standard - lime, bubblegum, burgundy. I always start with one, end with another, mix eras, and no direct quotes. You can catch one detail and develop a theme deeply, adding many of them into a concept. The new SS'21 collection is a mix of the 90s with the 60s: elements and prints are from the aesthetics of the 60s, and due to styling and make-up we hinted at the 90s. Get at least hair clips for hair! The things themselves are relevant now, modern, do not copy retro. Almost always we are ordered with total bows - dress, hat, brooch. Everyone wants to get a one-piece Marianna Senchina look and minimize their own styling.
How did you get the attention of superstars like Rihanna, Dua Lipa and Adele? Tell us about your first reaction to their appearances in Marianna Senchina bows.
I think it's very important to be prepared for your success. By the time Rihanna wore my dress, we were already an established brand, I worked very hard for this success. Probably all glossy media about fashion wrote about us then, every second resource told about my brand.
I've always liked Dua Lipa as a singer and fashion influencer, I thought it would be great if she put us on. When I think about something, I have no limits, I think I pulled it in: I went into spam messages on Facebook and saw that her stylist Lorenzo wrote to me a year ago. During our cooperation, Dua put on about five of our bows, and again we got a huge publicity and media coverage.
A couple of months ago, Adele wore our velvet dress-jacket, while she herself bought it at LUISAVIAROMA. I am glad to see her among the fans of the brand, but it is even more pleasant to understand that she became her on her own initiative.
Mariana Senchina looks are worn by fashion influencers and celebrities - Caroline Vreeland, Jordan Grant, Eva Cheng, Eleanor Carisi, Veronica Ferraro, Sabrina Sato, Charlie XCX, Anastasia Ivleeva, Grace Chatto (Clean Bandit), and Julie Sarinanya. Our things have been featured in the Netflix TV series Dynasty, editorials for Vogue Korea, Vogue India, Elle Netherlands, Harper's Bazaar Spain, Nylon Korea, Vogue Italy, Elle Russia and many others.
How have quarantine restrictions in Italy and Ukraine affected the brand and your work? Has the approach to doing business changed?
The pandemic has given us a rethink of what we do, special gratitude to our team of over 100 people. It was important for us to keep the team, what we did. Of course, the entire industry has a difficult period, our sales over the past year have decreased by 20-30%. In Ukraine, the state does not help businesses that have suffered from the pandemic, we have to rely only on ourselves. We made the decision to pay compensation to employees and not leave the team. The strong growth in online purchases on our website helped us to stay afloat, and we were pleasantly surprised. People did not go anywhere, but, apparently, they delighted themselves with new purchases, and believed that the time would soon come when they would be able to wear these things.
It was during this lockdown that we understood how we should move on, revised our priorities, and thought about prospects that we cannot yet talk about. We have big plans for expanding, modifying the format of our collections, we plan to talk about this in the coming season.
We manage the brand together with my sister Natalia: she is the CFO, is engaged in online sales, leads wholesale orders, plans production in Ukraine, overseas outsourcing. Over the past year, we have organized a digital showroom, conduct online appointments with buyers, and shoot video lookbooks in addition to traditional photos. Video is the most honest format that best shows how a thing behaves in real life.
How are the design and production established, if you live in Milan and sew collections in Ukraine, what does your scheme of work look like?
Our production is located in Ivano-Frankivsk, and I constantly come to the development of collections, contact with the team is very important to me. Now, in the conditions of a lockdown, we have learned a lot to do remotely online. We buy fabrics and accessories in Italy, we sew in Ukraine, where there are production facilities and rich history of textile production. After the end of the pandemic, I plan to open a creative office in Milan, develop collections here with a team, and leave large-scale production in Ukraine and thereby develop the light industry.