I met Kate for the first time at the first year fashion student mixer at Central Saint Martins. It was the fluttering cobalt blue fringe crowning the head of this Russian born Fashion Knitwear student that attracted my attention. Fast forward a year and this iconic fringe has gone places, gracing the runway of Maison Martin Margiela (MM6), embracing art student life and just having a ball.
The origins of this iconic fringe mark the beginning of her fashion studies in London. “I did Fashion Folio at Saint Martins and tutor Patrick Yow always insists that all of his students need to be stylish.” Stylish meant a plethora of different things but to Kate, it meant colour.
“When I got my fringe done I thought I was very original about it, but later on someone showed me a Luella Bartley show from the early 2000s and all the models had clip on blue fringes. I was really obsessed with Luella when I was younger so it must have been subconscious.”
“Sometimes you get an outfit together and it doesn’t work, everything is weird and you go to class and realize ‘oh man, why did I wear this?’
From a young age, colour has always been a big part of Kate’s fashion life. “There was a time when I only wore grey and navy, for almost a year. I think I was just trying to figure things out. But after that year I realized: nope, I definitely love colour.” This devotion to colour is not without obstacles. Often people who express themselves through (colorful) clothes are not taken seriously. But Kate takes this and turns it into an advantage. “When I was younger in Russia, our school would send student representatives for academic contests. I used to go for history, English and biology, randomly. And before you go in, people are all eyeing each other out. I used to wear these really big bows and was super girly so people kind of underestimated me, which gave me the chance to take them by surprise.”
Although not dressing for others, her clothes reflect how she wants to be presented to the outside world. “Dressing also gives you confidence. Sometimes you get an outfit together and it doesn’t work, everything is weird and you go to class and realize ‘oh man, why did I wear this?’
For Kate, dressing is intrinsically linked to the transitions and revelations in her life. From moving to London to her realizations of beauty, her fashion choices change in reaction to her growth. “I always had this weird relationship between attractiveness and beauty. Back in Russia I was always very prim. When I came here I think I came to terms with a lot of things. I’ve always found myself beautiful, but not attractive. Not in like a crying-boo-hoo kind of way. I was always very tall and I was never the girl that all the boys were massively in love with. I think I’m pretty but not really one of those traditional Russian beauties. I never really gave it much thought. When I moved here I realized ‘Hey, I’m actually quite cute, okay, I got it.’ I think that’s when I started dressing more risqué.”
“In the beginning of a new project I have to pump myself up. ‘It’s okay you can do it. It’s just mark making. You just need to slap some colour on you don’t even need to collage.”
What is your most treasured object?
I’m a bit of a hoarder. I get things and I obsess over them. I don’t think I have anything that I’ve really treasured for 10 or 15 years. I collect so many things and I kind of treasure all of them equally.
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I really like tuna steak. Cooked a bit medium so the inside is still red and the outside is cooked. Wait wait wait, no Khachapuri: it’s a Georgian flat bread with cheese and (sometimes) potatoes. Its really hearty but it’s the best thing ever.
What is your favourite colour?
If you weren’t a designer what other occupation would you have?
I would be an opera singer. Well no, I would probably be a journalist. I’m not sure if it would be fashion. I find it hard to write about fashion. Sometimes I feel it’s either too sarcastic or it sounds too serious — like fashion is the most important thing in the world. And it’s really not, but on the other hand it’s a massive industry that supports a lot of jobs.
I could definitely be an opera singer. I studied that for 4 years in Russia, kind of as a side thing when I was 11 or 12. I remember my voice was breaking at the time and I could sing at the highest soprano pitch. I’m not sure if I can sing that high now.
Do you ever feel lonely?
I think everyone feels that way sometimes, but thank God I have a lot of great friends and a support network. When I feel lonely I can always just call someone. I keep myself very busy most of the time so there’s no time for loneliness.
Do you ever procrastinate?
I do find myself procrastinating sometimes. It’s the fear of empty space. Starting the first page of the sketchbook is always the hardest. Instead of starting I end up watching things like funny audition videos on Youtube or reading rap lyrics explained, just procrastination at its finest. It’s silly because once you start, the ideas just flow and everything is fine. Just in the beginning I have to pump myself up. ‘It’s okay, you can do it. It’s just mark making. You just need to slap some colour on, you don’t even need to collage.’ But then I also obsess about it like ‘everything must be perfect.’ It’s so stupid. It’s just the first page, it’s not really a big deal.
Photography and words by Lydia Chan