Representing the creative future

The Masters: Olga Sobol

Olga Sobol’s collection begins with the translation of personal experience into a fashion language. Her inspiration develops organically; from folding garments to pack in a suitcase, to seeing charm in the sculptural, architectural lines of the menswear being produced around her in the studio, or from reading a book where the line, “The butterfly of consciousness flits from nowhere to nowhere,” would capture her imagination. Continually absorbing information, Olga beautifully curates every detail into her work, creating garments for a woman where age is immaterial.

Originally from Ukraine, Olga graduated there in both BA and MA Fashion at Kyiv National University of Technologies and Design in 2011, and in 2013 undertook a Graduate Diploma in Fashion at Central Saint Martins. Continuing at Central Saint Martins, she has now concluded her MA in Fashion Design. Olga’s collection highlights traditional aesthetics with modern shape and structure. The designs are minimal yet intricate, with each garment creating its own poetic silence. She is concerned by pure, comfortable silhouettes with a clean and fresh aesthetic. The collection is made up of 17 garments which, for Olga, translate into their own capsule wardrobe. These 17 designs become around eight interchangeable, full looks. She uses natural fabrics which are kind to the body, where the importance of the garments being soft and comfortable against the skin, and not restricting the body’s movement, is key.

Through the study of a single butterfly, she was entranced by the effect that the creature has when it unfolds its wings; mirroring, she says, the unfolding of reality. She tells me, “You close your eyes and open them, and the reality that unfolds in front of you is reflected in the folds of these garments.” Olga speaks in graceful riddles, and the collection is a perfect reflection of this. Through research, she constructed drawings inspired by the movement of fabrics and the wings of a butterfly. By manipulating regular clothing details such as a shirt collar by way of folding and gathering, she was able to experiment with variations of a conventional pattern, changing the volumes and proportion. Translating these drawings onto the contours of the body and relating her fabric investigations to each look, she developed beautifully crafted garments with inordinately simple silhouettes. Working through pattern cutting rather than on the stand, as she is used to, Olga set herself the challenge of stepping outside of her comfort zone. The ‘B’ shape of the butterfly wing, for example, becomes one side of a jacket; the exaggerated proportions of the shoulder and lapel creating something curiously charming.

Minimal shades structure the colour palette, again inspired by the butterfly seen in her research. Bottle green tones sit alongside fabrics in black and white; extracted from what she describes as a “duality”. The photos in her research are all black and white, and I ponder whether this was an influence. The butterfly from which Olga took her inspiration is in fact the largest butterfly in the world, but it was a concentration on the shape and movement of its wings that instead drew her to it. The folds of the butterfly’s wings initiated technical drawings and experiments to mimic the wing’s unfurling, while the symmetry of the butterfly allows for balance in her designs.

With each collection, Olga constructs a new individual story; with this collection, she wanted more simplicity and balance than before. It was a personal journey to find something within herself; to learn about the woman for whom she designs. Her research is a set of questions through which she hopes her collection can find the answers. She asks, “Who am I if I’m not my body, my desires, thoughts, my social status? Am I a true being and clothes are my second skin?” She seeks to discover how we, as individuals, define ourselves. Her research questions, “Where do our thoughts, wishes and feelings come from and who are we beyond our personalities? Is there any possibility to know where and when the dream ends, in a kaleidoscopic variety of days, hopes, promises, meaning, reasons, joy, pleasure and everything that drives our lives?” If, in this world, you aren’t certain of yourself, Olga’s collection aims to provide comfort and a feeling of belonging, where the clothes are able to become an identity.

I ask what she hopes her collection conveys to its audience, but she tells me instead that the garments should speak for themselves. “As a fashion designer, I am just trying to say what I feel is important, and to make garments that are both useful and beautiful. The woman wearing them can now feel comfortable, confident and delicately fragile.” With her visa soon to expire, Olga is currently unsure of where the future will take her. She has a brand in her own name and hopes to develop it, but is just as keen to work for others. With a diploma degree, bachelor’s degree and two masters’ degrees, she is no doubt ready for anything.