Born in Moscow from the womb of a computer programmer; programmed by a chemistry professor dad, Maria Lavigina was predisposed to the art world. Before ending up in the Queen of Fashion Colleges (which is us, naturally) she worked for two years as a video editor and a photographer in Israel, studied at the Shenkar College of engineering and design in Ramat Gan and worked as an embroidery and evening wear designer in Bologna and In Tel-Aviv. After a whirlwind of experiences she decided to develop her experience in a different field – pattern cutting, and never left Saint Martins.
What pushed you into fashion?
From the moment that I can remember, I was always into the arts. Drawing and sketching everywhere. However, the real moment that drove me into the fashion world was actually the scarcity of my mom’s financial resources. As immigrants from Moscow we didn’t have a lot of money, and I remember my biggest wish was to wear the garments of my dreams, or at least the same garments that my classmates had. So instead of listening to my teachers I was doodling and fantasising about what I was going to wear to school tomorrow.
You’ve done the creative pattern cutting course in 2011, why are you now back to studying at CSM?
Prior to the innovative pattern cutting course I worked for an embroidery company, so every design that I made was textile embroidery related. In other words, my way of thinking about design was dependent on fabrication, and not on the cut itself. After completing the innovative pattern cutting course I felt that I learned a completely new technique with which I could express myself and show my ideas in a different medium. I wanted to get back to CSM with this new knowledge and to see what would come out of it, and maybe I would surprise myself.
What do you love so much about CSM students?
Most of the CSM students have this kind of perfect blend of drive, perseverance and innocence that is lacking from the real world. They’ve got self-confidence in their style and in their vision and they want to be taught how to develop and foster their talent in the most creative environment. This energy is seen every day on the “Catwalk” between the Kings Cross station and the Granary building… every day is a surprise!
What inspires you to illustrate people?
The inspiration comes from a single enchanted moment when everything fits perfectly. It’s a rather serene poise and grace of a person that I find interesting. It’s about everything: the clothes, accessories, makeup, and a person’s grace, may it be eccentric, conservative or banal, it will initiate a story and a fantasy.
What is the first thing you notice about people?
The first thing that I notice is the perfect combination of clothes and posture – how people carry themselves in their clothes. When there is a perfect equilibrium between the person’s attire and their behaviour it’s really chic! I believe that the big part of a great style story is person’s natural and uncontrived posture. It is not enough to wear the perfect suit, the perfect shoes and to have the latest accessories. If the person doesn’t have agility, and grace, all will be in vain.
You had a post called “What is so fantastic about CSM”, how would you describe it in three words?
Moment, urge and excitement.
Who is your favourite among those you’ve illustrated and why?
I would have to say Jahnkoy Maria. She has this kind of “harmonious mess” about her that is very intriguing. So much detail and colour, however, in spite of it all somehow this vibrant jumble makes sense and not many people can pull that off.
If you would be a crayon, what colour would you be?
Who’s your favourite illustrator?
Piet Paris. I love his way of showing silhouette by just utilising obstruct lines and basic shapes, he stresses the shape and the mood but leaves the details and garment’s patterns out. His illustrations look like figures from the catwalk: elegant, chic, and commercial- a perfect combination for a contemporary illustration.
When looking at your collections and sketches, the first word that strikes me is ‘constructivist’. How would you define your designs?
I would define my designs as “tailored constructivism” since my starting point for any design is miniature pattern constriction. Before draping on a real size mannequin I try my ideas first on a smaller version, and I always think about the construction first.
You post quotes with nearly every post you make, do you have a special one for us?
“Create like a god, command like a king, work like a slave.” – Constantin Brancusi.
It is very difficult to stand up to what is right, and follow your instincts. I felt numerous times that my persistence is a real albatross, and the best thing would be just to give it all up. However, time after time life events reaffirmed that I’m on the right path, and there is no such thing as failure. There are many people who gave up and turned the other way. However, for the rest of us… who are still here, assiduous and full of passion… this quote is for you!